Copyright given red carpet treatment in Cannes

The Digital Single Market Strategy adopted by the Commission on 6 May was very much discussed during the first week-end of the Cannes Film Festival, one of the biggest gatherings of cinema professionals in the world.

Commissioner Oettinger in charge of the digital Economy and Society was invited by the French Minister of Culture, Ms Fleur Pellerin, to a conference on “The future of copyright in Europe: culture and digital single market” on 17 May, a day before the Commission’s European Film Forum. The conference was closed by Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, which shows the importance of the issue for France. Most of the speakers at Ms Pellerin’s conference addressed the importance of the territorial exploitation of films both for the financing and the promotion of European films in the different territories of the EU. Volker Schlöndorff, the German director and SAA patron, highlighted that a single market for film exploitation would be a European suicide with less diversity available to the European audience. Other speakers from Poland (Darius Jablonski, producer), the UK (Lynne Ramsay, director) and Italy (Marco Chimenz, producer) emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the film business: different films need different strategies and local distributors are the ones who know their audience best. Peter Dinges, Executive Director of FFA, Germany and President of the EFADs, illustrated the general feeling that the Commission had watered down its attacks against copyright in the 6 May communication by saying that the baby is still in the bath: it has not been thrown with the bath water. However, the Commission is still looking at cross-border access to works as a main political objective and seems to continue to think that this is a copyright issue. Many speakers explained to the Commission that it is a well-known problem that European audiovisual works do not travel easily (the Media programme was established 25 years ago to address the issue) and that there is no reason why it would be different online.  If the Commission wants to play a role in helping European works travel better, in particular online, here is a list of urgent actions to take:

  • Increase the budget of the Media programme to help European VOD platforms to enrich their catalogues with European films and offer more films to more markets and audiences.
  • Strengthen the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and enforce a strong regulation which would ensure equal rights and obligations of all players towards European cinema.
  • Review the Electronic Commerce Directive to put a stop to online platforms being treated as passive hosting providers when they make money through advertising with third party works.
  • Fight against piracy more actively as piracy is the main obstacle to the development of a business model for a rich and diversified legal offer of European films online.

Other proposals on tax harmonisation, in particular VAT for cultural works online, or for a European digital sovereignty were made. But the problem for the Commission is that none of these proposals are related to copyright, while it has announced a copyright reform to solve the issue of the lack of circulation and accessibility of European works. If the Commission is really keen to address copyright related problems, we suggest concentrating on identified problems like the lack of remuneration of authors for the exploitation of their works online as we proposed with the SAA white paper. The online market for European audiovisual works needs to develop as well as the circulation of works. This market should develop in a way that generates revenues for rightholders, in particular authors. As far as authors are concerned, this can only happen if we put in place collective management mechanisms. If Commissioner Oettinger is serious about looking for solutions in the copyright field, SAA’s white paper shows the way forward. CD