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European Commission

Michel BARNIER

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Internal Market and Services

Licences for Europe: quality content and new opportunities for all Europeans in the digital era

Launch of the initiative “Licences for Europe”

Brussels, 4 February 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank each and every one of you for attending the launch of the "Licences for Europe" initiative, for which Neelie Kroes, Androulla Vassiliou and myself have great hopes.

Within your various fields, you represent authors and artists, collecting societies, editors or producers, media groups and also Web entrepreneurs, Internet platforms or online service operators and, lastly, consumers.

You are therefore aware of the major challenges and the considerable opportunities offered by the Internet for the European creation of content and its maximum distribution.

The Internet provides an incomparable showcase for European content – from music to films, and from video games to newspapers – which is world-renowned for its high quality. This content generates no fewer than 6.7 million jobs in Europe. European global leaders, and also a myriad of small- and medium-sized businesses.

The Web offers enormous potential for promoting the cultural wealth and diversity of our continent. It makes access to our content immediately possible at any time, in any place, and constantly pushes back the limits of the possible in terms of quality and experience.

However, the Internet also presents a challenge for those who create such content in their work, or who make it possible and accessible by means of their investments. The challenge is to establish new models of use and distribution which allow the creativity, efforts made and risks taken to be appropriately rewarded.

This content forms the basis of the value chain in the Internet ecosystem. Without such content, distributors such as Google or iTunes, Deezer or Spotify would lose much of their appeal. And in saying that, I do not mean to minimise the incredible source of innovation and new services which these distributors have been and continue to be.

What are the key issues here?

  • The Internet must offer Europeans the widest possible access to the quality content which they are so eager to have;

  • However, the digital universe must also give rise to new forms of contractual relations between the various stakeholders contributing to its development;

  • Web entrepreneurs must also be able to draw on the single market to launch innovative services;

  • Lastly, a good level of legal certainty must be guaranteed for Internet users who tap into its creative potential and for content distributors.

At present, these objectives are far from being achieved.

Let me take just one example, perhaps the most revealing one: that of Europeans all too often frustrated by lack of online access to the diversity of content offered in other Member States, even though they would be prepared to pay for it!

They are frequently refused access to certain sites or are redirected to their national sites, when such sites exist!

Whether they are consumers, entrepreneurs or investors, it is incomprehensible that Europeans are coming up against obstacles online which they have been dismantling in the physical world for more than 50 years.

We all know that these problems have many different causes, some of which have nothing to do with copyright, such as insufficient high speed network capacity in Europe, the commercial strategies of service suppliers or the cost of payment services, to name but a few.

However, whilst copyright should not be used as a convenient scapegoat, neither should it continue to be an obstacle.

Rather than creating a restriction, it must be a modern and effective tool for supporting creation and innovation, to give access to quality content across borders, encourage investment and reinforce cultural diversity.

It is with this aim in mind that the Commission decided to launch the initiative which brings us here today.

What does this entail?

It entails establishing a structured dialogue between all stakeholders, at the Commission's instigation, to identify specific solutions which can be applied in the short term to four legitimate issues raised by citizens and businesses in the digital era.

1. The first concerns the cross-border portability of services offering online access to content.

How can we ensure that Europeans have better transnational access to online music and video services? And how do we better guarantee the continuity of these services with subscribers moving around in Europe with their Smartphones or tablet computers?

2. Second issue: the online availability of European films: only 15% of our rich cinematographic heritage is currently available online, and often solely on a national basis!

On the one hand, thousands of good quality films and documentaries are produced each year in Europe on a small budget without ever being accessible on legal platforms. On the other hand, thousands of film buffs who are willing to pay to see something other than the usual blockbusters are going away disappointed.

Now is the time when we should be seeing legal offers which meet these expectations appearing on the Internet.

3. Third issue: that of the situation for content which re-uses other online content, as well as the difficulties experienced by small businesses and users in obtaining the necessary licences for all rights.

We need a better grasp of the scale of the problems – whether they exist despite the practical arrangements which are already in place – and in any case make sure that contractual or technological solutions are found to everyone's benefit, where necessary.

4. The last issue concerns the solutions which may need to be found for tapping into the potential of new text and data mining activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that we can provide responses to each of these questions on an essentially contractual or technological basis.

The "Licences for Europe" initiative offers the unique opportunity for all market stakeholders to meet, identify the problems together and find real short-term solutions.

Allow me to insist on this point: "Licences for Europe" must not, and will not, be a mere forum for discussion.

It must be a place where market stakeholders, including consumers, meet together to find fast, specific solutions to problems arising in the here and now.

As you are well aware, the legislative procedure works on a different time scale than the economy, and contractual agreements generally take effect more quickly than do European directives.

Nevertheless, legislation can, in the longer term and where appropriate, provide the answer to certain problems. First, however, let us act quickly to settle what can be settled through dialogue and the will to work together in everyone's interest to find solutions to the difficulties encountered by Europeans in the single digital market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ball is now in your court.

Before passing the floor to Neelie, I therefore wish to thank you once more for your participation, and encourage you to act boldly and creatively.

Thank you for your attention.


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