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The Digital Media Project  
Source L. Chiariglione
Title Comments on European Commission's Communication on "Creative Content Online in Europe's Single Market" No. 080106chiariglione01


Comments on European Commission's Communication on
"Creative Content Online in Europe's Single Market"

This paper makes some comments on the summary of the Communication posted by the European Commission on "creative Content Online in the Single Market". Text in italic is taken from the summary.

Commission sees need for a stronger more consumer-friendly Single Market for Online Music, Films and Games in Europe

Sure, we need "more consumer-friendly" markets for digital content in Europe. Whether there is an overriding need to make them a "single market" remains to be seen. With all my personal interest in languages I doubt that my user experience would be really affected by the existence of a single market that stretches from Lisbon to Tallinn. On the other hand I would be definitely interested in being able to play all the movies I can get in Italy with the same player.

The Commission therefore encourages the content industry, telecoms companies and Internet service providers to work closely together to make available more content online, while at the same time ensuring a robust protection of intellectual property rights.

More is better but making "more" content available is not the issue because what is there is already significant. The point is to make all content playable on the devices selected by the consumer.

The Commission also wants to facilitate copyright licences for online content covering the territory of several or all of the EU Member States.

Fine, but here we are not talking of satisfying 500 million people, so it should be easy.

According to Commission studies, a truly Single Market without borders for Creative Online Content could strengthen considerably the competitiveness of Europe's music, film and games industry and allow retail revenues of the sector to quadruple by 2010 if clear and consumer-friendly measures are taken by industry and public authorities

It could easily be more than "quadruple", but it depends on what is meant by "consumer friendly".

"Europe's content sector is suffering under its regulatory fragmentation, under its lack of clear, consumer-friendly rules for accessing copyright-protected online content, and serious disagreements between stakeholders about fundamental issues such as levies and private copying"

Right, but these were exactly the issues that were debated by 4 years ago by the High Level Group (HLG) on DRM. And what was the conclusion? Reading the final report I find: “The solution suggested is regular and informal discussions between all the stakeholders in order to hear the concerns of each party and progress in the debate, whilst examining the market evolution”. Time to throw that recommendation to the dustbin, but four years have been lost.

We have to make a choice in Europe: Do we want to have a strong music, film and games industry? Then we should give industry legal certainty, content creators a fair remuneration and consumers broad access to a rich diversity of content online.

Order does matter. The last sentence should be reworded as: "Then we should give consumers the means to access and consume a rich diversity of content online, content creators the means to obtain a fair remuneration and industry legal certainty". 

Because for online content, the demand and preferences of 500 million potential consumers are the strongest arguments for achieving new solutions at EU level.

Then we should just listen to what they say. By the way they are footing the bill of everybody engaged in making and distributing content.

Whilst the online market share of music sales is reportedly reaching 25% in some European countries such as the UK, the retailing of video content, and the availability of on-demand TV programming via the Internet is as yet still a nascent market.

"Market will solve everything. Things are improving. No need to worry" is the argument of those who pushed for the infamous HLG recommendation reported above. The reality is that the recording industry is imploding and new services stay grounded.

New market developments also arise from Web 2.0, i.e. user-created content, that consumers themselves may wish to "protect" from unauthorised re-use.

Who said they wish to "protect" their content? I suspect they are more interested in "monetising" it.

The Commission is therefore today strongly encouraging stakeholders to find innovative and collaborative solutions to exploit the market for content online. A first step into this direction was taken in 2006 with the "European Film Online Charter" (see IP/06/672), but the Commission notes a lack of ambition and implementation in the follow-up to this initiative.

Then that is a good reason to ask whether the initiative had the right target.

However, the lack of multi-territory copyright licences – allowing the use of content in several or all EU Member States – makes it difficult for online services to be deployed across Europe and to benefit from economies of scale.

No barrier is better than some barrier. But remember Montesquieu's "better is the enemy of good" and devote the energies to the highest priority tasks.

Technologies that support the management of rights and the fair remuneration of creators in an online environment can be a key enabler for development of innovative business models.

Please change "can be a" to "are the".

Lengthy discussions amongst stakeholders have yet to lead to the deployment of interoperable and user-friendly DRM solutions.

A highly unsurprising result given the HLG recommendation reported above.

The Commission therefore seeks to establish a framework for DRM transparency concerning, amongst others, the interoperability of different DRMs

"Interoperability of different DRMs" is an easily solvable technical problem. Implementing it in a market reality is a pipe dream.

Piracy, including the unauthorised up- and downloading of copyrighted content, remains a central concern.

Consuming content without remunerating those who made it is reprehensible. But what should we call the constant consumer abuse of the last 10 years of digital content?

The Commission intends to instigate co-operation procedures ("codes of conduct") between access/service providers, right holders and consumers to ensure not only the widespread offer of attractive content online, but also adequate protection of copyrighted works, and close cooperation on the fight against piracy and unauthorised file-sharing.

Paying lip service to "widespread offer of attractive content online" does not hide the cop's face. Widespread offer, al least of some types of content, already exists. Consumers want interoperability, they want to be able to play the content of their choice on the device of their choice. As long as this is not offered to consumers any attempt at curtailing the fundamental rights of communication of European citizens should be fought vigorously.

About the author

Leonardo has some say in matters realted to digital media

Comments should be sent to leonardo "at" chiariglione "dot" org