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Stan McCoy • President, Motion Picture Association in Europe

“It is a huge risk to tamper with the system”


- Stan McCoy, president of the Motion Picture Association in Europe, spoke to Cineuropa about his views on the copyright crisis in Brussels

Stan McCoy  • President, Motion Picture Association in Europe

Stan McCoy, president and managing director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the Motion Picture Association (MPA), warns that it is five minutes to midnight for the copyright crisis in Brussels. 

Cineuropa: Is there any need for multi-territorial licensing in Europe?
Stan McCoy:
If there is one thing we can agree with that is coming out of the European Commission right now, it is the emphasis on jobs and growth. We think that the problem has arisen where, in order to advance the digital single market, they have chosen an attack on the existing copyright system as one of their mechanisms. There is a distinct lack of any concrete evidence that the reforms they are contemplating on copyright will produce one more job or one more euro of economic growth as a result. In fact, in the environment as it stands today, there are seven million people who work in the EU core creative industries, and they generate €509 billion of GDP every year. We think it is a huge risk to tamper with the system that those people rely on in order to make that economic contribution. 

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The desire on the part of the European Commission seems to be to reduce the flexibility that copyright owners have to design licences in order to serve smaller territorial markets, as opposed to a big European market.

What would you suggest?
We think the right solution to this is contractual freedom so that everyone – whether they are big American studios or small independent producers – will have the flexibility to decide how best to serve the market and meet consumer demand. It would seem self-evident to anyone who works in the film sector.

What are the key points for the European Commission?
In the mission letter, President Juncker is saying to Commissioner Oettinger: “We need to break down the national silos in copyright and offer consumer access to movies wherever they are in Europe.”

Portability is one issue in the debate – being able to take your service with you when you go on holiday. There is a significant degree of portability of service that the market is already providing. When I go from France to Belgium, I can still use the Netflix service that is offered. The market is increasingly offering portability.

What about territoriality?
Andrus Ansip
, vice-president of the EU Commission, points out: “One of my priorities will be to make sure that consumers will have access to content across borders.” Here, we are not talking so much about going on holiday; we are talking now about, for example, if I live in Germany but I decide I want to sign up for the Austrian service. The system would be changed in some way that would effectively mean that when I license a provider in country A, I am deemed to have allowed that provider to accept subscriptions from any other country in Europe. The net result of this would be to eliminate territorial markets in Europe. If you take out of the system the ability to tailor your licences that only serve a single territory, that really has a number of troubling consequences. It radically changes the financing model for a lot of European filmmakers, it radically changes the existing financing scheme for co-productions that our members participate in, and it also changes the equation in terms of the consideration of licensing of online services. Now, when you look to license something to an online service in country A, you can no longer be certain of the size of the market that country A is serving and how much leakage there is from that into other markets. We foresee that becoming a significant business issue, and we would vastly prefer to live in a world where all copyright owners have the freedom to design licences to best meet the needs of consumers in local markets.

What does the international film industry have to say about that?
It’s a bit of a utopian vision that the EU has. But we were debating whether this is actually a dystopian vision, whether this is actually a nightmare scenario for the existing model of financing, co-producing and the online distribution of films in Europe. It will have different effects on different producers. Will there be a massive new European film-funding programme to replace all the territorial pre-sales that currently fund a large percentage of filmmaking in Europe? 

Most of the films that my members make are not financed through territorial pre-sales. However, the fundamental point for us is the same. It creates tremendous uncertainty and risk in what is now a stable and strong market. I would urge the European Commission to bear in mind that any so-called reform that they choose to pursue on copyright must pass the test of jobs and growth. There must be concrete proof that that reform is going to add more jobs and more growth beyond the seven million people and the €509 billion that we have today. 

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