The European Commission has published proposals for new copyright rules to enable increased access to online television and video services across borders. The country of origin principle, which currently covers satellite and cable distribution, would be extended to the online services of broadcasters, including ‘catch-up’ services. The commission says it will make it easier for broadcasters to deliver programmes online in other member states of the European Union.
The commission refers to online video services such as MyTF1 in France, ZDF Mediathek in Germany, TV3 Play in Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic States and AtresPlayer in Spain. It says that empowering broadcasters to make the vast majority of their programming available to other member states will offer more choice to consumers.
No mention is made of the BBC iPlayer or other similar services from the United Kingdom, which has pioneered online delivery of television programming. Following a referendum to leave the European Union, diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom appear to have become rather strained.
Nevertheless, Britain is exporter of programming to Europe and provides the base for many American media companies in the region. The secondary distribution of programming internationally is also a big business for broadcasters and programme producers.
The impact analysis for the proposals includes a study by informitv on the online availability of television and video services across Europe.
The proposed draft regulation relates to “laying down rules on the exercise of copyright and related rights applicable to certain online transmissions of broadcasting organisations and retransmissions of television and radio programmes”.
It establishes that the rights required for the online services of broadcasters that are directly related to their broadcasts, such as an online simulcast of a satellite broadcast and related ‘catch-up’ services, are cleared based on the country of origin of the broadcaster.
The regulation defines an ‘ancillary online service’ as “the provision to the public, by or under the control and responsibility of a broadcasting organisation, of radio or television programmes simultaneously with or for a defined period of time after their broadcast by the broadcasting organisation as well as of any material produced by or for the broadcasting organisation which is ancillary to such broadcast”.
The proposal does not oblige broadcasting organisations to provide their online ancillary services across borders, nor does it oblige operators of retransmission services to offer programmes from other member states. It does not prevent contracts that could limit the exploitation of the relevant rights.
The proposals will also extend the system of compulsory collective management currently applicable to cable retransmission to other equivalent digital retransmissions.
The commission says that the proposals will make it easier for operators that offer packages of channels to get the authorisations they need. It says that instead of having to negotiate individually with every rights holder to offer channels originating in other member states, they will be able to receive licences from collective management organisations representing rights holders. It is asking member states to set up bodies to help reach licensing deals, including those for cross-border services, between audiovisual rights holders and online video platforms.
In addition, the commission is planning to invest funding for subtitling and dubbing, a catalogue of European audiovisual works and online tools to improve digital distribution and online access.
The commission claims that in combination this will encourage people to discover television and radio programmes from other European countries, keep in touch with their home countries when living in another member state and enhance the availability of European films, highlighting the rich cultural diversity across Europe.
The measures are proposed as part of a Digital Single Market strategy and are intended to complement proposed regulation of the portability of content and the revised Audiovisual Media and Services Directive.