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European Commission

Androulla VASSILIOU

Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

Licences for Europe: fostering access and distribution of culture in the digital era

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

13 November 2013

When we launched this process with my fellow Commissioners last February, we did so with a clear objective in mind. We wanted 'Licences for Europe' to come up with pragmatic, workable solutions to address the most immediate concerns raised by the digital environment and to help unlock its innovative potential.

I am pleased to say today that, nine months later, 'Licences for Europe' has successfully managed to deliver concrete solutions and commitments. In doing so, it has rendered an important service to audiences everywhere in Europe, who will be able to access cultural content more easily.

I will address the results of your work in more detail in a moment. But first, if I may, I would like to briefly recall the reasons that led us to set up 'Licences for Europe' in the first place.

Copyright and other intellectual property rights help protect cultural diversity, in the internet era as well, by rewarding creativity and providing incentives to innovate. Without sustainable investment in quality content, it is hard to imagine a growing internet or thriving social media sites. And without European quality content – I have said it before and I will repeat again - it is difficult to hear a distinctly European voice in the global digital agora.

Copyright must continue to enable European cultural industries and creators to provide quality content that enhances cultural diversity and media pluralism, and to develop new services, in particular on the internet. In my eyes, it is essential to preserve the virtuous cycle of creation, growth and innovation.

At the same time, the knowledge society requires - and European citizens expect - wider and easier access to content.

This creates a double responsibility for us policy makers. Our policies must continue ensuring access, creativity and knowledge to all those who live and work in the EU citizens.

To achieve these objectives, the Commission started to work in two directions: the stakeholders' dialogue 'Licences for Europe' and the parallel ongoing review of the copyright framework.

'Licences for Europe' has been about giving users more choice and better access to culture content in full conformity with the law. On the other hand, with technology offering more and more different ways to experience content, users also need more clarity and transparency about both their rights and obligations, and on what they can do with the content they paid for.

'Licences for Europe' has explored 'bottom-up' solutions to complex questions such as cross-border portability of content, access to film and audio-visual heritage and user-generated content.

The outcomes that were presented this afternoon ('the pledges') provide some interesting leads to help us strike the right balance in this complex patchwork of rights, obligations and interests. Let us take a closer look at them.

First, there's some great news for audio-visual heritage. The agreements reached in Licences for Europe open the door to potentially enjoy over one million hours of European films which are currently locked away in cans in basement archives. Currently only 1.5% of European film heritage is commercially or freely accessible to the public. There is great potential for the development of collaborative solutions to improve the promotion and availability of film heritage and grant a “second life” to films which are otherwise unavailable because they are "out of distribution".

I am particularly pleased about the agreement just signed today on the digitisation of our audio-visual heritage. I hope to see more initiatives of this kind in the future.

To keep the momentum, I would suggest that as part of the consensual effort in Licences for Europe, other agreements, such as the mandate to start a dialogue on the digitisation of broadcasters' archives and the Declaration on the audiovisual identifiers, are necessary steps to foster access to more audio-visual heritage online.

The audiovisual industry’s commitment to gradually increase the cross-border portability of subscription-based audiovisual services is another remarkable result. Basically, it will make it easier for viewers travelling abroad on holidays or business trips to legally access films and TV shows to which they are subscribed in the country where they reside.

As regards small-scale licensing, the pledges of the industry presented today include concrete tools to facilitate small scale uses of music, print and images.

'Licences for Europe' has also come up with tools and solutions to promote the discoverability of digital content other than heritage films.

In this regard, I welcome the industry roadmap to enhance the interoperability of e-books, the discoverability tools providing information to consumers on the cross-border availability of sports and other cultural content, and the work done to facilitate the distribution of multiple language versions on video on demand.

'Licences for Europe' has also launched a much-needed European-level debate on text and data mining. It is a complex and very technical area. The model licensing clause proposed by publishers, together with the web-based hub to facilitate text and data-mining for non-commercial uses free of cost, are important outcomes. They are available for libraries and researchers who wish to take advantage of this solution.

Finally, let me take a couple of moments to stress the innovative format of 'Licences for Europe'. In this process, the Commission was committed to act only as a facilitator or 'honest broker': the operation was sustained by the joint work of the participants in the dialogues and their willingness to develop fair and reasonable 'win-win' solutions workable for all.

I would therefore like to thank you for the commitment and the determination that you showed and for your constructive co-operation, with one another and with the Commission services. I salute the pledges that you undertook and look forward to seeing them taking shape and form in the near future.

I fully realize that this is not an easy debate – far from it. But it has to be pursued with diligence and determination, if we wish to succeed in fostering a vibrant and culturally diverse digital single market in Europe.

'Licences for Europe' was admittedly an ambitious and complex process. Some user groups and researchers expressed concerns that the stakeholder dialogue is limited to practical solutions rather than providing a forum for broad-based discussion of the legislative framework.

Let me reassure you that the Commission remains committed to two parallel processes: seeking pragmatic, market-led solutions, on the one hand, and continuing the legislative review process, on the other.

As you know - my fellow Commissioners mentioned it already - the Commission is conducting a thorough assessment of the applicable legal framework. Based on this assessment, we will take a decision during the first part of 2014 on the best way forward.

Nobody can disagree that we need to adapt copyright to the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. I would add that, in this debate, it is necessary to ensure that the rights of creators, consumers and other stakeholders are equally respected.

This stakeholder exercise has allowed us to better understand the reality of the digital market in Europe. Its outcomes will feed into our ongoing review of the legislative framework. We are actively pursuing our analysis.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Winston Churchill once said: a pessimist sees a challenge in every opportunity and an optimist an opportunity in every challenge. I would add that a pragmatist strikes the right balance between a challenge and an opportunity. The exercise we are about to wrap up has shown this sense of pragmatism and, in that respect, it has been successful.

Dear friends, on behalf of the European Commission and all of us here, thank you very much for your commitment and work on ' Licences for Europe'.


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