Sports sector wins reprieve in EU copyright reform

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By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Soccer leagues such as England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga won a reprieve on Friday when EU ambassadors agreed to exclude them from the scope of a copyright reform that would help make content more easily available online.

The entertainment and sports industries have been fiercely lobbying against the European Commission’s proposed reform of EU copyright law to make films and TV programmes more available across borders, arguing it would undermine the financing model of the whole sector.

Films and TV programmes are often financed by selling exclusive distribution rights on a country-by-country basis. Rights to show sports, such as Premier League soccer matches, can fetch billions of pounds.

The Commission has said it is not seeking to force anyone to make content more available online, but merely to make it easier for broadcasters to obtain the necessary rights.

EU member states agreed on Friday to exclude all sports events, TV programmes co-produced by broadcasters and other third parties, as well as content licensed to a broadcaster by a third party.

That means that only content produced and financed entirely by the broadcaster will be able to be shown online across the EU after the rights are obtained in the home country. That mostly includes TV shows made by public broadcasters for home audiences, as opposed to blockbuster TV shows such as “Game of Thrones”.

At issue is the so-called “country of origin principle”, which allows satellite broadcasters to acquire the rights for content in their home country rather than in every country where the programme is received by satellite.

Under the Commission’s proposal broadcasters could choose to make their catch-up TV and live streaming services available online across the EU after securing the rights in their home country.

The agreement is not final and means EU member states can enter into negotiations with the European Parliament to strike a final deal.

The Parliament had restricted the scope of the reform even further, limiting it to just news and current affairs programmes.

The Commission has pointed to the large number of European citizens living abroad who may want to watch content from their home country online without resorting to piracy.

It says 67 percent of all films are only shown in one EU country and that its proposal could help free up over 50 percent of own productions from broadcasters like the BBC, should they choose to make it available.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Mark Potter)

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