Building a Crossborder Cultural Community in Europe - Global Trade Magazine
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  December 4th, 2015 | Written by

Building a Crossborder Cultural Community in Europe

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  • EC vice president: “We will take the first steps to modernize Europe's outdated rules on copyright.”
  • The copyright system that prevails today in Europe was developed when the digital revolution was taking off.
  • There are profits to be made from selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers across countries.
  • EU plans include creating a European aggregator of search tools so that people can find cultural works.
  • People who subscribe to online content services in one EU country can use those services when in another country.

The European Commission will soon be taking steps to modernize the European Union’s copyright rules.

So said Andrus Ansip, European Commission vice president for the Digital Single Market in a recent speech at the University of Strasbourg.

“Digital technologies are changing the way that creative content is produced and distributed,” he noted.

“Consumer behavior, of course, is changing too. People’s demands and wishes are very different compared with even just 10 years ago. They want more on-demand services, more mobile viewing. One in five Europeans wants to access content from other EU countries. Copyright is the key to all this.

The problems is that the system that prevails today in Europe was developed when the digital revolution was just taking off, before today’s phenomena like Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter were developed.

“Today’s system is out of touch with the digital age,” said Ansip.

Films, books, and other cultural works should be digitized and available for all across Europe to enjoy, according to Ansip’s vision.

“I think there are significant profits to be made from selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers across countries,” he said, “instead of just selling large volumes of a limited number of popular items. This would boost the discoverability and appreciation of smaller films like art-house movies and documentaries, with no negative impact for distributors.”

The same goes for out-of-commerce works, those which are still protected by copyright but which are no longer commercially available. “Why accept their limited availability in the national market and in other EU countries?” said Ansip.

The EU has $1.55 billion earmarked up to 2020 to support the culture and audio-visual sectors. Plans include creating catalogues of European films and a European aggregator of online and national search tools so that people can easily find works legally available to them.

“This means allowing people who subscribe to online content services in one EU country, for books, music, games, films, drama, sport, to use those services when they are travelling in another country,” said Ansip. “Often this is not possible today.”

The current “restricted system is preventing everyone from making the most of Europe’s huge cross-border market,” Ansip added. “Artists should not be prevented from getting a wider audience for their work because of barriers arising from an outdated set of rules.”

The aim of copyright reform is not to “destroy current copyright policies or overhaul them completely,” Ansip noted. “This is about making concrete, targeted and important improvements, in areas where the EU can make a real difference.” The rules also aim to address issues of online piracy.

The European Commission intends to present a reform plans in a strategy paper later this month.


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