“Be reassured,” former European Commissioner tells French film industry.

Viviane Reding

Planned reforms to EU copyright rules will not touch territoriality, former European commissioner Viviane Reding told the Rencontres Cinématographiques de Dijon on Friday (Oct 23), the annual conference of France’s authors, directors and producers body ARP.

“Be reassured, that the territorial exploitation of rights is not included in there,” the thrice times European commissioner and current Member of the European Parliament told the meeting.

“The only thing that is being reflected on is how to safeguard the rights of creators so they get their due revenues in the digital era.”

“As I think I said in Cannes,” she said, referring to a major European debate on the issue during the film festival this year, “I didn’t really believe in this so-called reform of authors rights at it stood at that time and that if it continued in that direction it would hit a wall. 

It won’t hit a wall anymore because it won’t take place at least not in the way it was conceived in the beginning.”

The European film industry is currently lobbying hard to ensure that territoriality of copyright remains intact amid the European Commission’s current copyright reform which is part of a wider drive to create a Digital Single Market.

The division of rights territory by territory, and the subsequent geo-blocking to ensure people have paid for the content in the country where they are watching it, lies at the heart of TV and film financing in Europe, the industry says.

In its initial reform proposals, the commission called for a limit to geo-blocking linked to European copyright licenses.

Reding, who was the European Commissioner for Education and Culture from 1999 to 2004 before heading to Communications and then Justice, noted her former chief of staff was now in that role for President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who spearheaded the reforms, while another was in the presidency’s culture cabinet.

“Don’t worry, it’s in good hands. The President of the Commission Juncker listens to his counsellors and the parliament. The parliament is clear and precise about all of these issues and without the support of the European parliament none of these laws can pass,” added Reding, who is now a Member of the European Parliament for the European People’s Party.

Reding was a guest speaker at ARP’s annual Dijon meeting which is marked its 25th anniversary this year.

She recalled how she had stood quaking off-stage ahead of her first appearance as European Commissioner for Culture at the meeting in 1999, having watched the audience nearly reduce French Minister of Culture Catherine Trautmann to tears with their tough questioning over her plans for the reform of France’s television industry at the time.

Conversely for Reding, the meeting marked the beginning of a strong relationship with the French film industry during her terms European Commissioner for Culture in which she strengthened the MEDIA programme and created the annual Europe Day at Cannes.

In the backdrop at Dijon, other EU experts attending the meeting questioned Reding’s assertion that territoriality was safe.

“The Commission might not come out and directly dismantle territoriality but there are lots of measures it can introduce that will lead to the same thing,” said one expert privately.