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Speech - Modernising copyright for the digital age

European Commission - SPEECH/13/917   13/11/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Modernising copyright for the digital age

Final Plenary Meeting of the 'Licences for Europe' stakeholder dialogue /Brussels

13 November 2013

To add your comment to this speech, see the social version of the speech here

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank all the stakeholders who actively participated in 'Licences for Europe'.

Both those who answered our call and put forward concrete industry-led initiatives. And those who took the effort to set out their different points of view.

You know me by now: I am a pragmatic person. Heavy-handed legislative measures aren't always needed, and aren't always the best solution, particularly in a fast moving digital world.

So first you should always explore if something else is possible. We had to try it! And so we did. You have been working for almost one year to find those pragmatic solutions and innovative ways to boost the Digital Single Market for content. Finding solutions and stimulating new business models is important for our economy, for growth and jobs.

And it proved to be possible! In the Audiovisual Heritage Group, representatives of the different members share a common objective: to bring more film heritage online. And they united round that.

That’s something of particular interest to me given my portfolio. Our film heritage is praised worldwide and has inspired many generations of film makers. I work and will continue to work to keep that heritage preserved and widely available to all. And I thank and congratulate this Group for its important contribution.

It's a first step in the right direction: and in record time too. That proves that it is possible to agree along this way among different stakeholders. Even though those preferred legislative solutions as well, which we still don't exclude for the future.

Being Dutch I say what I stand for, I like to present things as they are, objective and realistic. I had high expectations when we launched this dialogue in February. I had things in mind like agreements, memoranda of understanding and similar, supported by a broad coalition representing different interests. This has not been met. Continue working is not enough, we need concrete tangible results.

There are however some first steps made.

For eBooks, I hope that your joint roadmap enhances access and interoperability across borders. As the European Council notes, often systems don't work with each other, and content isn't portable. That leads to bottlenecks and barriers in accessing your digital life from different platforms.

On the joint statement of the audiovisual industry: I sincerely hope you will be ambitious in getting concrete results. I can't explain to people they don't have access to their paid content across borders in the EU. Your viewers, your customers, want more flexible access to films and TV shows. Particular those who are mobile, or want material from other EU countries: this is about responding to that demand. If you don't, others will. If you wait for other players to take those opportunities first: Europe can only suffer.

I have followed with particular interest the User Generated Content and the Text and Data Mining Groups.

For commercial use, the "small-scale" licensing through simpler ICT-based schemes could be an improvement, making it easier to obtain a license for music.

On User Generated Content positions are diverging, the main thing it proved is that the world has changed. Europeans interact with creative content in a way that is itself both often creative and usually instantaneous. They don't expect to have to ask permission to upload their own wedding video. So it is clear that the traditional approach, requiring prior licensing, does not fit current internet practice and behaviour. In my view, this requires further work as part of the legislative process.

And, for me, the Text and Data mining Group has also shown something very clear. We need to find better ways to cope with immense data flows. They affect so many aspects of our daily lives and professional work. As the European Council put it, big data drives innovation, improves productivity, means better quality services. And scientists in particular can use these data flows for research, even for life-saving discoveries. They need every possibility to do that.

I understand the proposed initiative here by publishers is not supported by the users. And this cannot be seen as any kind of solution without agreement from that very important group of stakeholders. Now we need to seriously consider possible legislative exceptions.

Let me remind you of our objective: to look at whether it was possible to find pragmatic ways round, and explore the limits of solutions based on licensing. That is exactly what we have done.

And as we communicated last year, this is just one track of the process:

The results of this process, as well as the areas where no consensus emerged will feed into that other track, our on-going review of the European copyright framework.

We have many tools we can use. We have to look at the bigger picture, how the copyright legislation fits into the real world. How to adapt it to the digital age: stimulating creativity and innovation, supporting flourishing business models, helping industries re-invest in new creative productions and discoveries. And the same time ensuring decent and appropriate remuneration and reward of creators, helping them thrive in the digital age.

There is still a lot to be done. Now we have a chance to make copyright not an obstruction, but an enabler. We have the proof now that it is possible, so let's challenge ourselves. Be assured we will continue our preparatory work on the legislative review. We owe it to you.

To conclude my intervention, I am glad to invite the participants of the Audiovisual Heritage Group for a small ceremony to sign their Principles and Roadmap Document after the next speech.


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