German Director Proposes 'One-Stop Shop' For Free, Instant, But Non-Exclusive Licenses To Offer Films Online

from the great-idea,-so-it-will-never-happen dept

It’s always heartening to come across new ideas for ways to make creations more widely available to the public while allowing artists to benefit. Here’s one from the German film director Fred Breinersdorfer, probably best known for his film “Sophie Scholl“. In an article that appeared recently on the newspaper site Sü (original in German), he complains about the fact that searching online for his film throws up plenty of unauthorized versions, but precious few authorized ones.

He recognizes that the absence of easy-to-find, easy-to-use legal offerings tends to drive people to infringing sites, and thus offers a radical suggestion for solving this problem. According to his plan, governments would bring in compulsory licensing, so that all films could be made available for anyone to offer online in any way they want, provided they share the proceeds with the people who create the films. He compares this with the mechanical licenses that are available for music. Here’s how it would work:

As soon as the usual terms of protection for theatrical release after the premiere [of a film] have expired, everyone would be entitled to offer copies on the Internet — non-exclusively. This would apply to classic films as well as to new releases. The collecting societies for copyright and related rights involved in a film and its screenplay could create the legal and technical framework for a “one-stop shop”, where the license can be obtained and settled in a second by clicking online. The licensee would then decide how to organize and finance the offering.

As Breinersdorfer explains, this would open up all kinds of interesting possibilities:

it could very soon be possible for someone to open a portal where you can watch all German comedies of the silent era up to “Kokowääh 2” as free streaming or a download, funded by advertising or “premium” accounts for the HD version. Another film connoisseur might make a portal with all the films of Oscar winners in the category “Best Supporting Actress”, and a third might be devoted to film noir, with the most comprehensive accompanying material, including Chinese subtitles. Anyone who wants to can combine advertising revenue with subscriptions or on-demand billing. An open market of freely-available films could arise against which the online film thieves would have a weak hand because their copies are often of lousy quality.

It’s a wonderful vision of how near-frictionless licensing of the world’s films would allow exciting speciality sites to be created by taking different “slices” through the cinematic repertoire. And it’s exactly how the online market for films ought to be developing by now — all the technology is there. Pity it will never happen given the dogmatic attitudes of the movie industry, fixated as it is on punishing copyright infringers rather than making money and spreading the joy of cinema.

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Comments on “German Director Proposes 'One-Stop Shop' For Free, Instant, But Non-Exclusive Licenses To Offer Films Online”

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out_of_the_blue says:

"all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

This is silly. You guys keep asserting that it’s just lack of availability, but actually there’s two words always tacked on to that for most people: for free. Those who aren’t buying now won’t buy any more.

But, the really horrible part of this which most creators will reject on sight is “compulsory licensing”. That just means they’d be forced to allow every grifter in the world to try and gain money from their creation, and it’d be a race to the bottom. — And exactly HOW, smarty-pants, would that ever be auditable? With every former pirate turned grifter who could claim he just hadn’t got round to forwarding the fee? Sheesh. It’s invitation to totally grift until caught, potentially far ahead for cash, no worse off at worst.

Nope. Every time I look the current copyright regime I come to conclusion: it’s the worst except for all the others. That’s why it exists, largely unchanged for a hundred years. — And no, “technology” hasn’t changed the basic fact that it’s always been easier to copy than to create, and easy to use someone else’s already created works for unearned gain.

But Techdirt likes these idea because they’ve all one key point in common: allowing those who didn’t pay, didn’t take the risks of delayed income, didn’t stay up late sweating the million creative and/or practical details, to still cash in on the resulting work. And that’s just not moral. The basis of copyright is still: I made it, therefore I own it; you do NOT, so HANDS OFF, including promising to “help” me get the rewards. — I’ll be doing FINE if people just QUIT STEALING.

- says:

Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

Where you’re wrong is that it hasn’t remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Initially under common law, copyright lasted 14 years. In the US, an additional 14 years could be added on if the author was still alive. In 1831, that was extended to 28 years, with a 14 year extension, later changed to a 28 year extension. It was only in 1976 that Disney rolled into Congress and convinced them to increase the length to life+50 (with a permanent copyright for certain Disney ideas). Later, that was increased to life+70. And at each of those points, additional types of works were allowed to be copyrighted.

There’s no “largely unchanged for hundreds of years” copyright law to cite as “better” here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

” Initially under common law,”

copyright doesn’t come from common law, otherwise good post.

and don’t forget the dmca gave copyright holders the power to limit use of legally purchased goods(eg, playing DVDs on 100% open source operating systems)

even if copyright only added the anti curcumvention clause in the last two hundred years it’s still a major change

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

I don’t think you read the article.

The idea is to force people to make use of their copyrights so people can pay for them (subs or through adverts). Seems completely fair and logical to me, if you want the exclusive right to sell something you better sell it…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

The idea is to create one place to force everyone to use it and force everyone to accept its terms.

I don’t think you understand the nature of the beast here.

Look at GEMA the nice collection agency in Germany, they set the prices to pay, they set who can use it regardless of the conditions or situations of others.

It only sounds fair, but implementation will almost be guaranteed to be unfair and one sided, after all you are talking about a statutory monopoly here, you are not talking about natural market forces that would balance anything, when it is forced there is no balance or fairness to be had.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

What could would come out of forcing filmmakers to join a collection agency that they will not have control over it or its rules and submitting the public to the capricious needs of one powerful entity?

Collection agencies board of directors all around the world are mostly comprised of big players proxies, which guarantee that they will be the only ones to see any money collected even at the expense of others and they will make it mighty difficult to get anything done.

Ask any small time musician if they ever see money real money from collection agencies, I saw the receipt once of writer, he got twenty bucks for a long list of titles, then go ask shops if how much each have to pay for collection agencies for having the privilege to have sound in their shops and see if they are happy about it, Walmart probably can afford and even get some discount, but others?

Further since this is made by law it will certainly not change when the market changes, changes will be forced and they will try to make the market comply with it, and we are back to piracy again.

Laissez Faire in this case is not something bad.

Let the market decide what it should be. Meaning let filmmakers deal with pirates in the market not in the courts.

The funny part is that this doesn’t bring any public good and don’t affect pirates.

But it does and will affect business and artists negatively save a minority governing such scheme.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

Why would a ‘small time musician’ be expecting ‘real money’ ?
Twenty bucks for a long list of titles?
If just ONE of those titles was popular, he would have a big check.

I don’t know where you’re from, but that’s certainly not true in the U.S.

In the U.S., the PRO’s collect all statutory royalties for musicians. That money is doled out solely according to the PRO’s “sampling” of terrestrial radio alone.

For example, if you play a live gig of all original music, all of the performance royalties from that live gig goes to whichever Top 40 artist is played on the radio at the moment. If you’re not one of those artists, you get nothing. Additionally, whatever tiny amount of royalties you should be getting from performance royalties also go to those artists. You are, in essence, paying Top 40 artists for the right to perform your own material.

Much of the PROs’ accounting works like this. The collection agencies are basically entities that funnel money from small-time and working musicians, into the pockets of already-popular pop artists.

Stevo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

by popular , I mean a ‘hit’. The PRO’s “sampling” of terrestrial radio never fails to collect on a hit.
Yes it is awful that artists with small amounts of plays fall thru the cracks and all that income goes to hitmakers.
Also exactly true what you say about performance royalties in the United States.
GEMA requires a set list with publishing breakdown for all live shows. For once I love doing paperwork!
I don’t see how unfairnesses or injustices in the collection system justify replacing it with a system that diverts all proceeds to Wall St investors.

Stevo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

The market IS working, for Google!
Music is an essential part of modern commerce.
Music is desired, therefore valuable and now as thruout the last century, works symbiotically with advertising revenue. The collection agencies distribute ad money from broadcast media, but Google has hijacked ad revenue from the internet so basically none goes back to the creators.
This is class warfare , conducted by the Libertarian investor class against the creative community.
The tech lords covet intellectual property, like the Conquistadors coveted the gold of the Incas. Meanwhile, the Koch brothers wish to stifle the voice of artists because artists have so effectively promoted progressive social change for 2 centuries.
So there is a struggle between the the emerging ‘Lords’ and those of us who are resisting serfdom.
I don’t see this as a moral issue, but a functional issue of where will art come from when there are no new artists?
In the 80s and 90s most touring artists were in their 20s, now most are in their 50s.
I love the old geezers but this is not a healthy sign for the future!

Stevo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

keeping a band going IS expensive, it’s the biggest factor in band breakups.
sure any twit can tinker around in his bedroom and call himself an artist but he’s really a hobbyist.
all things being relative, I think the 20 or 30 thou per annum I need for basic food and shelter would be an ‘insurmountable barrier’ if I didn’t get it from royalties. Still saving for the 50 thou it will take to mount a tour.
As far as ‘pro Bono artists’, I applaud the enthusiasm of hobbyists, (if not their music) but I fail to see how their existence should negate the right of professionals earn a livelihood.
If I grow oranges and give them to friends, that’s great, but I wouldn’t accuse farmers that they’re ‘greedy’ for selling theirs.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

keeping a band going IS expensive

It’s not. I speak from semi-personal experience I had with friends that had bands that played for smaller audiences (such as pubs, dance clubs, parties etc etc) and some that would actually produce their own content and had a small but healthy fanbase. It’s not expensive. But it is certainly hard to live exclusively from the income the band generate. Now it is becoming easier to do so thanks to the digital age and the tools it offers for promotion of the content.

I applaud the enthusiasm of hobbyists

Your disdain for smaller artists is showing. A teacher of mine has a band. He would prefer to live from his music but he can’t. Still it adds some nice dough and it’s something he has fun with. The fact that he can’t live exclusively for that does not make him a hobbyist. It’s simply that hard to live from music as much as it is from a myriad of other professions. But this teacher knows he needs exposure and he does what any sensible person should do: GIVES his music for free. He gives PHYSICAL media to the people and, guess what, this has built him some renown and a small fanbase that helps him make around 1/3 of his monthly wages. Not bad I say. Not bad considering it’s over 80% of my wage as an engineer. No copyrights involved.

If I grow oranges and give them to friends, that’s great, but I wouldn’t accuse farmers that they’re ‘greedy’ for selling theirs.

If the oranges being sold are crap and the ones being given are great what makes the farmer “selling” entitled to the money of whoever? That’s what copyright is today. Artists assume that people must pay them for everything they make regardless of quality.

drew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

“the right of professionals earn a livelihood.”
Sorry but this is just wrong. You have no right to earn a livelihood doing what you want to do. No-one does. You have the right to try, but there are no guarantees, never have been, never should be. As a creator you have two options to make a living: either find a way to get your work to the right audience and give them a reason to pay for it, or partner with someone else to do that so you can concentrate on creating.
This hasn’t changed either, it’s just how you do it that’s in such a state of flux at the moment.

Stevo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

‘the right to TRY to earn a livelihood’
yes , your wording is more precise and exactly what I meant.
I’m glad you mention the need for artists to collaborate with business partners.
Where are all the beady eyed hustlers that buzzed around musicians in the past?
The commercial and artistic breakthroughs of other eras was often because of the entrepreneurial incentives for people like Berry Gordy, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. But the entrepreneurs of today are internet cloud-barons reigning over a feudal structure of unpaid musical serfs.
If the music streaming services can graduate from a venture capital-Ponzi scheme model into truly viable businesses, then maybe they can fill the gap being left by dwindling radio and television royalties.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

You guys keep asserting that it’s just lack of availability, but actually there’s two words always tacked on to that for most people: for free. Those who aren’t buying now won’t buy any more.

Except that every independent study ever has shown that people who pirate legally purchase much, much more than people who do not.

And history shows that when works are offerred conveniently for a reasonable price, people flock to those services. Or did you forget that more internet traffic is devoted to Netflix, alone, than to all torrents put together?

But, the really horrible part of this which most creators will reject on sight is “compulsory licensing”. That just means they’d be forced to allow every grifter in the world to try and gain money from their creation, and it’d be a race to the bottom.

Since compulsory licensing is at a fixed rate, “grifters” wouldn’t be allowed to “race” anywhere.

And, since you’re so against compulsory licensing, I suppose you also want to shut down ASCAP, BMI, the Harry Fox agency, and SoundExchange? After all, every one of those entities collect royalties from compulsory licensing.

That’s why it exists, largely unchanged for a hundred years.

It absolutely has not existed unchanged for a hundred years. In fact, copyright has changed more since 1976 than in copyright’s entire history.

One hundred years ago:

– Copyright lengths were half as long as they are today

– Copyright protection was not automatic; it required registration and an affixed copyright notice, or the work was automatically put in the public domain

– Fair use was still a common law doctrine, not codified by statutes

– Copyrights were indivisible; there was only a single “proprietor” (who was almost always the publisher, not the artist)

– Infringement must be done for profit to be unlawful

You know what they did have one hundred years ago? Compulsory licensing.

The basis of copyright is still: I made it, therefore I own it;

This was never the basis of copyright. Let’s hear it from Congress:

The enactment of copyright legislation by Congress under the terms of the Constitution is not based upon any natural right that the author has in his writings, for the Supreme Court has held that such rights as he has are purely statutory rights, but upon the ground that the welfare of the public will be served and progress of science and useful arts will promoted by securing to authors for limited periods the exclusive rights to their writings. The Constitution does not establish copyrights, but provides that Congress shall have the power to grant such rights if it thinks best. Not primarily for the benefit of the author, but primarily for the benefit of the public, such rights are given. Not that any particular class of citizens, however worthy, may benefit, but because the policy is believed to be for the benefit of the great body of people, in that it will stimulate writing and invention, to give some bonus to authors and inventors.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

Saw this on the anime series One piece episodes. Sums this up nicely.

I can say “Please stop distribution of this once licensed” but seeing how it already licensed, that is retarded.

So instead I’ll say please support the series and buy the dvd when its released.

Same applies to every artist. What I would give to live in a voluntary society.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Re: Re: "all the technology is there" -- But the morality isn't.

“You guys keep asserting that it’s just lack of availability, but actually there’s two words always tacked on to that for most people: for free. Those who aren’t buying now won’t buy any more.”

This has been repeatedly proven incorrect over and over. Apple saved the music industry with their $0.99 music cost. Huge numbers of folks were willing to pay. What people will not pay for is being ripped off. Paying $12?14 for a CD with three or four new songs (one or two of which are good or maybe just OK) and the 20 minutes of covers on a 30 to 45 minute CD didn’t cut it.

People are willing to pay. The classical music CD still does well but there you get high quality recordings with the CD having 60+ minutes of good music. I’d haply pay for a good CD of the USC performance of ‘Carmina Burana’ by Carl Orff in spite of the fact its online for free.

Anonymous Coward says:

OOTB Fail.

Freely available doesn’t mean free.
A mechanical license still has to be paid for.

Mechanical Compulsory Licenses are only for interpretations of existing works not the actual works themselves, like sheet music of a song, or a painting of a famous scene of a movie.

So money will still have to change hands and all that’s being proposed is that it be made more easy than copying.

The basic problem is as – above mentions, the law has been changing such that the amount of control over copyright has gotten to ridiculous levels. Your masters like it, but they have bred the very market that they feared with such Draconian control.

Adapt or die.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One caveat is the different ways music is consumed vs a movie.

You tend to listen to a song multiple times, so a streaming service becomes useful because renting it per use is something that can make the creator more money.

Movies are generally watched once…maybe twice.

The economics are significantly different when considering a the pay for play type licensing of streaming.

It’s a changing world, but without acknowledging the differences of what is being offered in the changing world, changes are doomed to failure. And yes this goes both ways, both from people/streaming providers and from the movie studios themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Compulsory licenses are so good, just look at all music license collection agencies in the world and how they are beloved, just and fair for the good work they do.

We know exactly how this will end and it will not be on the optimist side of things, for the public or filmmaker.

These monopolies are artificial static markets that never change, they are unlike natural markets that are dynamic and change with time, eventually all of these monopolies start to stink bad.

Stevo (profile) says:

Re: Compulsory licenses

Compulsory licenses were a benefit to broadcasters to minimize costs and clearances. They worked out great for songwriters and composers but in the United States, musicians got no piece of the pie.
Songwriters and recording artists DON’T want compulsory licenses for internet streaming. We would greatly prefer to negotiate streaming licenses in an open market.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Compulsory licenses

But guess what, artists just want the cake and eat it too: If anyone wants to make some money from artists creations, artists want to be paid a huge amount of money and preferably without others making a tiny bit of money too.

That’s what you call an open market: Artists can dictate anything to consumers, which are also broadcasters… and [amateur?] artists.

If pirates want everything for free, artists want all the money for themselves.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Compulsory licenses

Musicians are not generally eligible for royalties in the US music industry. Compulsory licenses were developed in the days of player pianos to keep a monopoly from cornering the market and industry. They do not apply to broadcast in any way. If I have a band and want to record a record of some composers song I write the copyright holder?almost always a studio although that is changing rapidly?tell him how many copies I want to make and pay the couple cents peer minute per song. This should apply to streaming, MP3 or CD release. It should be applied to synchronization and all rights.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Compulsory licenses

I don’t have any beef with the consumer. We all want what we want, when we want it, at a far price.

The problem I have is that in spite of Apple saving the music studios with their iTunes singles the studios still don’t want to adapt their business model. The movie studios and networks are worse. They will eventually die and good riddance.

The big problem is how badly copyright is broken. Take a look at this proposal on copyright reform?good ideas;

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Compulsory licenses

I know, dead thread, but I wanted to make a small point.

We would greatly prefer to negotiate streaming licenses in an open market.

Were that the case, you would be against all copyright protections. Copyright is purely a government-granted monopoly, and is not part of “an open market” at all.

What you really mean is this: “We would greatly prefer it that the government create monopoly rights where rights holders set the monopoly prices individually, rather than create monopoly rights where the government sets a universal monopoly price.”

There are pros and cons to that argument, but that is the argument you must make when you are debating compulsory licenses.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Compulsory licenses

Most of the copyright negotiations are essentially open market. The only exception is the mechanical license. e.g. I want to use a song on my CD that someone else owns the copyright to. I don’t need to go through expensive and often impossible negotiations, I simply pay a fixed fee and go ahead. For the rest of the copyrights I need to hire a specialty law firm (~$600?$1200) plus what ever price can be negotiated. That’s OK if I’m making national commercials or a feature film; but not if I just want to use it in a wedding, a documentary, or a corporate event. Oz handles this by having a compulsory license for Wedding music sync. Maybe the way to go is to have a compulsory license for certain uses and then negotiate for uses where it makes sense. e.g. I want a sync license for use in a event video that will have less than some number of copies made?say 1,000?or an ametuer production that will have an audience of less than say 1,000 including any DVDs made.

There are a lot of things wrong with copyright which must get fixed, but if you say we will buy on an open market with out Imaginary Property Rights there is no negotiation.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

Film license and improved music livcense

This looks like a great idea! Also extending the compulsory license to music syncronization would be necessary and beneficial. Sure some folks would not get huge royalties at one go bu they would get more a little at a time. In the past it wasn’t uncommon to see someone who wanted to covert a song the contact the label and if they were not producing a lot of copies told “?go ahead don’t bother us with a $$$ check?” or you send the check and it’s never cashed?too much trouble and cost to bother with. Now its easy and simple to make money via the ‘net on really small transactions with volume, and even if the volume is small the costs are negligible.

Today copyright is broken and badly in need of a fix, but that’s a separate issue!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Film license and improved music livcense

Luis Manuel Garcia examines the ongoing controversy in the country’s club scene.

“Really, it’s going to close? Isn’t there something we can do to stop it?” This quote comes from the documentary film Bar 25: Tage au?erhalb der Zeit, when a clueless attendee finds out that tonight’s party will be Bar 25’s last. Many readers were probably thinking the same thing back in July 2012, when rumors spread that Berghain, Berlin’s most popular club, would be closing its doors in 2013 due to GEMA’s new set of music licensing fees. If you are reading this from outside of Germany, chances are that this media shitstorm was how you first heard about GEMA. Soon, international media outlets were generating a flurry of reports on the impending demise of Berlin’s club scene. But these left a lot of questions unanswered: what is this highly publicized battle between GEMA and Germany’s nightclubs really about? How did a conflict about music licensing fees become an existential threat to large swathes of German nightlife? What the hell is GEMA, anyway?

GEMA and the threat to German nightlife

Sure this is such a great idea, that is why GEMA is so beloved in Germany.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Film license and improved music livcense

Greed, corruption and ‘generous campaign donations’ is my bet, given they actually said, in court that because actually determining whether or not a song was actually covered by GEMA before they were allowed to charge a licensing fee for it would be too hard, GEMA was allowed to skip that step and just assume everything was.

After a ruling like that, calling them idiots is the generous assumption, as the alternative is bought and paid for judges and politicians.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘ Pity it will never happen given the dogmatic attitudes of the movie industry, fixated as it is on punishing copyright infringers rather than making money and spreading the joy of cinema.’

how right you are! the aim has never been and will never be to ensure fair and proper distribution of funds. it has and always will be about how the eg MPAA (in particular) can regain the control it had pre-internet/digital on pricing, on distribution and amount it keeps in relation to amount paid to whoever is involved. they are never going to go down any road that fairly distributes the proceeds and/or removes control of distribution and the in-built protection. the last consideration is going to be the customers with artists just one place above the customers in the pecking order. if only those that keep believing the shit put to them by the industries would stop and really think about things, really ask if they are getting the truth and whether even more restrictive and punitive laws are needed before doing as they are told. just think of the progress that could have been made in all areas, because sound advances, movie advances affect not just single industries, they affect multiples. we are being held back by an industry that is afraid of the present and even more afraid of the future. what else could force a wanton desire to return to the past?

Anonymous Coward says:

Doesn’t solve anything. It will still only available after the studio decides to sell it (which, if it ever happens, will be far later than the “illegitimate” offerings.)

I’ll stick with le torrent site for now. They deserve the money they may or may not make, because they’re providing the entertainment service I want. Not Studio Y.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is one step in the right direction, but the step is done much too late…

The proposal is made on the assumption that anything has to be paid somehow. Even if it is the basic message always pushed when talking about “free” content, it is not how it works nowadays.

Chinese subtitles on underground German movies with Blu-ray video quality? For absolutely free with no one working hard on the subtitles being paid (even if they pay for blu-rays, servers and bandwidth)? Has anyone heard of fansub?

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