The European Broadcast Union (EBU) has called for the European Union (EU) Satellite & Cable Directive to be extended to all forms of broadcast including Web TV to simplify rights clearance across the continent. Satellite broadcasting in particular is crossborder, which is why the EU has already established this directive covering satellite transmission across more than 40 countries, with rights based on the country-of-origin principle. This law enables a broadcaster to obtain rights in just one EU member country and then have them extended to the remaining 27 countries, with centralized payments through a single collecting authority.
At the same time the directive contains safeguards for rights holders and allows them to negotiate separate deals for each broadcaster, with the ability to distinguish between the different distribution channels. But each deal is then applied across the EU as a whole rather than every member country separately.
According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, there were more than 4300 different TV channels broadcast over satellite in the 27 EU countries plus Croatia and Turkey on 31 December 2010. Taking account of all the language versions, this means more than 4500 TV channels broadcast over satellite in these 29 countries were covered by these country of origin rights deals. The EBU now wants this to be extended to Internet TV, which like satellite operates across borders. In fact it would be desirable for broadcasters to be able to establish worldwide rights for Internet content but that will not be happening any time soon.
However updating copyright rules would bring great benefits to Europe, the EBU argues. The EU broadcasting sector contributes over 30 billion euros to the EU copyright economy, one-third of which is for rights covering original European productions spanning 28 million hours of archive materials. If broadcasters are to continue investing such sums in the online digital era, they need a simpler common European rights-clearance system.