Europe took another step toward online video and movie downloads at the Cannes Film Festival this week, when major film and internet players signed up to an EU scheme.

The European Charter for Film Online was endorsed by a bevy of major industry players, including: BBC; EMI Music; France Telecom Group; Thomson; Time Warner; Tiscali; the UK Film Council and Vivendi (owners of Universal).

The Charter is an attempt to create industry reference points to help develop of legitimate online sale and distribution of films.

"The Film Online Charter is a major step forward for Europe's digital economy and for Europe's content industry", said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media, who launched the Charter in May 2005.

"Online services will substantially broaden access to European film in all its diversity, and widen circulation both within the European Union and on global markets," Reding said.

The signatories believe that online movie services offer a tremendous opportunity for a wider circulation of European films, can create a more vibrant and competitive film sector and will become a powerful driver for broadband in Europe.

The agreement identifies four main areas for success: an extensive online supply of attractive films; consumer-friendly online services; adequate protection of copyrighted works; and close cooperation to fight piracy.

The document also notes that film producers, right holders and online distributors must agree on the most suitable online release window, and should harness peer-to-peer technology as a solution for the online distribution of rights-protected content.