I know many of you have . . . strong . . . feelings about international geofiltering restrictions. You may want to take a look at this article in The Hollywood Reporter—interesting things are happening. Namely, there is discussion around re-structuring the European market from the individual territorial blocks to a larger, unified European framework.
Some of the parts I felt were most compelling are below, but the entire article is definitely worth your time. It presents a nicely balanced evaluation of the various factors in play.
Speaking before members of the European Parliament this week, the EU’s digital commissioner Andrus Ansip said the bloc has no plans to abolish practices that form the foundation of European film financing.
These include territorial licensing – selling the rights to a film in various territories on an exclusive basis – and windowing – the system whereby a movie is released in stages on different platforms, first in cinemas, then DVD, VOD and finally on television. Ansip said the proposals for a digital single market would still allow film producers to use territorial licensing to pre-finance movies and the current windowing system would not be affected.
Territorial licensing is the cornerstone of film financing in Europe and forms the basis for the financing of many U.S. indie films as well. A European digital single market that got rid of this system would, according to Stan McCoy, the Motion Picture Association’s president and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, be a “threat to millions of jobs and billions in revenue.”
“I would like to ask for cross-border access to the content and portability of the content, but it does not mean that we are wanting to destroy this principle of territoriality,” Ansip told parliament. “It does not mean that after this reform there will only be pan-European licenses. If, for example, in a smaller member state, film producers are expecting that the interest to buy those rights of the films is only in the neighboring member states, this will be acceptable. There is no need to sell pan-European licenses, no need to buy pan-European licenses.”
That may assuage the fears of independent producers, who have warned that a move to pan-European licenses would undermine their business and only benefit larger global players, such as Netflix and Google.
And finally, something I suspect many of you may be wondering about:
In fact the stated goal of the new legislation is to strengthen European companies so they can take on the Silicon Valley giants that increasingly dominate the digital space. Aside from changes to copyright law and geo-blocking, the proposals will include plans to harmonize taxes, contract law and consumer protection for cross-border online activity.
This will include cross-border enforcement of online piracy, at least in the case of commercial scale piracy operations, something film producers will welcome.
I am adding our shiny new #NOMP tag here, since I really want this to be just a heads-up, NOT an analysis of the merits of the proposal. (Although, to be clear, I would love to read someone else’s analysis of the merits!)