EXCLUSIVE: European Commissioner receives criticism from major UK, German and French players as well as European producers associations.

European Commissioner Günther Oettinger has come under fire for his copyright proposals from key industry players from France, the UK and Germany.

In the letter sent to Oettinger and leaked to Screen, Metropolitan Filmexport CEO Victor Hadida, Constantin Film Chairman Martin Moszkowicz and Vue Entertainment International CEO Tim Richards began by underlining “the need for evidence-based policy making when it comes to developing the Commission’s strategy for cinema and copyright.”

They pointed out that the “vast majority” of the EU-supported films screening in the Berlinale’s Competition last month were financed through territorial pre-sales agreements with local distributors.

“Without the ability to adjust the release pattern and the price for films to local market demand – commercial practices that are very common in a range of digital industries – smaller and more fragile works would be marginalised,” they observed

“We would therefore like to encourage you and your service to have more trust in the business acumen and the innovation capacity of our sector to decide how films should best be released across Europe to benefit our consumers. European copyright law enables us to take these informed decisions. It is fit for purpose and flexible enough to adapt to technological change,” they declared.

They also suggested that the Commission should refocus on “issues that could truly help our sector to become even more competitive, diverse and innovative”

These included concentrating “efforts to reduce profits from commercial-scale infringements on the Internet through the Follow the Money Initiative” as well as to promote responsible and fair media consumption online and raise awareness of the positive contributions of copyright amongst younger consumers.

The “non-exhaustive list of ideas” as food for thought for the Commissioner was rounded off with the comment that it would be a welcome development “if new stakeholders of the highly interdependent European film ecosystem, including Google, Netflix, Amazon and iTunes, were to become participants in, rather than only beneficiaries of, European cinema. Similar to broadcasters and cinema operators, these international platform providers should contribute to national film funds if they create revenues on the basis of selling theatrically released films.”

“Furthermore, given the transparency of other stakeholders in the value chain, new players should be encouraged to make available more data regarding the commercial, cultural and social value that they bring to Europe,” they argued.

A copy of this letter was also sent to the three CEOs’ respective national ministers responsible for copyright and film as well as to the cabinet of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Producers associations voice concern

Screen has also obtained a letter sent to Commissioner Oettinger on March 4 by the European Producers Club, on behalf of 17 producers associations from across the continent, expressing their deep concern about his pronouncements during last month’s Berlinale.

“The Commission shows a very troubling unwillingness to listen to the industry, to small and medium size producers and to the creative community; and thus disregards the realities of producing audiovisual content in Europe today. It shows deep misunderstanding of how films are financed and how the audiovisual market in Europe actually works,” the producers declared.

Moreover, the letter argued that the European Commission was not aiming to introduce “a legal framework that will help to create new jobs and to foster creative diversity in Europe, but is rather about to make the financing of independent European productions almost impossible, to thereby support the multinational and US companies to the detriment of smaller and medium size producers and distributors, who have been seminal for many years in making very diverse European films possible; and to reduce the diversity of European film making and thus the choice for European consumers.”

In conclusion, the producers said that they expected “a constructive policy towards audiovisual creation” from the Commission and for it to listen to filmmakers and producers about how European films are financed and produced.

“We request respect from the Commission for all those who are working to build the European cultural identity. Such respect would include that any decision to change the rules would not be taken before the consequences of such changes have been thoroughly assessed.”