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EC Calls For Single Digital Market

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

10 May 2010

In a recent speech to business leaders in Brussels, Neelie Kroes, the European Digital Agenda Commissioner, conceded that the European Union has not grasped the opportunity to create a single European market for digital content.

"There is a huge Digital Single Market for audiovisual material. The problem is that it's illegal, and it's not monetized," she said. "We have effectively allowed illegal file-sharing to set up a single market where our usual policy channels have failed."

"While the internet is borderless, Europe’s online markets are not. It is often easier to buy something from a US website than online from the country next-door in Europe," Kroes continued. "Often you cannot buy it at all within Europe. Consumers can buy CDs in every shop but are often unable to buy music online across the EU because rights are licensed on a national basis. No wonder the US market for online music is five times bigger than Europe's."

The EU's Digital Agenda, which calls for the creation of a single European licence so that consumers can purchase digital content from any of the 27 member states of the EU, is the solution to this problem, Kroes argued.

A recent European Parliament plenary session heard how a well–functioning European digital economy is "imperative for the well–functioning of the entire EU economy." However, according to rapporteur Pilar del Castillo Vera, the free movement of digital services "is today severely hindered by fragmented rules at national level."

"We urgently need a fully developed competitive digital single market," said the Spanish Christian Democrat. "To achieve this we must: first effectively implement the new regulatory framework. Second, boost the digital services market. Thirdly the free circulation of content and knowledge, the 'fifth freedom' must be developed."

On May 4, a broad based coalition of European groups, representing consumers, creators, libraries, civil society and technology companies, released a declaration calling for a European copyright law "truly adapted to the Internet age."

The Copyright for Creativity declaration stated that "the development of new technologies underpinning the knowledge economy calls for a review of the copyright aquis."

"Together, we need to create greater incentives to maximise creativity, innovation, education and access to culture, and secure Europe’s competitiveness," states the declaration, continuing:

"Exclusive rights stimulate investment and the production of cultural and knowledge based goods. Simultaneously, exceptions to those rights create a balanced system that allow for the use of creative works to support innovation, creation, competition and the public interest. Well-crafted exceptions can serve both goals: preserving rewards and incentives for creators while also encouraging innovative re-uses that benefit the public."

"While exclusive rights have been adapted and harmonised to meet the challenges of the knowledge economy, copyright’s exceptions are radically out of line with the needs of the modern information society. The lack of harmonization of exceptions hinders the circulation of knowledge based goods and services across Europe. The lack of flexibility within the current European exceptions regime also prevents us from adapting to a constantly changing technological environment."

Among the groups supporting the declaration are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Rights Group, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the International Music Managers' Forum, and EuroISPA, which represents Europe's internet service providers.

TAGS: business | commerce | law | copyright | internet | e-commerce | European Union (EU) | Europe

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