If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It – Cinema and the Copyright Reform

3 Questions to Jan Runge, CEO of International Union of Cinemas (UNIC)

The European Commission’s recent copyright reform proposal aims to support the creation of a “digital single market”. In a series of interviews, Netopia asks stakeholders about their view of the proposals. First out: Cinema. Netopia spoke to Jan Runge, Chief Executive of UNIC: Union Internationale des Cinémas/ International Union of Cinemas.

Per Strömbäck: How will the copyright reform proposal influence cinema in Europe? 

Jan Runge: What we now have on the table is a proposal which I to be honest hope will still improve to the benefit of cinemas and the wider film ecosystem in Europe.

Two issues are vital to our members: a recent study showed that cinemas lose close to 15 per cent in ticket sales due to online piracy. We therefore welcome the European Commission’s commitment to develop a number of measures to better enforce copyright and hope to be consulted in the process.

It is also really important that Commission proposals around the ambition to foster a “Digital Single Market” for films don’t undermine theatrical exclusivity in UNIC territories and continue to enable the cinema sector to finance and distribute films on the basis of negotiating exclusive licensing deals. Anything else would seriously limit competitiveness, innovation and cultural diversity in European cinema.

If the current proposal to extend the “Country of Origin Principle” to certain VOD services eventually led to a situation where – for example – a film could be accessed by Polish consumers on a French VOD platform during the exclusive release period of that film in Polish theatres, the resulting value destruction in cinemas would be a major issue for UNIC members.

PS: If it was up to you, what would you put in the proposal?

We feel that Europe should primarily focus on limiting online piracy

JR: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? In all seriousness, in terms of legislative reform we feel that Europe should primarily focus on limiting online piracy. All other policy objectives, including promotion of the “Digital Single Market”, can in our view be addressed through other means: we would love to see a Horizon 2020 project around data-driven innovation in the cinema sector, for example. Furthermore, better circulation of non-national European films, support for the cinema exhibition sector through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme, increased co-ordination with national policy-makers and national film agencies, and last but not least a fairer involvement of online stakeholders to promote European cinema – all of these objectives can be addressed without reforming copyright.

PS: How is European cinema doing, anyway? Are we all too attached to our smartphones to go see a movie?

JR: Given that more than 50 per cent of cinema-goers discuss their experience on social media and given that online ticket bookings are on the rise across Europe audiences are certainly attached to their mobile devices before and after their cinema journey. However, as illustrated by last year’s EU-wide admissions increase of 7,4 per cent cinema-going is thriving. Operators have over the past 10 years made huge investments into digital cinema to upgrade the film-viewing experience. Seeing a film on the Big Screen has become a much more engaging, diverse and immersive experience that can easily compete with the myriad of digital distractions that users today have available at their fingertips. The industry is pretty confident and upbeat to be honest. Research shows that consumers continue to highly value the shared experience of seeing a film in the cinema with friends and family at a time when home media consumption increasingly happens in solitude.

PS: Thank you, Mr Runge.


Watch this space for more comment on the copyright reform package.

Full transparency: UNIC is one of Netopia’s sympathisers. Full list here.