European creatives’ country-of-origin licensing warning
May 2, 2017
By Colin Mann
Over 400 audiovisual sector leaders covering all 28 Member States have signed a letter urging the EU Institutions to “reject and abandon” a proposal that they suggest “undermines the entire audiovisual eco-system in Europe”. Their concern relates to EU proposals that they warn could damage the film and TV industry and harm consumers by preventing territoriality of licensing for film and TV content.
The signatories, representing film and TV directors, screenwriters, performers and other creators, media workers, producers, distributors and publishers of film and television content, cinemas, commercial broadcasters, sports rights owners and collecting societies, are concerned that the proposed Regulation on country-of-origin licensing of certain online services by broadcasters threatens cultural diversity, growth and sustainable jobs for creative talent and skilled workers, as well as future investments in the audiovisual sector in Europe.
These concerns are shared by several Member States. At this critical stage of the legislative process, the signatories therefore “respectfully urge the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to reject and abandon the Commission’s proposed application of country-of-origin licensing which undermines the entire audiovisual eco-system in Europe.”
They contend that the proposed Regulation on country-of-origin licensing of certain online services by broadcasters – based on legacy legislation devised more than two decades ago for a specific technology (satellite) – does not preserve territorial exclusivity with respect to the licensing of audiovisual content. “Rather, it will severely erode territorial exclusivity as it would artificially allow certain online TV services such as catch-up TV and simulcasting to become accessible in all Member States on the basis of a single copyright license agreed between a producer and a TV broadcaster in one Member State,” they suggest.
In the letter, the signatories “strongly advise against measures that further threaten cultural diversity, growth and sustainable jobs for creative talent and skilled workers, as well as future investments in the audiovisual sector in Europe”.
They say that absolute territorial exclusivity is the “cornerstone of creativity and investment in European audiovisual works and other protected content” suggesting that the default rule set out in the proposed Regulation amounts to ‘buy a license for one Member State, get the rest of the EU for free’. “This has a negative impact on the value of rights in the various distribution channels and territories,” they warn.
They point out that their collective sectors employ more than 1,000,000 people across the EU, generate more than €97 billion a year and offer culturally diverse, high-quality content and entertainment on more than 3,000 VoD services available to European citizens
According to the signatories, the proposed Regulation “leaves considerable uncertainty with regard to the sustainability of financing the development and production of content, distribution business models and the commercial freedom to license of many European content producers, creators and investors to the detriment of cultural diversity, industry growth and, ultimately, European consumers’ choice,” and they describe the proposed Regulation’s assurances of commercial freedom to license content as “a hollow assertion”, especially when DG Competition appears determined to erode this very commercial freedom to license.
They note that once the nearly completed Portability Regulation is in place, “Europe will have addressed the vast majority of the demand for cross-border access to audiovisual content from its citizens – demand which according to the Commission’s Impact Assessment arises primarily when consumers travel within Europe for business, leisure or education”.
They commend the French and Spanish Governments in coming together in their communication of February 20th 2017 to uphold the critical value of territorial exclusivity.