Flexibility of release windows, fair remuneration for rights holders for online distribution and net neutrality called for in European Parliament committee report.

A greater flexibility of release windows and fair remuneration for rights holders when their works are distributed online in the European Union (EU) has been proposed this week by the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education.

MEP Jean-Marie Cavada suggested in his draft report on online distribution of audiovisual works in the EU that there was “the need to ensure that the current system of release windows is not used as a means of blocking online exploitation to the detriment of small producers and distributors;” and that “release windows should be made more flexible for works that are made available exclusively online.”

Cavada argued that it was “essential” to guarantee authors remuneration that is fair and proportional to the revenue generated by the online exploitation of their works and said that “consideration should be given to applying a reduced rate of VAT to the digital distribution of cultural goods and services in order to eliminate the inequalities between online and offline services.”

Moreover, he noted the European Commission’s observation that the majority of audiovisual media services are targeted mainly at a national audience or a particular linguistic area: “This is why it would be inappropriate to impose a legal requirement to negotiate multi-territorial, multilingual or multi-platform licences, since the commercial demand for such licences is extremely limited at the market’s current stage of development. Imposing a pan-European licence would merely make it easier for the players with the greatest purchasing power to monopolise the market to the detriment of many SMEs, which form the backbone of the audiovisual and cinema industry in Europe.”

“The issue of net neutrality is of fundamental importance in this new online environment,“ Cavada continued. “It should be noted that the number of audiovisual service providers using the internet as a means of distributing their content and services is steadily increasing. The principle of net neutrality is of key importance in helping them supply their content and services to the largest possible number of people. We must therefore ensure that legitimate general-interest objectives such as media pluralism and cultural diversity are achieved.”

Meanwhile, Cavada used the opportunity of this report to once more reaffirm the committee’s support for the continuation of the MEDIA Programme from 2014 by saying that it is “of essential importance to pursue an ambitious MEDIA programme for 2014–2020 that is in the same spirit as the current programme” and stressed that it is “vital for MEDIA to continue to exist as a specific programme focusing solely on the audiovisual sector.”

Last autumn had seen the European Commission issue a Green Paper and consultation process for a debate on how and whether the regulatory framework needs to be adapted to allow European industry to develop new business models, creators to find new distribution channels and European consumers to have better access to content throughout Europe.

Moreover, the European Parliament provided €2m last year for a pilot project to test alternatives to the current release windows for certain types of film.