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EC VP: Copyright restricts Single Digital Market

January 22, 2015

By Colin Mann

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice President responsible for the Digital Single Market, has suggested that Europe’s rules on copyright need to be updated to make them fit for the digital age, describing copyright as a restriction holding back the full development of the Digital Single Market.

Speaking at a debate organised by the European Internet Foundation in Brussels, Ansip said his vision was for a digital area:

  • where goods, people, services and capital can move freely;

  • where everyone can access and carry out online activities, across borders and with complete ease, safely and securely;

  • where there is fair competition, regardless of nationality or place of residence, underpinned by a clear legal structure.

“Unfortunately, we are still a long way from achieving that vision,” he admitted, adding that there were still too many barriers and restrictions, which meant that Europe was losing out on unexploited potential.

“Just as an example, let me mention Europe’s rules on copyright, which need to be updated to make them fit for the digital age. It is more than frustrating when you are unable to access online material – music, films, anything that you have paid good money for – when you travel to another country and find yourself blocked from doing so,” he said, noting that today’s copyright rules also vary a great deal around the EU’s 28 countries. “There are so many national exceptions, differences and limitations that the system is not workable for a pan-European market. Copyright is just one example of a restriction holding back the full development of the Digital Single Market,” he suggested.

For Ansip, the challenge ahead was to transform Europe’s ‘physical’ internal market into a digital one, confirming that the Commission would meet this challenge “head-on”, with concrete and practical initiatives to encourage:

  • trust and choice

  • competition and growth

  • predictability and compliance

  • the secure and free flow of information and data across borders.

“I am working with a group of fellow Commissioners whose areas of responsibility touch on digital matters to draw up a strategy for the Digital Single Market,” he advised, saying that the EC would present this strategy later during Latvia’s EU Presidency.

“It will contain several thematic strands. I have already mentioned two of these: building trust and confidence; removing restrictions. It will set out how the Commission plans to move forward over the next five years – and include plans for new legislation and the updating of existing laws,” he advised.

Work aimed at building the digital economy would include looking closely at cloud computing and the data economy as a focus for revitalising European industry with Ansip declaring that a single telecoms market was an essential building block of the Digital Single Market, and identifying three main problem areas to be tackled:

  • irritating roaming charges when people go online and communicate from a different EU country;

  • inconsistent policies across the EU that mean we are not maximising our wireless capacity;

  • a lack of net neutrality.

On this last point, he reiterated his belief that the Internet was universal and should remain free and open. “We should put this principle into law to make sure that it stays that way,” he stated.

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