The EU Commission announced yesterday that it is sending a statement of objections to six TV studios and Sky UK over PayTV restrictions. Tim Cowen was quoted in Bloomberg’s report on the subject. Click here to access the European Commission’s press release.
The Statement of Objections follows a long line of cases about the lawfulness of restrictions in agreements that limit cross border sales throughout the EU’s Single Market. The EU ‘s competition rules prohibit the restriction of passive sales, i.e. the sales of products cross-border in the internal market responding to demands from customers not solicited by the seller. In its ruling on the Premier League/Murphy cases (C-403/08 and C-429/08), the EU Court of Justice held that licensing restrictions granting each broadcaster “absolute territorial exclusivity” in the area covered by the license, eliminated all competition between broadcasters and partitioned the Single Market along national borders.
As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the Commission is proposing reform EU copyright rules. It is seeking to improve access to cultural content online. The Commission wants to ensure that users who buy films, music or articles at home can also enjoy them while travelling across Europe. Currently, service providers in the audio-visual sector, may be restricted by copyright or contractual agreements from supplying such services.
In this context, the Satellite and Cable Directive (93/83/EEC) will also be reviewed and a public consultation will be launched “after the summer”. The Commission will notably assess if the scope of the Directive needs to be enlarged to broadcasters’ online transmissions.
What is probably of concern to the commercial broadcasters is how to structure their agreements to ensure that they can fully obtain the value of their copyrighted commercial works. That is getting very complicated with the Commission’s renewed focus on the Digital Single Market. Commercial broadcasters and digital businesses generally will have to carefully re-examine their business activities to ensure that they comply with the rules.
Bloomberg’s report is can be found here.