Film and TV Producers’ Groups Call for Government Regulation of Streamers, Protection of Indie Sector Against ‘Market Failure’ and Loss of IP
Streaming platforms could be subject to tighter regulation and forced to loosen their control of intellectual property if national governments heed a call for action launched Thursday by film and TV producers’ trade organizations around the world.
The “global screen producers’ statement on streaming platform regulation and intellectual property protections,” was published by some 20 groups including Australia’s Screen Producers Association, Germany’s Produzentenverband, Screen Producers Ireland, multinational Spanish-language group Federación Iberoamericana de Productores Cinematográficos y Audiovisuales and Belgium’s Union des Producteur.ices Francophones de Films & Series.
They say that they, “share a commitment to securing regulation from our respective governments that will ensure that our industry continues to both be sustainable and maintains our nation’s cultural sovereignty.”
Among the nine principles, that the groups want governments to follow, two stand out and would likely require regulation.
“All platforms that derive financial benefit from conducting business in the local market should financially contribute, proportionally, to the creation of new local content for the benefit of local audiences.”
“Independent screen businesses should own and/or retain control of the intellectual property (IP), and rights in their work, including the right to financially participate in the success generated by their work” and that “government regulated investment framework (s) should specify that the majority of this investment should be fulfilled through projects where IP is under the control of independent screen businesses.
The organizations also call for governments to recognize the importance of local stories and the companies telling them. By extension, governments should then address “market failure” and redress “any imbalance in commercial bargaining power” between independent producers and platforms.
The calls come at a time when streaming video services have uprooted traditional linear TV and have forced major entertainment corporations to refocus their businesses on direct-to-consumer services. Having achieved rapid growth in subscriber numbers during the pandemic period, many of those companies are now cutting back on content commissioning in order to achieve profitability. Nevertheless, the new dominance of multinational streaming giants is seen as a threat to local culture, local-language production and independent production companies in many countries.
Last year also saw screenwriters’ and actors’ guilds in North America engage in prolonged strikes and stoppages in order to secure, among other things, residual payments (or a ‘streaming participation bonus’) for their work when it is shown on streaming platforms.
“In Australia and many countries around the world, independent screen businesses are facing tough new market dynamics brought about by the global audience shift to digital streaming platforms. Our members have been telling us for some time that without intervention their financial viability and future existence cannot be taken for granted [..] Screen producers are increasingly unable to do business deals on fair terms with powerful digital platforms and therefore, cannot solve this problem on their own,” said Screen Producers Australia, CEO, Matthew Deaner.
“Our creative IP is what the screen industry produces. Ownership of it is the ‘value-add to our industry from making screen stories. It’s important that the screen IP created by Australians, stays in the hands of Australian businesses and is not lost to mostly global streaming platforms. Coming up with a successful character or storyline means a screen business has created a valuable economic asset that can be leveraged several ways including for sequels, adaptations and other marketing and merchandising opportunities,” Deaner added.
Australia has been debating for several years how – and which – streamers should be obliged to reinvest in local content and legislation is expected, possibly this year. SPA says the government needs to incorporate IP ownership protection into law as well.