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21st Jan 2019

Ansip: EU will not change film release system

  • Filmmakers fear Brussels will meddle with the release window system. (Photo: m4tik)

The EU is not planning to change the current 'release window system' for films, or to forbid territorial licensing to pre-finance films, the bloc's digital commissioner Andrus Ansip told members of the European Parliament on Monday (27 April) in Strasbourg.

The system, by which a film is first screened in a cinema, followed by a release on DVD, and then on a video-on-demand service, has been around since the 1980s.

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But after commissioner Ansip announced he wanted to end geo-blocking - a technical restriction preventing online content being watched from a certain country – several European filmmakers expressed concern that the release window system would be affected.

But Ansip, who was appearing before the parliament's culture committee, said that he just wants consumers who have bought a film online to be able to access it if they travel within the EU.

He also said that if a film or other digital product is available in one EU member country it should in principle also be available to those in other EU countries.

MEPs, for their part, raised the concerns of creators and artists.

“European filmmakers argue that they need the existing pre-financing system … to make film financing sustainable by granting exclusive licenses”, said German Green MEP Helga Trupel Monday.

She said the Oscar-winning Polish film Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski would not have been financed without territorial licenses.

Trupel was one of the MEPs to receive a group of European filmmakers on 15 April in Brussels.

The directors and screenwriters came with a desperate message, handing out a manifesto signed by filmmakers such as Cédric Klapisch, Lucas Belvaux, and Borja Cobeaga.

“We are Europeans that are convinced that the European Commission’s will to challenge the copyright system and territoriality of rights, would undermine the remuneration of many authors who already live in difficult conditions, would endanger the funding of creation and would lead to the empowerment of giant, non-European Internet platforms, often the only ones able to acquire the rights for several territories”, the manifesto read.

But Ansip said that while the commission wants to reform copyright, it does not want to introduce mandatory “pan-European licenses”.

According to a leaked draft version of a commission strategy paper on the digital single market, which was published online by Politico Europe last week, the commission will “propose a reform of the copyright regime” in autumn 2015.

The new regime should be “fit for the digital age benefiting both the creators, innovators and consumers alike”, the draft read.

The draft identified a need for “a balanced copyright reform including measures that would benefit rights holders”.

Ansip will present a final version of the strategy on Wednesday 6 May.

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