As part of the European Commission's ambitious plan for a Digital Single Market, it proposes to create "a modern, more European copyright law". One of its initiatives is reform of the regulations on the copyright clearing rules for satellite and cable broadcasting. The Commission is now seeking views on whether those are still relevant.
The broadcasting landscape has changed dramatically since the EU Satellite and Cable Directive (the Directive) came into force over two decades ago. The advent of digital content and the internet has allowed for new forms of broadcasting, including the ability to watch content on demand, through "webcasting" and "simulcasting".
The Commission is asking interested parties for their views on (a) whether the Directive has improved consumers' cross-border access to broadcasting services in the internal market and (b) the impact of extending the Directive to cover broadcast services provided over the internet.
In particular, the consultation document invites comment on extending the country of origin principle to internet broadcasters. Under the country of origin principle, rights for satellite broadcasts are acquired in the country where, under the broadcaster's control and organisation, the programme signal (to the satellite) is sent. The rights cleared in one country then allow for the satellite broadcaster to broadcast to the whole of the EU. Expanding the country of origin principle to include internet broadcasting is particularly controversial in light of the ongoing debate surrounding geo-blocking.
In July 2011, the Commission sought comments on a green paper discussing online distribution of audiovisual works and, in December 2013, it launched a broad public consultation on the review of EU copyright rules. However, neither of these reviews focused specifically on the Directive.
The Satellite and Cable Directive Consultation was opened on 24 August 2015 and continues until 16 November 2015. It runs in parallel with a study by the Commission on the "functioning and relevance" of the Directive, and the legal and economic aspects of the new broadcasting environment. Feedback and results are expected to be published in spring 2016. The consultation document can be found here.