Copyright is the cornerstone of digital economy

10 Dec 2007

Wider access to cheaper broadband will mean more user-generated content, more uploading and downloading and therefore more competition in the online content market, the EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding told publishers last week.

Addressing a forum on digital publishing in Brussels, Reding said the new electronic communications directive includes specific requirements for network operators and users to respect copyright law.

“I hope it will send a signal across the whole industry at a critical time. Copyright is a cornerstone of the information and knowledge-based society. This is why I introduced in the new framework an appropriate balance between ownership and access.”

She said new technologies can support rights management and enforcement and referred to the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) project.

“Here we have good possibilities for a win-win situation for all stakeholders, as publishers can link content with authorisations for access and use in a form that can easily be recognised and interpreted by a search engine ‘crawler’, and thus helps avoid complex and costly legal disputes between content providers and search engines,” Reding said.

Looking at the online publishing business, Reding warned publishers that it is important not to forget the cross-border dimension of online publishing.

“In this environment, most European media companies have not yet fully adapted their business models to leapfrog both national borders and traditional sectoral boundaries. The convergent European publisher has not been born yet!

“On the one hand, I can understand that the uncertainties associated with the so-called ‘digital paradigm shift’ block many online offerings. On the other hand, I strongly believe that this paradigm shift offers an opportunity for the publishing sector and other content sectors to increase their revenues, for instance by means of cross-fertilisation between their online and offline offerings.”

Commenting on the rights of journalists in the digital age Reding, a former journalist herself, reminded all information society and media players to protect the work of journalists, in particular the right not to reveal sources – unless this results from penal law – and the right to exert their work without unnecessary restrictions.

Generating revenues in the digital age, Reding said, was one of the biggest challenges that publishers have to face.

“Most new and magazine publishers are still making less than 5pc of their turnover from new media. They should double their web revenues over the next year or so.

“Meanwhile, book publishers should keep an eye on advances in low power, flat-screen e-readers, like Amazon’s recently launched Kindle. If this kind of device makes a breakthrough like the iPod in music, there will be new markets to develop – and speedily,” Reding warned.

By John Kennedy