The Eurozone crisis continues in full swing and its seemingly inexorable unfolding proves you should never say “at least it can’t get any worse.” Blame for the mess points in two opposite directions – depending on where you stand. Either the Eurozone was never going to work, and to try it at all was to fail, or the problem is it didn’t go far enough; a common currency with no central bank or authority was an unworkable compromise.
Amid all the hysteria, you may have missed your opportunity to submit your views on the digital single market Green Paper (the deadline was November 18th). It is hard not to think about currency analogies. The current rights market is a mess – loads of different national regulations, and foreign sale programme prices (exchange rates if you like) determined by an arcane mix of territorial, exclusivity and release window values.
You could say this stifles a free market in intellectual property and means that some audiences will be frustrated by rights restrictions on what they want to see and, therefore, will be encouraged to get hold of it illegitimately. Therefore, impose a free market, a single market in rights – all rights must be made available on the same terms at the same time across all territories.
Or, you could say that, complicated as it may be, it is a business model that works, and far from stifling creativity, the ability to get upfront finance territory by territory – rather than obliging a producer or broadcaster to take a continent-wide big bang risk – is crucial to getting many audiovisual projects underway.
Certainly simplifying creators’ routes to market, and regulating internationally their rights to a return on their product, is needed and the UK’s study into a Digital Rights Exchange is a start. Making material available, whenever economically plausible, as widely and quickly as possible is also good and will help discourage piracy. But imposing a single market is more likely to generate chaos than creativity and it is good to hear its hitherto champion, Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, recently sound more sympathetic to a bottom up approach: “A system of rewarding art, in all its dimensions, must be flexible and adaptable enough to cope with new environments. Such a model should not be developed from the centre. Rather we need to create a framework in which a model – or indeed several models – can develop organically, flexibly, in ways that support artists.”