Licensing Europe – Will it be a red carpet for global online operators...?

....or will it help European creators reach their audience?

Following the European Commission’s orientation debate on copyright on 5th December 2012 and its conclusions on the way forward to modernising copyright in the digital economy (see last post Creators make themselves heard), the Commission published a communication on Content in the Digital Single Market on 18th December.  The communication detail its “Licensing Europe” initiative, a stakeholder dialogue whose assigned objective is to deliver, by the end of 2013, practical industry-led solutions.

This will be in parallel to an on-going review of the EU copyright framework based on legal and economic studies. Invitations were sent to the copyright sector at large just before Christmas with a request to nominate hands-on representatives to participate in different working groups. The process is jointly led by Commissioners Barnier (DG MARKT), Kroes (DG CNECT) and Vassiliou (DG EAC) who should be present at the launch event on 4th February. Four working groups have been established: 1) Cross-border access and the portability of services, 2) User-generated content and licensing for small-scale users of protected material, 3) Audiovisual sector and cultural heritage institutions and 4) Text and data mining for scientific research purposes. Except the third group which focuses on the heritage aspects of the audiovisual sector, working groups are not sector-specific and should address all creative and cultural sectors if relevant. SAA has chosen to contribute to the first three groups in order to ensure the representation of audiovisual authors’ interests and propose collective rights management based solutions. However, I can’t help feeling some disappointment. Despite several announcements, the 2011 Green Paper on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the EU and the very good resolution of the European Parliament on the same issue last September, it seems there will no longer be any specific follow-up addressing the European audiovisual sector and its digital single market challenges. How will the specific challenges of a)a fragmented European market based on the diversity of languages, b) essentially national sources of financing, c) the multitude of small segmented operators and d) the absence of Europe-wide businesses be addressed in these multi-sector working groups? And what about audiovisual authors’ remuneration for the online exploitation of their works? In which working group shall authors expect progress on this issue? Or does the right to remuneration called for by SAA fall into the scope of the legal drafting work being completed in parallel?

I am looking forward to participating in this process and getting answers to these questions. On the positive side, it’s good to see that the three Commissioners and their DGs are now collaborating on this process. Let’s hope that they will jointly act in the best interest of European stakeholders, and in particular of creators, and will not just aim at facilitating the operations of global online businesses in Europe. CD