On 21 November the Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs adopted its report on the proposed Regulation 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.
The legislative proposal was presented by the Commission in September 2016 with the intention of extending to the online environment the “country of origin” principle, a well tested rule of the cable & satellite copyright framework. In short, the text sought to apply the principle of country of origin for ancillary online services of broadcasting organizations (“catch up” TV); as a result, copyright relevant acts will be considered as taking place solely in the member state where the broadcasting organization is established. Moreover, it aims at easing the clearance of rights for retransmission services by introducing rules on mandatory collective management. Overall, the final objective of the Commission is to tackle the ancillary online services “geo-blocking” in order to make available more audio-visual copyrighted content across member states. But by doing so, many considered it was putting at serious risk the whole business model behind online audio-visual distribution, in particular but not only in the case of cinema.
The rapporteur (the Member of the Parliament in charge of drafting the report) intended to apply the country of origin principle to most audio-visual content, with the exception of sport events, purchased cinematographic works and co-productions. But after passionate debates, the center and right-wing political groups carried a wide number of alternative compromise amendments which considerably reduce the scope of the proposal.
First and foremost, the Parliament’s proposal now limits the application of the principle of country of origin to just news and current affairs programs, excluding therefore movies, TV programs and other audio-visual content. On the other side, it confirms the Commission approach requiring the holders of copyright to deal with licenses only through collective management organizations.
Finally, the report also clarifies the copyright régime for “direct injection”, that is, the mechanism which allows broadcasters to directly transmit audio-visual content to retransmission networks in such a way that the signal cannot be received by the public during such transmission and distributors can offer the content to the public simultaneously.
This Parliament proposal will now be the object of tough negotiations with the Council of the EU.