Report: Europeans need VOD definition


BRUSSELS -- Despite last month's agreement on European Union broadcasting rules, the legal framework for VOD services in Europe is still vague and subject to dispute, according to a new report.

The 92-page report from the Strasbourg-based European Audiovisual Observatory said that the fast-growing VOD sector will remain in legal uncertainty until it has been clearly defined whether "streaming" of video content is considered VOD or broadcasting.

"A clear definition is needed, partly in order to determine the extent to which licenses must be acquired for the use of video content," it said.

The report noted a particular demand for clarity on rightholders' complaints against VOD platforms, like YouTube and other user-generated content platforms. These touch on sensitive issues of privacy, discrimination and defamation, and the report expresses the hope that the upcoming review of the EU's eCommerce Directive will shed more light on this.

There still are unanswered questions about licensing and copyright for VOD, the report found, echoing the European Commission's plans this month to resolve them when it comes to "content online." VOD questions are particularly convoluted in the EU, where licensing still is conducted on a national rather than European basis.

"Any producer wishing to make a film available via VOD must be aware of the complex web of copyright questions concerning each part of the work, including the music, which must be resolved before the film may be licensed for VOD distribution," the EAO said.

VOD also raises difficult questions about distribution windows, and the report found that clarification eventually will be needed from the EU and national authorities.

The report also calls for the film sector to learn from the experience of the music industry in making content available online, and suggests that the financial success of VOD depends on the ability of rightsholders to streamline the acquisition of licenses through one-stop shops.