LONDON — Media companies have nothing to fear from the European Commission’s plan to make digital entertainment more freely accessible across the continent.
That was the line Monday from Ed Vaizey, the minister responsible for the U.K. government’s policy on the digital economy.
Vaizey told POLITICO the British government has listened to the media and entertainment companies’ concerns about the digital single market strategy and will resist any reforms that would threaten their businesses.
The culture minister said European officials do not intend to force the media groups to sell rights to their products in a single, pan-European block, rather than territory-by-territory, as they typically do now. Companies have argued a solo approach would have a catastrophic impact on Europe’s €509 billion copyright-related industries.
“We wouldn’t support the imposition of [pan-] European licensing,” Vaizey said in an interview. “We wouldn’t support the centrally directed sweeping away of territoriality.”
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Robert Madelin, the Commission’s director-general for communications networks, content and technology, also struck a reassuring tone.
“We are not going to require pan-European licensing as a business model,” Madelin said during a panel discussion at a conference on the Digital Single Market in London Monday.
Proposals to update copyright laws to make digital entertainment more equally priced and easily accessible across the European Union are among the most contentious parts of the DSM reforms unveiled in May.
Film studios, broadcasters, record labels, television producers and other owners of entertainment rights are worried they will lose their ability to raise revenues by selling their products to different territories. They have been lobbying fiercely in Brussels and domestically.
In the U.K., the largest media market in Europe, there are concerns that the government’s initial response to the reforms was too close to the Commission’s position, and too relaxed about the potential commercial consequences of harmonizing copyright.
Vaizey said the concerns were unfounded.
“I think to a certain extent things might have been lost in translation,” he told POLITICO.
The companies’ right to sell their products and programs by territory was not up for grabs, the minister added.
“Imposing a [new pan-European] business model on the creative industries wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said. The current model is “a business model that works and has helped the U.K.’s creative industries become some of the most successful in the world.”
The French, in particular, would take a similar stand, Vaizey added.
Rather than changing the licensing system, Vaizey said the copyright reforms would focus on making it easier for consumers to seamlessly use digital products, such as videos and music, when they move around Europe.
At present, consumers are blocked from using Internet services such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix or Sky Go when they travel from their home market to another member state because of licensing restrictions. The Commission believes this is out of touch with modern media and technology habits.
“We do think it’s a perfectly legitimate question to say, ‘How can we make it as easy as possible for a consumer who has paid for their content to access that content across Europe?’” Vaizey said. “Obviously more and more content companies are waking up to the fact that … many of their customers do go abroad for certain periods.”