The EU is taking steps to make online TV and radio programmes more easily available throughout its territory. The Council and the European Parliament today reached a provisional agreement on the future directive.

The directive will provide users in any EU member state with a wider choice of online TV and radio programmes originating in other EU countries. It will do so by facilitating the licensing of copyright-protected material contained in these programmes.

Facilitating clearance of rights for online services ancillary to broadcasts

Users increasingly expect to have access to television and radio programmes at a time and place of their choice. Broadcasting organisations are therefore increasingly offering, in addition to their traditional broadcasts of television and radio programmes, online services ancillary to their broadcast. Such services are parallel transmissions over the Internet (simulcasting) and the possibility to view or listen to a programme later than at the time of the original broadcast (catch-up services).

In order to make these services available across borders, broadcasting organisations need to clear the rights to works and other protected subject matter contained in their broadcasts for all relevant territories. The directive will facilitate this rights clearance by allowing broadcasting organisations to clear all relevant rights in the member state of their principal establishment.

The directive covers all radio programmes, as well as TV programmes related to news and current affairs or produced by the broadcasting organisation. Existing contracts will remain unaffected for a period of four years from the entry into force of the directive. The Commission will assess the need for extending this coverage to additional types of TV programmes six years after the entry into force of the directive.

Clearance of cross-border retransmission rights

In addition, the directive facilitates the clearance of rights where a radio or TV programme broadcast in one member state is retransmitted simultaneously, unaltered and unabridged in another member state.

It covers retransmissions carried out via cable, satellite, digital terrestrial, closed circuit IP-based or mobile networks. It also covers retransmissions done through the open internet provided that they take place in a managed environment, i.e. they are subject to some kind of digital identification.

For the types of retransmissions covered by the directive, the rights to works and other subject matter contained in the broadcast shall have to be cleared through a collective management society. The collective management society in question shall also be entitled to clear rights belonging to rightholders who have not transferred their rights to it.

Direct injection

The regulation clarifies the legal status of the so-called “direct injection” technique, i.e. when a broadcaster transmits its programme-carrying signals to signal distributors in such a way that these signals are not accessible to the public during that transmission. In such a case, only a single act of communication to the public is deemed to occur. This means that both the broadcaster and the signal distributor will have to clear the underlying rights.

Next steps

The provisional agreement will now have to be endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be formally adopted. To that effect, the originally proposed regulation will have to be redrafted so that it takes the form of a directive.

Member states will have to transpose the directive within 2 years from its entry into force.

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