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BLACK NIGHTS 2015 Industry

The European Commission stands strong behind the Digital Single Market plan


- Tallinn's European Film Forum hosted a fireside chat with European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip to defend the agenda

The European Commission stands strong behind the Digital Single Market plan
Andrus Ansip (right), yesterday, at Tallinn's European Film Forum (© Black Nights)

Taking place from 18 to 19 November in Tallinn, the European Film Forum has brought together film professionals from all over Europe during the city's Black Nights Film Festival. The event, which aims to provide a space for a dialogue between the European Commission and the stakeholders in the audiovisual sector, covered different issues under the umbrella of cinema's digital future. Territoriality and national film policies, digital transition and the start-up sector were the main topics tackled, leading up to this Thursday's main event: the fireside chat with European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, to defend the audiovisual agenda of the institution in front of the international film industry.

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The Digital Single Market, first presented in May, outlines a set of targeted actions to create proposals by the end of next year based on better online access to digital goods and services, a prosperous environment for digital networks and services, and digitalisation as an economic tool. However, film professionals have been sceptical ever since because of the possible consequences on copyright laws, territoriality and the window system, which are the main concerns, and a so-called focus on the consumer's point of view to the detriment of that of the professional.

Ansip stood strong behind the DSM concept and its future implementation. “Why are we dividing the market because of borders and nationalities? Free movement of capital and people is the way to avoid that,” said Ansip. “What we want to avoid is territoriality's limitations and content geo-blocking. If you have legal access to cultural content in one country, you have to have the same in other countries. Although we know that we don't want to destroy the whole system of territoriality, we don't want a revolution.” Ansip also clarified that the European Commission does not want to change the window system. “That will mainly depend on entrepreneurs and filmmakers in each country – they will be able to decide for how long they want their films available, and where.”

While stating that a copyright reform is also important, Ansip explained that the DSM is not promoting a system of pan-European licences, as it “would be very expensive and very difficult, as there are different territories where there is very low demand for films”. Instead, the DSM focuses on market fragmentation and how to soften its negative consequences, as “fragmentation is definitely creating problems for small players in each country, while favouring the big ones.”

Indeed, one of the main concerns in the industry is the major foreign players (Netflix, Amazon, etc) that seem to have an easier job taking over the continent with the DSM in place. Ansip denies that this would be the reason for that situation, as “those players are already successful in Europe anyway”. Vaguely referring to the French case after the Netflix arrival (read more), Ansip avoided making clear statements on how a position like this would affect – whether positively or negatively – the DSM.

Piracy still seems to be one of the main issues that the European Commission wants to do away with over the next few years. After mentioning the results of a number of surveys on internet use, Ansip pointed out, “Because of the impossibility of legal access to content due to territoriality and geo-blocking, we are pushing people to find illegal ways of getting what they want.”

While there still seems to be a requirement for a real dialogue focusing on the interests of film professionals, which is hopefully on the cards soon, the European Commission is quite determined to go ahead with its plan. “The implementation of this system will be about struggles, and no easy victories. But it is always complicated to make changes in existing environments. It is really the time to change it now – we are already late.”

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