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Rights holders: ‘Piracy has no natural frontiers’

According to Mark Lichtenhein, Chairman, Sports Rights Owners Coalition, piracy has no natural frontiers, with increased piracy the potential outcome of EC attempts to introduce cross-country licensing under Digital Single Market proposals.

Speaking at the European Content Protection Summit in London, Lichtenhein noted that the June referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU, together with the US presidential election further clouding the issue of trade, there remained a degree of uncertainty about regulatory implications for UK-based channels and broadcasters.

Suggesting that existing AVMS and CabSat Directives relating to transfrontier broadcasting may continue to remain applicable to such services, Lichtenhein nevertheless declared: “When it comes to piracy, there are no natural frontiers,” urging industry representatives present to work together on a pan-national basis to combat the threat.

He criticised the view of European lawmakers that if barriers to the free passage of content between EU member states were removed, then Europe could be as successful in the sector as the US. He described sport as “culturally very specific, more than film and entertainment,” adding that there was no ‘Single Market’ in sport. “Rights values vary dramatically across each country of the EU,” he advised. “We’re not bandwidth,” he declared, suggesting that where such markets had worked well, it was where comparable demand exists, which was not the case with sport.

“The current offers across the EU are the result of territorial licensing. It’s not territoriality, it’s territorial exclusivity,” he stressed. “If someone can erode that, the value of the product will go down,” he warned. “It’s pretty obvious that sport has benefitted from that. If smaller operators can’t have that exclusivity, then they won’t be able to build a successful business.”

Suggesting that the EU’s approach would only serve to drive up prices, as rights holders migrated to the operator who would give them the greatest access, he warned that increased piracy would result. “There would be a greater incentive to steal.”

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