TV, film industry pledge easier cross-border copyright

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European consumers should find it easier to access television and films from their home state when travelling through the continent if pledges made by the audiovisual sector to the Commission yesterday (13 November) are honoured.

At a plenary session in Brussels, audiovisual industry participants in the so-called Licences for Europe process made formal pledges on cross-border access and portability of services, user-generated content and micro-licensing, audiovisual heritage and text and data mining.

In a joint statement industry pledged to continue working to gradually offer cross-border portability of audiovisual services. This would make it easier for consumers to legally access films and TV programmes from their home member state when travelling abroad on holidays or business trips.

Record companies and authors' collecting societies agreed to provide multi-territory "one-click micro-licences" for small scale use of music online, which would make it much easier for those who wish to use music to do so with legal certainty on their own websites or when posting videos on other sites.

Old films to be saved for the future

In addition, film producers, authors and film heritage institutions agreed on principles to ensure that many old films currently unavailable online – which might otherwise disappear – are saved for the future and made available to wider audiences.

The Licences for Europe initiative took ten months and saw more than thirty working group meetings involving stakeholders from the audiovisual, music, publishing and video game industries, internet service providers, technology companies, cultural institutions, web users and consumers.

The stakeholder dialogue was brokered by the European Commission, and jointly led by Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier, Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes and Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth.

The Commission made clear that an unsatisfactory result would push the executive to consider regulatory action to remedy the issues which industry was asked to address.

“The pledge on digitisation of film heritage is great news for film fans in particular and I am glad to see that things are moving forward also on cross-border portability,” said Vassiliou.

Barnier added: "We want to monitor the implementation of these pledges to ensure they are kept and truly make a difference in real life. And we will make sure that our future policies help share and reward creation in the single market."

In a joint statement, audiovisual sector stakeholders – including Association of Commercial Television in Europe and the Motion Picture Association – called on the Commission to recognise that successful developments in cross-border portability of lawfully acquired audiovisual content would depend on the need for a voluntary, market-led approach, and for both commercial and contractual freedom.

Internet sector circumspect about process

The European Digital Media Association (EDiMA) – an industry association representing the interests of many over-the-top internet service providers including Amazon and Google – was more circumspect in the face of the pledges, however.

A spokesperson told EURACTIV that while the EDiMA broadly supported the aims of the pledges, it regretted the decision of the Commission to deny the EDiMA more than observer status in the ongoing Licenses for Europe process.

The group will continue to support the process, however, but “hopes that the Commission will involve it more fully in the process of ensuring that proper implementation of the pledges takes place," the spokesperson said.

"We need to be pragmatic to make progress in copyright matters, and we see that in today’s results. We are seeing a less polarised debate. If the industry can put these commitments into practice, we will see more incremental progress towards content licensing fit for the digital age. The debates will continue and we now need to look at the role updated legislation could play in delivering further progress," said Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes.

“Licenses for Europe was an important and helpful exercise.  It allowed us to share many of the important initiatives and developments that are already available to European consumers today and highlight some of the new services that will be made available in the future,” said Dragoslav Zachariev, secretary general of EuroVoD.

 “This is an industry of innovators.  Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is just as important when it comes to reaching our audiences.  We shouldn’t forget that already today, European citizens can enjoy films and television in more ways, on more devices than ever before.  There are now over 3000 Video-on-Demand (VOD) services available in Europe according to the European Audiovisual Observatory. Consumer spending on online video transactions has rocketed by more than 2000%,” said Elisabeth Sjaastad, chief executive of the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA).

“In particular we welcome the European Commission’s commitment not to undermine current business models that support content creation and cultural diversity but rather to promote market driven responses,” stated Benoît Ginisty, director general of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF). 

“We'll continue to take stock of progress and examine future market developments regarding cross-border portability of lawfully acquired audiovisual content and to engage with the Commission in this respect,” concluded Ross Biggam, director general of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT).

“This is an important initiative that will make licensing simpler for small users by offering a one-stop shop pan-European licence. The discussions held recently with the European Commission as part of their Licences for Europe initiative show how far our industry has come, and how much we have achieved. And the market will continue to develop,”said Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI)

Licences for Europe was launched by the Commission in February this year following its December 2012 Communication on "Content in the Digital Single Market".

The objective was to deliver by the end of 2013 industry-led solutions to address practical barriers to the circulation of content in the digital age.

The stakeholder dialogue is one of the two parallel tracks of action the Commission undertook to carry out during its term of office to ensure that the EU’s copyright framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment.

In parallel the Commission is completing its on-going review of the EU copyright legal framework, with a view to a decision in 2014 on whether to table legislative reform proposals.

  • 2013-2014: Implementation of the Licences for Europe pledges

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