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A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe

Better access to digital content – A modern copyright framework

Copyright underpins creativity in Europe and digital content is one of the main drivers of the growth of the digital economy. Images, films or music and games are the most popular online activities and digital spending on entertainment and media is predicted to have double digit growth rates (around 12%) for the next five years. Behaviour is changing as consumers switch to mobile devices. Smartphone users in Europe consume more than four hours of video content on a weekly basis, almost half of which they view on-the-go. Limitations on access pose a clear problem for the creation of a seamless Internal Market and cultural diversity. Finding balanced solutions which respond to consumer demand could generate new revenue for rights holders and ensure consumers pay for content.

The Commission aims to ensure that Europe has a copyright regime fit for the digital age benefiting both the creators, innovators and consumers alike, by promoting a better functioning European market for content. Restrictions to access to online media content are still frequent, particularly for audio-visual programmes. As soon as they cross an EU border, consumers are prevented from using the content services (e.g. for video services) for which they have paid in their home country. In addition, when trying to access or purchase copyright-protected content from another Member State, they are sometimes confronted with the message that it is unavailable or cannot be accessed from their own country. These contractual practices reflect the central role of territorial exclusivity in the production and financing of audio-visual works (where large upfront investments are funded through the pre-sale of exclusive rights in certain territories) but some of these restrictions originate from contractual arrangements between rights holders and distributors (online service providers, broadcasters, etc.).

In certain sectors that are key to the development of knowledge and education, there is also a need to provide legal certainty and enable researches and education institutions to make wider use of copyright-protected material, including across borders, in order to encourage innovation in these areas, to allow them to benefit from the potential of technologies and to collaborate across borders. In particular, research relies increasingly on text and data mining techniques (e.g. scanning of text and datasets in search of significant correlations or occurrences). However, innovation in research both for non-commercial and commercial purposes based on the use of text and data mining is hampered by the absence of a clear EU-wide legal framework.

From the creators’ perspective, there is a concern that inappropriate changes to the copyright framework may affect the overall value of the rights sold to distributors / platforms / broadcasters, which could also have a negative impact on the financing of EU media content, which is currently territorially based. There is a need therefore for a balanced copyright reform including measures that would benefit rights holders, such as matching reforms to end the fragmented regulatory framework within the Digital Single Market. Likewise, the need for a more effective and balanced cross-border civil enforcement system against commercial scale infringements of intellectual property rights will be addressed. Commercial scale IP-infringement discourages investment in innovation and undermines job creation. This is also an issue to be taken into account in the Commission’s ongoing analysis of the role of online platforms in the digital economy and the rules relating to liability for illegal content on the Internet.

Europe needs a more harmonised copyright regime which provides incentives to create and invest while allowing transmission and consumption of content across borders, building on our rich cultural diversity. To this end, the Commission will propose solutions which maximise the offers available to users and open up new opportunities for content creators, while preserving the financing of EU media and innovative content. Furthermore, the Commission will review the satellite and cable directive to assess the need to enlarge its scope to broadcasters’ online transmissions and the need to tackle further measures to ensure enhanced cross-border access to broadcasters’ services in Europe.

The Commission will propose measures aimed at: (i) allowing full portability of legally acquired content (e.g. access to subscription services already acquired in the home country while staying in another Member State), (ii) facilitating access to legally paid for cross-border services (e.g. allowing a resident of one Member State to access online content currently available only to residents of another Member State) while safeguarding the value of rights in the audio-visual sector, (iii) enhancing legal certainty and enabling more cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining), (iv) clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content. In addition, the Commission will launch in parallel a process to review and modernise the cross-border civil enforcement of intellectual property rights such that commercial scale infringing activity can be more effectively addressed in the EU.