January 4, 2008 / 12:23 AM / 10 years ago

EU seeks single market for online services

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will make proposals by mid-2008 aimed at creating a single European market in the burgeoning sector of online music, films and games, it said on Thursday.

A major objective will be to tackle illegal downloads, which the Commission said were discouraging many content providers from making their products available on the Internet.

“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,” EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

A spokesman said Reding did not ultimately exclude legislation in the area but that was not the aim of the present move, which would start with a non-binding recommendation.

“At the moment we are at the beginning of the process,” he told a news briefing.

European technology industry association EICTA welcomed the initiative but questioned whether the EU executive’s decision to make a non-binding recommendation on the steps to be taken rather than going straight for legislation was the right approach.

“It means you are not going to see any really meaningful changes for consumers for at least a couple of years,” said EICTA Director General Mark MacGann, citing the difficulty in downloading music content across EU national borders.

“It may be too little, too late,” he told Reuters by phone.

The Commission said it expected the EU market for online content to quadruple from 1.8 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in 2005 to 8.3 billion in 2010 and identified four main areas that needed to be addressed:

— The reluctance of some owners of creative content to make it available for online distribution, for reasons such as concerns over illegal downloads and online piracy.

— The lack of multi-territory copyright licenses allowing the use of content in several or all EU member states.

— Interoperability of so-called Digital Rights Management systems (DRMs), the technologies that allow the management of content rights and the fair remuneration of creators.

— Piracy of content.

The EU executive said it planned to launch codes of conduct between access and service providers, rights holders and consumers to ensure the widespread offer of content online and adequate protection of copyrighted works.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Mark John; Editing by Darren Ennis and David Holmes

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