In a speech at a Film Distributors’ Association event yesterday, Lord Puttnam addressed “the very latest developments in Europe, which I believe present opportunities and challenges for us all.”
Only last week, the European Parliament ratified the incoming team of Commissioners, so the executive branch of European law-making is now in place until 2020.
As part of its on-going Digital Agenda for Europe, the new Commission’s in-tray includes the matter of copyright reform.
Facilitating the wider accessibility of a range of content is not only in the public interest, it’s essential for rights-holders and distributors too. Business models have already been adapted to harness an ever broader range of digital platforms.
Some films are, of course, released simultaneously across borders within the EU and beyond – there are no licensing obstacles which prevent this from happening. My concern is not with the principle, nor the ambition.
None of us can afford to be constrained by practices that are determined or defined solely by the status quo.
As I’ve observed before, UK film distributors would certainly wish for a little more flexibility over digital release windows in today’s converged media world. The typically uniform period of theatrical exclusivity is now being referred to openly, albeit to my mind rather too casually, as ‘the piracy window’.
But in any event, one size emphatically does not fit all titles. The current rigidity is self-defeating, serving only to shackle the growth prospects of the whole sector.
Regarding the new Commission, my concern is this – that any changes in European copyright policy are implemented with a real understanding of our film finance models, which tend to be quite different from those applied in, say, the US or China.
I don’t think I need to elaborate in front of this particular audience, but if you clumsily reduce the incentive to finance via distribution pre-sales across various release territories – not necessarily national silos; possibly wider groups of countries – then you may inadvertently have devastated filmmaking, and cultural diversity to boot, right across Europe.
So my plea to the Commission is to take note and tread carefully as it pushes forward with the digital single market. A truly nuanced approach to territoriality, allowing a myriad of individual release plans to flourish, is absolutely essential, and ultimately in audiences’ best interests.