Crop from a historical map of Europe (etching).

Open letter on geo-blocking: Denying people access to culture benefits no-one

Today, we are publishing an open letter from civil society organizations to members of the European Parliament ahead of the plenary vote on the IMCO own-initiative report on the implementation of the 2018 Geo-blocking Regulation scheduled for Tuesday, December 12, 2023. The letter refutes a number of grossly exaggerated claims made by rightsholders in an attempt to undermine the report. For more background on the discussion on the review of the geo-blocking regulation, see our previous post.

Open letter to the European Parliament

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

This week, on December 12, the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on an own-initiative report on the implementation of the 2018 Geo-blocking Regulation, including for audio-visual content. The IMCO Committee adopted the report on October 25, 2023, with opinions from CULT and JURI, through the support of a broad, cross-party majority. We urge you to follow the committee’s vote, adopt the report and pave the way for a revision of the Geo-blocking Regulation during the Parliament’s ‘24-’29 term.

With regard to audiovisual content, the report “highlights potential benefits for consumers, notably in the availability of a wider choice of content across borders” (p. 4). It also asks for a report of the Commission’s stakeholder dialogue on the subject to be made public and presented to the Parliament.

Despite the report’s balanced nature, it has come under attack by rightsholders from the audio-visual industries. Over the course of the past weeks, the Creativity Works! coalition and others have engaged in a massive campaign against the report, advancing a number of false or overblown claims to undermine it, which can be easily debunked:

Misleading claim 1: Ending Geo-blocking of audio-visual content would harm “15 million creative sector jobs” and “jeopardise a €640 billion industry.”

There is no independent study that proves this statement. Contrary to what part of the copyright industry claims, the IMCO report does not challenge territorial licensing. In fact, it reaffirms the need to preserve it. What IMCO suggests – and we support – is that consumers and citizens should not be denied access to Europe’s rich cultural diversity. Territorial protectionism does not benefit anyone but incumbent industries profiteering from the unjustified partition of the Single Market.

Misleading claim 2: The IMCO report threatens territorial licensing and calls for EU-wide licensing for audiovisual services which would be prohibitively expensive for smaller players and limit cultural diversity in Europe.

This statement is factually incorrect as the IMCO report at no point makes any reference to prohibiting or discouraging territorial licensing. On the contrary, the need to safeguard territorial licensing is mentioned repeatedly throughout the report. Further, there are no demands to instate a system of EU-wide licences. Any predictions for the future of the European audio-visual sector based on these claims are severely misguided and paint a deceiving picture of the IMCO report.

While the campaign by Creativity Works paints a dire picture of the audiovisual sector, should the legislator follow the report, there is little substance to these claims. Denying the people access to culture, by contrast, is not in your, or anyone’s, interest. We encourage you to vote with confidence in favour of the report.

Signed,

COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain

Creative Commons

Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN)

Vrijschrift

Wikimedia Deutschland

Xnet, Institute for Democratic Digitalisation

King Charles II of England addresses members of the Estates General, 1660, Theodor Matham, after Jacob Toorenvliet, 1660
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