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Brussels, 6 July 2010

Digital Agenda: European film heritage – will it be there for future generations?

A report published today by the European Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate General sounds the alarm over the survival of Europe's film heritage. 80% of silent films are estimated to have been lost already but even new digital era films are at risk. Although the digital era provides new means of making and presenting films, it also imposes new challenges to the traditional ways of collecting and preserving films. Digital technologies are constantly evolving and what seems cutting-edge today may be as obsolete as cassette tapes or video recorders in 2020. Film heritage institutions need to keep up, take up and advance new technologies to preserve Europe's films.

Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said, "Films should remain available to everyone forever: Europe's film production is one of the cultural treasures of our time. Digital technologies are riding to the rescue of our fragile film heritage, but we need to ensure that best practice examples are applied in the preservation process in order to achieve optimum results across the EU."

The report released today, compiled by the Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate General, stresses that Europe's film heritage institutions should take a new approach to the way they safeguard and provide access to Europe's film heritage. The traditional model - conserving fragile film materials in sealed boxes in vaults - cannot guarantee their preservation for posterity or accessibility. The report suggests that in the digital age, a new access model is needed so that future film makers and audiences can continue to enjoy European film culture.

The Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200), as part of its actions foreseen to promote cultural diversity and creative content online, calls for film heritage institutions to continue their efforts to increase the amount of film and related film material available through Europeana, the EU's public digital library (see MEMO/10/166).

Digital technologies completely change the means to collect, restore and preserve Europe's film heritage in the long term. They also have an impact on the way film heritage can be made available, both on-line and through digital projection. One of the difficulties for fully exploiting the potential of new technologies, however, is the lack of legal mechanisms permitting the cultural and educational use of the films and related film material in an efficient manner. Often administrative costs, and the time needed to clear rights, prevent film heritage institutions from providing cultural and educational access to their precious archive material.

The report highlights Member States' best practices for dealing with the challenges of analogue and digital film heritage. For instance, certain national and regional funding schemes for film production include a clause requesting the beneficiary producer to grant rights for non-commercial uses for the EU to the funding authority or to a public film heritage institution. Spain and Denmark are examples of good practices in this area: the Danish Film Institute has the right to screen subsidised films in its own cinemas and put on-line subsidised documentaries and shorts. Spain can organise cultural screenings of subsidised films two years after the first release.

The results presented in this report are only a first evaluation of the challenges and opportunities of the digital era for European film heritage. The Commission has launched an independent study, which will look in further detail into this issue. After reviewing the results of the study, the Commission will consider whether a revision of the Film Heritage Recommendation could be an appropriate means of addressing this issue.


The analysis presented today is the second implementation report on the Recommendation on Film Heritage (2005/865/CE). The Recommendation was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2005 and calls for Europe's film heritage to be methodically collected, catalogued, preserved and restored so that it can be passed on to future generations. EU Member States are asked to inform the Commission every two years of what they have done in this connection.

In its bi-annual reports, the Commission's Information Society Directorate General assesses the extent to which the measures set out in the Recommendation are working effectively, and considers the need for further action. The first report was adopted in August 2008.

This year's analysis is based on the responses to a questionnaire covering all the aspects of the Film Heritage Recommendation. In addition, it raised two other issues: challenges and opportunities for European film heritage arising from the transition from the analogue to the digital area as well as the link between film funding policies and film heritage.

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