Press Release

Morrison & Foerster on Media: The Digital Single Market – EUtopia or Dystopia

Panel discusses current EU legislation plans and effect on media industry during Berlinale international film festival

26 Feb 2015

BERLIN (February 26, 2015) – During the 65th Berlinale, the Berlin international film festival, Morrison & Foerster and the Motion Picture Association hosted prominent representatives from across the media industry to discuss the effects of a digital single market on the online distribution of films, series, and other audio-visual content. The discussion centered around the legal framework for cross-border access to digital content.

The EU Commission sees a pressing need to remove “digital borders” within the European Community through changes to copyright laws on a European level in order to ensure that all users in Europe can access content anytime and anywhere. In the “mission letter” by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered on November 1, 2014 to Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, the agency that defines the official tasks, Juncker called on Commissioner Oettinger to submit a concept that breaks open the “national copyright silos” and offers users a way to access digital content that is not limited by EU national borders. Oettinger is expected to submit this concept within the next six months.

“In the most extreme case, this could mean that the licensing of film rights and other copyright-protected content within the EU will no longer be possible on a territorial basis, which would mean that an essential element of financing for films would no longer exist,” said Christiane Stuetzle, Head of the German film law practice at Morrison & Foerster specializing in copyright and media law, who moderated the discussion, together with Bertrand Moullier of Narval Media. The discussion evinced that there is little agreement with the planned changes, as panel members illuminated a wide range of perspectives on what these changes ultimately mean for consumers in Europe.

In his keynote speech, Stan McCoy, president of the MPA EMEA, explained that the copyright system as it exists today is the foundation for 7 million jobs and €509 billion of GDP. He also emphasized that “the current copyright framework does not prevent cross-border services. In fact, it enables content distribution on a linguistic, territorial, multi-country as well as pan-EU basis. When there is sufficient demand, service providers can provide cross-border services without limitations, making new regulations unnecessary.”

Anders Erlandsson, Senior Advisor, Consumer Lab, Ericsson, presented the results of a consumer study by Ericsson, which shows that digital consumers in Europe prefer simple, unlimited, and ideally cheaply accessible access to audio-visual content – at home and while traveling.

The film producer Stefan Arndt, X Filme (Cloud Atlas, A Hologram for the King, etc.), and Jan Spielhoff, Hanway Films (Wim Wenders’ Everything Will Be Fine, which had its premiere on February 10, 2015, at the Berlinale), warned that the EU Commission’s planned changes would mean the end of numerous film productions and as a result would destroy diversity in the European film industry, which is in the interest of neither consumers nor the film industry itself.

On the part of film distributors, there was also little agreement for legally mandated pan-European licensing. Holger Enßlin, Chief Officer, Legal, Regulatory & Distribution at Sky Deutschland, emphasized that it is in fact currently possible to acquire pan-European film rights or to offer programs in a pan-European manner. He further stated that this will happen if the market shows a demand for it.

Christoph Wagner, partner at Morrison & Foerster, argued the same. He stated that the existing legal framework is sufficient and warned against a revision of copyright law that ignores the market.

The panel ended with an appeal to all affected communities in the industry to actively enter the dialogue and to do so quickly in view of the planned deadline stated in the mission letter. As in previous years, the event was well attended by approximately 300 guests from the international film and media industry for the panel and reception.

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