By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Commercial TV broadcasters, football leagues and film producers scored a win on Tuesday when European Union lawmakers watered down a copyright reform aimed at making more TV shows and films available online across borders.
EU lawmakers voted to restrict the scope of the copyright proposal to just news and current affairs, meaning broadcasters will be able to show their news content online across the EU after clearing the rights in their home country.
The original proposal by the European Commission would have applied to a much broader range of content including films, TV shows and sports matches.
"We regret the suggested narrowing down of the scope of the application of the country of origin principle to news and current affairs program's. This is disappointing for consumers as it will not allow for the scope of access to online services of broadcasters that we had hoped for," said Nathalie Vandystadt, a spokeswoman for the Commission.
The media industry had opposed the original proposal, saying it would lead to de-facto pan-European licensing, diluting the value of exclusive rights and squeezing out smaller broadcasters that would be unable to afford pan-EU rights.
Films and TV shows are often financed by selling exclusive distribution rights on a country-by-country basis to secure investment.
"Today's vote acknowledges the importance of territorial exclusivity as the lifeblood of Europe’s creative industries," said Mathieu Moreuil, chair of Creativity Works, a coalition of organizations representing commercial broadcasters, football leagues such as the Premier League and Hollywood film studios.
Tuesday's vote is not final as the Parliament will have to find a compromise with member states in the coming months.
The Commission and public broadcasters say the reform will not make it impossible to license content on a country-by-country basis because rights holders could ask broadcasters to block viewers in another country from accessing the content during licensing negotiations.
"Without undermining the important principles of territoriality and contractual freedom, the original Commission proposal offered a good opportunity to enable European viewers and listeners to enjoy more of this content online and across borders," said the European Broadcasting Union, which includes Deutsche Welle, the BBC and Germany's ZDF.
But rights holders and commercial broadcasters fear that a separate EU antitrust case involving Hollywood studios' movie-licensing deals with British pay-TV group Sky Plc could limit their ability to ask for content to be blocked for foreign viewers.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)