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Oettinger: no move to pan-Europe licensing, possible concessions on geoblocking

Gunther Oettinger

Gunther Oettinger

The European Commission does not want to impose pan-European content licensing as part of its Digital Single Market proposals, and the audiovisual industry could benefit from certain exemptions to restrictions on geoblocking to enable them to continue to license on a territory-by-territory basis, according to Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for the digital economy and society. 

Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival, Oettinger said that “a degree of territoriality” could be maintained while the Commission also took steps to promote portability of content rights.

He said there is a need for a single European copyright system to avoid the need to clear copyright across all 28 member states individually. “European rules on copyright — which largely date from 2001 — must be adapted to meet the challenges and opportunities offered by new technologies,” he said.

Oettinger said that European consumers should be able to watch content across national borders.

“We want to ensure that legally acquired content is portable. A European consumer, who buys a film from a video-on-demand catalogue from their home country, should be able to watch it wherever they travel in the European Union,” he said.

“Secondly, we want to promote better access to creative works, while fully respecting the foundations of their financing. This would contribute to the circulation of works and cultural diversity in Europe; it could increase audiences and open up additional sources of income for creators.”

However, he said there would be a need for exemptions for the TV and film industries. The audiovisual industry has expressed concern about the potential impact of the removal of rights to license content on a territory-by-territory basis if the EC banned all geoblocking of content. Those involved in content creation have expressed strong concern that Digital Single Market proposals, if undiluted, could have a severe knock-on effect on international co-production deals, which rely on territory-by-territory licensing to recoup funding.

“We do not want to change the principle of territoriality of rights or to impose pan-European licences. Europe’s audiovisual rules — which already support the promotion of European works — will be reviewed. We will also analyse the role of platforms and new online players in disseminating content,” said Oettinger.

“The measures which we will propose will strengthen the cultural and creative sector, which is a driver for jobs and growth. These concepts are at the core of the Commission’s proposals.”

In Cannes, Oettinger said Europe had to acquire “more digital sovereignty” to address competition from global internet giants like Google and Amazon.

At a press meeting on Sunday with film directors Michel Hazanavicius and Costa-Gavras, Oettinger said steps to combat piracy would be an “essential element” in digital reform.

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