3rd Jul 2022

New copyright laws to establish pan-European broadcast rights

  • The news follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice in October 2011 in a case brought by the English Premier League against Karen Murphy, a pub owner in the UK. (Photo: bildungsr0man)

The European Commission intends to propose collective copyright legislation that could lead to BSkyB and other digital TV giants being forced to make their programmes available to viewers across the EU.

In a communication to government ministers and the European Parliament on Wednesday (11 January), the commission said there is a need to review the existing copyright law and the implications of the so-called 'Premier League' ruling in early 2012.

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  • The plans are part of a move toward the collective management of copyright in the EU (Photo: EUobserver)

"It should be possible for the collective management of copyright to become more European structured, thereby facilitating the issues of licences covering a number of regions", the commission said.

It added: "European citizens who have moved to another member state should be able to continue to watch their favourite programmes."

The news follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice in October 2011 in a case brought by the English Premier League against Karen Murphy, a pub owner in the UK.

The court decided it is not illegal for individuals to find better deals for TV sports subscriptions by buying set-top box decoder cards from foreign broadcasters. The case came after Murphy bought a Greek decoder card and subscription to Greek cable provider Nova, slashing the £1,000 (€1200) per month cost of her BSkyB fees to £800 (€950) per year.

In its judgement, the court said that attempting to prohibit the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is "contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums."

If the EU's executive body follows the ruling by requiring digital companies to buy rights on a pan-European basis and to sub-license some of them in certain territories, this could have potentially huge implications not only for the Premier League's rights model, whose current deal with BSkyB is worth £3.5 billion (€4.2 billion) over three years, but for all sporting bodies and content producers in the EU.

Selling rights on a pan-European rather than a country-by-country basis would reduce their value and could lead to rights-holders requiring their TV partners to include more copyrighted elements in broadcasts.

The plans are part of a move toward the collective management of copyright in the EU, with the commission expressing concern that the availability of online music varies from country to country.

Data published by the music industry lobby, Ifpi last year found that online music sales in the EU accounted for 19 percent of total sales compared to 25 percent in Japan. The commission says this is largely the result of limited availability of transnational or pan-European offers.

"'Internet Europe' is still a patchwork of different laws, rules, standards and practices, often with little or no interoperability," the EU executive warned.

For her part, Monique Goyens, director general of consumer lobby Beuc, reacted positively to the news, saying: "We're very hopeful that this is a stride towards a more competitive and future-proof European digital economy."

The commission's announcement forms part of its digital single market for e-commerce and online services project.

It wants to beef-up Europe's on-line economy which it says is worth just 3 percent of GDP, far lower than in the US or Asia-Pacific.

According to a study by analysts at Copenhagen Economics, failing to create an effective digital single market would cost the European economy €500 billion between now and 2020, the equivalent of €1,000 per citizen.

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