European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission approves France’s plan to digitise its film heritage
Brussels, 21 March 2012 – The European Commission has ruled that a French scheme to support the digitisation of historic cinematographic works is compatible with the EU rules on state aid, inter alia because it helps promote culture while limiting the distortions of competition. The scheme is aimed at making European film heritage available to the widest possible audience thanks to new technology.
Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: ‘I gladly lend my support to the use of digital technology for the preservation of old films for future generations because I am convinced that this initiative will help to promote the wealth of Europe’s film heritage without unduly distorting competition.’
The Commission’s investigation has confirmed that the digitisation scheme is an appropriate means of attaining the objective of promoting culture and that the distortion of competition is limited.
The scheme will support the restoration and preservation of works of particular interest in terms of heritage. Short and feature films produced up to 1999 will be eligible, along with historic silent films. A €400 million budget over six years will be set aside for the measure.
In addition, the aid is mainly targeted towards works whose commercial prospects are highly uncertain or very long term. Aid intensity will be adapted on a case‑by‑case basis taking into account the money-making potential of the work concerned. Owners of film catalogues will subsequently be encouraged to make the digitised works available to the public. Aid applicants will be free to choose the companies to which they wish to attribute the technical work of digitisation and, where necessary, restoration, irrespective of whether those companies are established in a Member State of the European Union or not.
The Commission has therefore concluded that the measure is in accordance with Article 107(3)(d) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which allows state aid to be granted for cultural purposes under certain conditions.
This scheme is in line with the Commission’s policy for the preservation and dissemination of Europe’s cultural heritage. The digitisation of film heritage should help to enhance the distribution of European films, interoperability and accessibility to collections, in particular by way of the EU public digital library Europeana (http://www.europeana.eu/portal/), in accordance with the principles highlighted in the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581).
The breakthrough represented by digital technology impacts the dissemination of heritage among the public and its transmission from one generation to the next. In order for the public to continue to have access to certain cultural works, especially old films, which are not available in a suitable technical format, the restoration and digitisation of these works is essential.