The European Commission (EC) may be showing some flexibility on its stance towards its plans for copyright reform following extensive protests from the European film and television industries in recent weeks.

Visiting government and industry leaders in Brussels, Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), spoke of “very friendly meetings” about “the enduring importance of filmmaking” both in artistic and economic terms.

One of his meetings was with the EC Vice-President Andrus Ansip, who is responsible for overseeing the EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy and is particularly hostile toward the issue of geoblocking (the restrictions to downloading or viewing content across different geographic regions).

In a tweet after his meeting with Ansip, Dodd wrote: “Friendly meeting with Ansip – discussed the importance of diversity & contractual freedom. Agreed to stay in touch.¨

Writing of his week in Brussels, Dodd remarked that “though technological innovations continue to advance at lightning speed, we must be very careful and cautious before even considering changes to the laws that these creative industries have come to rely on, lest unintended consequences harm the ability of this important form of art, and those who practice it around the world, to continue producing such wonderful and beloved content.¨

Meanwhile, the declarations and open letters from film professionals appear to have had an effect on Ansip’s Commissioner colleague Günther Oettinger, who has the portfolio for Digital Economy and Society and is responsible for the Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme.

In an interview with the German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Oettinger distanced himself from Ansip’s outright rejection of geoblocking and suggested that there should be an investigation of what effects such proposed changes to copyright regulations might have on the film industry.

“We want to preserve cultural diversity,“ he told the newspaper.

Resistance continues

Despite these positive signs of some openness from the Commission to the film industry’s concerns, politicians and professionals from all over Europe continue to issue declarations and statements to voice their fears.

At last week’s Franco-German consultations in Berlin, France’s Minister of Culture & Communications Fleur Pellerin and Germany’s Minister of Justice & Consumer Protection Heiko Mass issued a joint declaration on copyright emphasising its importance for the promotion of cultural diversity, creativity and innovation.

At the same time, the ministers indicated that they would “reject regulations which would endanger [the European Union’s] cultural potential. Whoever regards copyright solely as a technical obstacle on the way to creating the Digital Single Market, does not appreciate its significance.¨

Germany’s independent distributors – gathered within the AG Verleih – also threw their hat into the ring

They claimed in a statement that the EC’s intentions to change copyright law would threaten the existence of independent European film distributors and producers: “At the end, independent European films will disappear completely.¨

“Instead of threatening the European film industry, a new European copyright law needs to be designed to protect national markets,“ they argued. „It is necessary to support European films to find their international audiences.¨

“To release independent arthouse films is becoming more and more tough from year to year. But we believe in our work and we share the visions of our directors. And we count on the on the fact that independent European distributors and the European Commission share the same idea of strengthening the independent European film industry, giving European films the chance to be seen by an European audience, today and in the future,“ the distributors concluded.

Poles apart

Moreover, a joint statement from the Creative Poland Association (CPA) noted that any limitations to the current practice of granting territorial licenses “would lead to a total stagnation of European film production.¨

Speaking on behalf of such organisations as Copyright Poland, the Association of Film Distributors, Polish Audiovisual Producers Chamber of Commerce, CPA suggested that “creation of one pan-European cultural market would lead to a total disappearing of the Polish market of contents protected with copyright, and the

marginalization of Polish participants in this market.¨

“Polish culture is rich, attractive and diverse. Unfortunately, the Polish cultural sector is still economically and financially weak,“ the statement addressed to the Commission said. “Liquidation of the possibility to grant territorial licenses will lead to the deepening of contrasts and will destroy the chances for at least a slow increase of the importance of the Polish creative sector in Europe.¨

European Parliament picks Ida producer

Ewa Puszczyńska, one of the producers of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which won the  European Parliament’s 2014 LUX Film Prize, has been appointed as one of the new members of the 2015 edition’s selection panel.

The other new members are Mihai Cristian Chirilov, artistic director of the Transilvania International Film Festival, Yorgos Krassakopoulos, director of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, and Eurimages project manager Susan Newman-Baudais.