After months of at times frenzied speculation that the end of the Euro film business as we knew it was nigh, the European Commission has finally unveiled its strategy for a Digital Single Market. The 16 initiatives, published by Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, propose the establishment of a unified and borderless regulatory framework for the Internet across Europe. They are, however, a long way from the doomsday scenarios mooted by some who had feared an end to windowing and, most damagingly, an end to territorial licensing, thereby eliminating the pre-sales business overnight.
Instead, the proposals seem set, for now at least, to preserving the licensing by territory for IP. “To this end, the Commission will propose solutions which maximize the offers available to users and open up new opportunities for content creators, while preserving the financing of EU media and innovative content,” read the report.
The commission is taking aim at what it describes as “unjustified geoblocking” as well as the need to modernize copyright law in a digital world.
“The Commission will make legislative proposals before the end of 2015 to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, including through further harmonisation measures,” read the report. “The proposals will include: (i) portability of legally acquired content, (ii) ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector, (iii) greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions,(iv) clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content and, in 2016, (v) modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial-scale infringements (the ‘follow the money’ approach) as well as its cross-border applicability.”
“Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future,” said Commission President Jean-Clause Juncker in a statement. “I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe. Exactly a year ago, I promised to make a fully Digital Single Market one of my top priorities. Today, we are making good on that promise.”
The three pillars guiding the 16 initiatives will be to create:
– Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe
-Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish
-Maximizing the growth potential of the digital economy
To that end, the Commission is proposing to make cross-border e-commerce far easier, while still respecting territoriality. That said, “if a film is available on a video-on demand service in an EU country, Europeans outside the country can also pay to see it…This is not about opening access to all content for free. It is about a win-win situation for creators and users; this is about nurturing cultural diversity in the digital age.”
The European film business has been anticipating the worst ever since Commission president Juncker took office last year and made the creation of a Digital Single Market a priority. Last month, Some of Europe’s top directors have come together to issue a statement offering alternatives, including Mike Leigh and Matteo Garrone who signed a declaration, released during the Rome Rendez-Vouz, claiming they “want to redefine how cinema can circulate from one country to the next” and warned against taking drastic action such as the dismantling of territoriality of licensing.
Thankfully, for now at least, those fears have been assuaged. If anything, it is the big U.S. Internet companies such as Google and Facebook which may find themselves coming up against European regulators. The Commission today launched an antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the E.U. to identify possible competition concerns affecting European e-commerce markets.