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Towards a single market in creative content online

Online content knows no bounds and is on the increase. Reaching almost 500 million consumers, content services could significantly enhance the competitiveness of the European music, film and games industry by 2010. This is why the Commission is encouraging the development of a stronger and more consumer-friendly internal market for online creative content.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 3 January 2008 on Creative Content Online in the Single Market [COM(2007) 836 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication covers a wide range of subjects related to the online creative content sector *. It marks the launch by the Commission of its “online content” initiative, the aim of which is to enhance the availability of online creative content through developing new and innovative business models, and ensuring additional income for all those involved in the value chain.

It also aims to foster the emergence of a single European market for online music, films and games.

The continuous widespread availability of broadband internet access (roll-out of advanced mobile networks) and content distribution possibilities (mass availability of digital devices) are opening up new prospects for both the European online content industry and European consumers.

According to some studies covering the 25 Member States, revenue from the sale of online content will go from EUR 1.8 billion in 2005 to EUR 8.3 billion in 2010.

Existing regulation of the European online content sector is too fragmented and lacks transparency. One of the main objectives of the strategic i2010 framework launched in 2005 is the creation of an open and competitive market for the services of the European Union (EU) information society.

However, this situation gives rise to new challenges, ranging from copyright to consumer safety and technical (radio spectrum and broadband) issues. This Communication specifically relates to the distribution of online content.

Challenges associated with developing a single market for creative content online

Three objectives need to be met to ensure the transfer of creative content services to an online environment, namely:

  • to encourage European content contributing to European competitiveness while fostering the diversity of content creation and Europe's cultural and linguistic heritage;
  • to modernise the legal framework relating to distribution of creative content taking into account copyright for the creation of content;
  • fostering the active role of users in content creation, selection and distribution.

On the basis of the public consultation held in 2006 on these issues, the Commission identifies the main challenges which merit Community action:

  • availability of creative content;
  • development of multi-territory licensing;
  • interoperability and transparency of Digital Rights Management systems (DRMs);
  • fight against piracy and illegal downloading of copyright-protected content.

The lack of availability of creative content intended for online distribution and the few operating licences granted to new platforms remain the main obstacles to the development of services proposing online content. The availability of creative content is not sufficiently stimulated by the development of new forms of distribution. Copyright holders fear losing control since the development of piracy in the digital environment has proved to be very damaging and distributors cannot reach agreement with content owners on the terms of trade for exploitation of content. This situation prevents licensing on new platforms for online content. Another concern relates to the high cost of transactions related to the granting of rights. By enhancing its role of facilitator at the heart of the new platform for discussion on online content, the Commission wishes to establish constructive dialogue between stakeholders.

The lack of multi-territory licences for creative content makes it difficult for online services to make full use of European cultural works outside their national markets, while content services are available across the Internal Market. The Commission had already recommended the implementation of a multi-territory licensing system specific to the field of musical words online.

The Commission encourages the establishment of a framework for the interoperability * and transparency of Digital Rights Management Systems which would enable copyright holders to enforce compliance in the digital environment while guaranteeing clear information for consumers on the terms of use for downloaded content and on the interoperability of corresponding online services.

The Commission invites access and service providers, copyright holders and consumers to work closely together on the basis of a "code of conduct" to combat online piracy and ensure that a wide range of online services are available legally.

Twofold approach: communication and consultation

The Commission's approach is twofold. On the one hand, establishment of a new framework for discussion between stakeholders by creating a platform for discussion on all the issues raised by online creative content (content availability, improvement of mechanisms for the granting of rights, the development of multinational licensing, online copyright management, cooperation mechanisms to improve compliance with copyright in an online environment, etc.) and, on the other hand, preparation for the adoption of a Proposal for a Recommendation on online creative content by mid-2008.

By referring to the Annexes to this Communication, stakeholders are invited to give their views by 29 February on the main challenges associated with the development of a single market in creative content online.

Key terms used in the act
  • Creative content online: content and services such as online audiovisual creations (cinema, television, music and radio), online games, online publication, online educational content and content created by users.
  • Interoperability: interoperability means that several systems, whether identical or radically different, can communicate without ambiguity and work together. Interoperability is a very important concept for the global telephone network and the Internet, which are essentially heterogeneous networks, where diverse and varied equipment intersects. Communications must therefore comply with clear and uniform standards.

RELATED ACTS

Council Conclusions of 20 November 2008 on the development of legal offers of online cultural and creative content and the prevention and combating of piracy in the digital environment [Official Journal C 319 of 13.12.2008].
The European Council notes in its conclusions that the online distribution of cultural and creative assets is a factor in accessing culture, in economic development, employment and cultural diversity. Its development potential in Europe is considerable but may be impeded by online piracy which infringes the remuneration of copyright holders and holders of related rights.
The Council invites Member States to draw out solutions with a view to combating online piracy whilst encouraging the development of the legal offer. Furthermore, Member States are also invited to promote audiovisual and film offer notably through the implementation of the Directive on audiovisual media services. In this regard, the European Commission is invited to cooperate closely with Member States.

Last updated: 04.08.2009
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