The New York Times provides a good overview of the challenges Apple — or any company — faces to deliver a European-wide online movie rental service.
“Apple will have to confront legal and regulatory hurdles, copyright challenges, scheduling conflicts and technological issues, reminders that the European media landscape remains a patchwork of individual countries, rather than the single market that the European Commission envisions”, notes the report.
Top of the list of obstacles is the disparate licensing agreements that exist across different countries in Europe, resulting in “content distributors [having] to secure individual licenses to films and other copyrighted material in every country in which they planned to do business.”
And then there is our old favorite: the release “windows” imposed by Hollywood, which govern the staggered release of movies in the various different formats, “from… cinema to DVDs to pay TV to video on demand and, finally, television”. The problem that Apple and others face is persuading the film studios to place online movie rentals on par with DVD. Remember, the U.S. version of iTunes is only able to offer rentals of individual films 30 days after their DVD release.
The NYT article concludes that the people most likely to benefit from this mess are “local experts who can help the likes of Apple negotiate the legal and regulatory minefields.” Nick Thomas, an analyst at JupiterResearch tells the Times: “If you’re an intellectual property lawyer, there’s probably a lot of money to be made over the next few years.”