Buyers are desperately trying to acquire rights for downloads, video-on-demand and online distribution but many content owners are simply refusing to sell.
Digital media is now a mainstream issue with most studios offering download-to-own services and VOD and online distribution ramping up even as broadcast money and DVD revenues begin to recede.
But the market hasn't evolved to keep pace. Few are ready for new business models such as revenue sharing, and a split is emerging between sellers and buyers who often want digital rights bundled in at no or low cost with traditional rights.
'It's a real land grab at the moment,' Gregor Pryor, associate at global law firm Reed Smith, told Screen International-backed Arts Alliance Media digital debates series at the EFM.
'Everyone wants to experiment with these new platforms but they want to do it at the expense of the content owner.'
Those owners are often refusing to play ball. David Glasser, sales chief at Bob Yari's Syndicate Films said: 'We're holding back on selling internet rights until we find out more about it. We want to be comfortable with the anti-piracy technology and we want to value the rights accordingly.'
Samantha Horley of UK-based Lumina Films said the situation was similar to the DVD rights issue of the 90s, creating tensions between buyer and seller.
'There are so many producers who want to hold onto the VOD and Internet rights, it happens all the time. It's just people trying to find ways to exploit rights without knowing what they are.'
Kimmel International sales chief Mark Lindsay and Voltage Pictures sales chief Nicolas Chartier both said they were freezing rights on many products until the business and legal situation was clearer.
Most agree it's an urgent issue because online demand is currently being serviced by pirates, but also because the opportunities are potentially so great.
Mark Horowitz, of H20 Motion Pictures said : 'This is the future. Theatrical distribution could become a promotional window and VOD could become more important.'
Victoria Gaskell, a media law specialist at UK legal practice Olswang suggests it may even become an issue for an industry regulator.