The European Commission’s proposed Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy for the film industry has been given short shrift at the opening of the European Film Forum in Tallinn.

At an opening session entitled ¨Territoriality: Business Backbone or Barrier?¨, Lord David Puttnam sent a video greeting speaking on behalf of the Film Distributors Association said that it would, “on balance” be a good thing if the DSM strategy could result in the creation of “vigorous, more risk-taking distributors who are more prepared to be part and parcel of the development of European cinema.”

“But there is a real fear of throwing the baby out with the bath water,” he warned. “The best of intentions could actually result in making it harder and harder to get smaller and more interesting European films financed and distributed.¨

Benoit Ginisty, director of the international film producers association FIAPF, pointed out that it was advantageous for the European film and TV industries to have a digital economy, “but if you only focus on the section relating to copyright, the Commission has basically adopted a kind of consumer’s perspective - at the end of the day, this approach will be contraproductive for consumers.”

“Our problem is that we do not want to be perceived as conservative, we really want to be listened to as responsible people who can say today what could be the consequences on our business, our private business in the future if the roadmap of the Commission was to be realised,¨ Ginisty explained.

¨Basically, what we are saying is that European production today is fragile and related to the market realities,” he added, noting that “one of the main achievements in Europe has been co-production and its capacity to raise pre-sales on other territories. Our question is whether this financing model will be able to remain in position in the future.”

Another issue he identified was the capacity of local distributors who create the audiences for European films: “The question is whether we want to disrupt an entire copyright regime and entire financing  eco-system just for ex-pats.”

Speaking from her members’ perspective, Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA), observed: “If we talk about the disruption of the distribution part of the value chain and we take the risk of completely upsetting the financing part of it, the creators cannot create anymore.¨

“The whole problem is much more complex than simply giving access to the public to the works that creators are creating and producers are producing. The issue is to make them known - and how do we do that in the new media where there is a sea of content, and not all of it European, to pick from when you are a consumer,” she argued.

Turning to the subject of cross-border access, Ginisty suggested that “hopefully, we will be able to convince the Commission and the rest of the eco-system that there is a huge risk for everyone, including the consumers. Our fear is that we see a situation where the European market is centred around a limited number of platforms.”

This would militate against promoting a diversity of films and competition between platforms.

He added that the DSM strategy wanted to help create more jobs throughout the EU, but the opposite would be achieved if cross-border access was introduced.