EU begins consultation on future of digital content


4 Aug 2006

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The European Commission has announced a public consultation process which it hopes will result in a more competitive market for online content such as movies, music and games.

It is hoped that the consultation will be the first step towards a single European market for delivering online digital content. The results are intended to stimulate the development of innovative business models and to promote cross-border delivery of online content services.

The process will consider how artists, authors and creators can gain easier access to a single EU-wide market for their work.

According to a statement from the EU, the results of the consultation will be packaged into proposals that are due to be adopted before the year is out. Feedback is invited from the internet community, content and internet service providers, consumer organisations, regulators and members of the public. The deadline for replies is 13 October.

The consultation will tackle issues such as the economic and regulatory barriers that online content services face in Europe’s single market. Other questions that will be addressed are the issue of how the competitiveness of Europe’s online content industry compares to that of other world regions and whether creative businesses would benefit from Europe-wide or multi-territory licensing and clearance. In addition, the process will cover the contentious issue of digital rights management, asking if progress is needed towards making the various systems work together better.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, said that supplying content online not only helps to make European culture more accessible but also creates an opportunity for the content industry to expand its markets.

“Easy access to, and secure distribution of, online content is a crucial challenge,” she said. “I expect input to this consultation to identify clearly any remaining obstacles to a competitive, pan-European online content industry which the EU needs to tackle. Only a cross-border market for online content, in which authors, artists and creators are able to reap a fair reward for their talent and skills, will enable Europe’s content sector to compete with other continents.”

Already, the online content sharing market in western Europe is worth around 8pc of EU GDP and this figure is expected to triple by 2008.

Further information on the public consultation and the consultation document can be found at:
http://ec.europa.eu/comm/avpolicy/other_actions/content_online/index_en.htm.

By Gordon Smith