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INDUSTRY Europe

Europa Distribution asks its members to participate in the EU copyright consultation

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- The consultation process will remain open until 5 March 2014

Europa Distribution asks its members to participate in the EU copyright consultation

The public consultation on the European copyright framework, which was launched just before Christmas by the EU, has alarmed authors, producers, distributors and exhibitors all over Europe. The independent distributor organisation Europa Distribution has asked its members to participate in the EU copyright consultation, which has meant that the cultural diversity of Europe is at stake.

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So far, the flexible European copyright framework has ensured that the film industry can offer compelling, competitive and culturally diverse films and services to its consumers. This is going to change when, on behalf of the European Commission, exclusive rights will be weakened and the film and cinema sector will be under pressure to establish pan-European services.

"If there are no longer any territorial restrictions on film distribution, then only the major film companies will be able to survive," says Tom Abell, managing director of the British distribution company Peccadillo Pictures. "I think this would be disastrous for the independent sector - for both distribution and production - and would severely diminish the diversity of cinematic material available across the member states. The studios and large independents will only distribute films that play to a majority audience; this means that the smaller titles and those that appeal to specific interest groups will cease to be seen in European cinemas."

"The current copyright system provides no legal barriers to offering services covering several territories," emphasises Annemie Degryse, co-president of Europa Distribution and general manager of the Belgian distributor Lumière. "But many elements other than copyright play a role in the degree of development of online audiovisual services and their availability in different member states: the territorial and cultural particularities of the present distribution platforms, relevant hardware penetration, broadband infrastructure and speed, taxation, micro-payment facilities, and rules on the protection of consumers and minors. The degree of availability of illegal content and services also plays an important role in the development of a strong, sustainable online audiovisual offer."

The industry and policymakers have to ask themselves what the benefits will be for the market. "Will consumers really benefit, or will it just be other big companies reaping the rewards?" asks Jelmer Hofkamp, secretary general of the International Federation of Film Distributors’ Associations (FIAD). "In reality, we still see little consumer and commercial demand for such services, which makes you wonder about the real benefits." According to him, it is not just the ‘market’ which is at stake: "The cultural diversity of Europe is another asset which should be kept in mind when thinking about the advantages and disadvantages."

The copyright consultation process is open until 5 March 2014.

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