A June deadline is looming for the EU Council of Ministers to give its blessing to a mandate for EU –US trade talks. That’s when European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht would like to have it settled. The issue that may delay the mandate is what to do about support for the European film industries. It's an issue that splits the Commission internally. The elephant in the room is copyright and IPR. Both issues lead to Hollywood.
That the copyright industries would once again become the centre of controversy within the European Commission is hardly surprising. But this time, the political dynamics have altered.
At the centre now is the so-called ‘cultural industry’ question. This is about support for the European film industries, that takes the form of quotas and subsidies. The intention is to maintain the many diverse cultures that exist within the EU. Unfortunately, it has backfired, and the policy has served more to entrench the power of Hollywood, as a number of academic studies will show.
And of course, the related issue is intellectual property rights (IPR) and their enforcement, where the US film industries, namely the Hollywood studios, hold the power, and which, the Commission knows only too well, will be incendiary.
The Commission is undecided and possibly split over the cultural industry question. Some Commissioners would like to exclude the cultural industries – namely the film industry – from the EU-US trade agreement negotiations. It’s belived that the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barosso, is seriously considering whether to go for a cultural industry exclusion.
An exclusion of the cultural industries would enable the EU to maintain the quotas and other support measures, and is likely to generate lobbying opposition from Hollywood.
Intellectual property rights are definitely included. At least, they are in the draft mandate prepared by DG Trade. And that’s probably why they are not releasing the draft mandate, which has only become known because it leaked in the US.
The text refers to ‘issues related to intellectual property rights’ which instantly brings with it the Hollywood lobbying teams and in the current context, it means demands for enforcement measures on the Internet.
Hence, the question of how to handle Hollywood and its political demands, puts itself at the crux of this agreement.
Commissioner De Gucht is pushing for comprehensive and aggressive agreement, and he wants the mandate approved by June so that talks can begin during a forthcoming EU-US summit.
Mr De Gucht argues that the Commission has proposed sufficient safeguards for European cultural industries in the draft mandate.
However, the safeguard clause only says that the EU may take away any preferential deals granted to the US if there is an obvious harm caused to its domestic industry. What will be the triggers for determining harm to the European cultural industries?
On transparency, the Commissions gives a ‘committment to consult stakeholders before measures are introduced’ but not, it seems, during the negotiation process.
The Brussels rumour mill suggests that Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake will file a question to the Commission over the inclusion of IPR and copyright. It will be interesting to see what answer she gets.
On thing that is certain is that this will put the European copyright industries in turmoil. They do want to keep the special protection they enjoy, even while they may want their American colleagues to drive home on enforcement provisions.
For a discussion of IPR in American trade policy, please see my forthcoming book A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms
This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, EU-US trade talks – the Hollywood question , 8 April 2013, in www.iptegrity.com. Commercial users - please contact me.