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 Süddeutsche.de (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.