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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Connecting the creative sector
Opening of the "Letsgoconnected" event
Brussels, 8 May 2012
It's a pleasure to welcome you here tonight. You, the creative sector, are among our most dynamic and valuable. Not just a big slice of GDP, but a stimulant and forge for our culture, learning, and heritage. Your event today is about how important it is to "go connected". I couldn't agree more.
For me digital opportunities are about getting all Europe connected – in fact, to recognise that, my services in the Commission were just renamed DG CONNECT.
The digital world brings new chances for the creative sector. With new ways to share, spread, and sell content. And new ways to ensure reward and recognition for it.
If we as a continent are going to succeed in a global, online future, we need to be where the future is. Online, within a vibrant digital Single Market. Because the way of doing things that was best back in 1970 won't still be the best in 2020.
My vision is for a digital ecosystem that supports European consumers, creators, and a competitive content industry. Where everybody can legally access what they want, when they want it. Where creators can profit from their work And where a wealth of European content finds an online home: books, news, TV, films, music, games, and more.
We've already seen these ideas catch on; I know you have already made significant changes and significant investments. And we are beginning to see the benefits.
For music, new ways of accessing music are overtaking CDs. We've seen a range of successful new platforms and models, from iTunes and Netflix to Spotify. And we've built new consumer desire, new consumer expectations, to use and pay for content that's interactive, sharable, on demand.
That pace of change can continue in future. If we aren't ready to keep up, our continent will miss out, our creative sector will miss out, and our citizens will miss out.
How do we get there?
Here in Europe I'm pleased to say we already have the most important ingredient: content. That's what's at the heart of all these new services and at the centre of my vision. European culture and creativity are perfectly able to deliver incredibly attractive content.
But it takes more than fruit to bake a pie. You also need pastry, an oven and a good recipe to put it all together. Here are three things in particular we need.
First, we need the technology: devices, platforms, software. Here, we've seen huge advances in recent years, and technical excellence in Europe. Will that pace continue? I think so - particularly when I see the great ideas on display here tonight. And particularly if we continue to invest in research and development. I know we all face difficulties at the moment; in private and public sectors: for me, this is all the more reason to look towards tomorrow's sources of growth.
But if we're going to be ready to make the most out of tomorrow's technological advances then, second, we need the right framework of rules: legal reform. Because even today, some Europeans still can't benefit from existing creative works. While, even today, content producers find it hard to spread their work through a tangle of different national rules. We need to use our Single Market. So it's easier to share and sell bright ideas – and easier to consume and pay for them.
There are lots of ingredients required here.
On intellectual property, we need to find a balance between enforcement, and making access to legal content easier. And 2012 will be a big year for IPR – with our proposal on collective management of rights, and the review of the 2001 Directive and Enforcement Directive.
But it's also about issues like how to pay for content, how to tax it, interoperability of platforms, and so on. And by the way our proposal on electronic identification, authentication and signatures will be out shortly. Making it easier to transact wherever you are.
And third, we need a different mindset. To wake up to a new way of operating. Because, even if with the right legislation, we'd still need the vision to see the opportunities amid the transformation.
But then we have to think different. To be creative experimenting with new models; to be courageous investing in new opportunities. In the past we've waited for non-European companies to come up first with the new ideas, the new business models. Let's not let that happen this time. Let's be the first to discover the true potential of our own digital Single Market.
Sometimes the best way forward is to get everyone around a table – policymakers, entrepreneurs, artists, investors. And I'm ready to hear your ideas. For example, I'm closely watching the Linked Content Coalition – and looking forward to the outcome. The Media Futures Forum is looking at the impact technology might have on the media sector. There will be concrete policy recommendations by the summer - I know they're already making good progress. And I'm working on initiatives on connected TV and on Cloud computing, to make sure old-fashioned legislation doesn't strangle new business models before they can be born.
Tomorrow I'll be at an event to celebrate a great cultural asset: Europeana. Pooling the resources of our libraries, museums and archives, Europeana is without doubt the most comprehensive store of European cultural heritage anywhere online.
I want to boost it still further, so it holds 30 million objects by 2015. And indeed I hope the private sector can help – both by providing their own content, and through models to fund digitisation of publicly-held works.
The many great assets on Europeana remind me of how much Europe has given the world; world-class art, world-class writing, and world-class creative material, from before the Renaissance to the present day. If we are going to continue that proud tradition into the 21st century; if we are going to support and stimulate a flourishing creative sector in the digital age; then let's embrace new technology, new legal frameworks, and a new way of thinking.