In its efforts to rewrite Europe’s digital rulebook, the European Commission took its next step forward today, proposing a series of reforms that would make it easier for online music and video services to operate across the continent.
At the same time, the EC promised that it would look closely at the “role of news aggregation services” to see if they were compensating the sources of news fairly.
The set of proposals is part of a broader Digital Single Market initiative unveiled earlier this year to create a unified set of copyright and content rules across Europe. While Europe is united, each country tends to have its own sets of online rules and regulations, which can make life frustrating for consumers and companies alike.
“Today, we also set out our vision for a modern copyright regime in the EU – and the gradual steps to achieve it,” said Andrus Ansip, the EC’s vice president for the Digital Single Market. “Our aim is to widen people’s access to cultural content online and support creators.”
In particular, the proposal aims to make is easier for consumers to access their digital libraries and services no matter where they travel in Europe. Right now, a Netflix customer in France, for instance, might not be able to access their subscription when they leave the country, or might have a very different video library in Germany.
Of course, that could potentially give a huge boost to services like Netflix or Amazon Video or Apple’s iTunes, which at the moment face the very complex process of negotiating separate rights for each European market. Of course, some members of the creative and startup community also worry that this will make U.S.-based giants even more dominant.
In response to such fears, the EC proposal calls for investing more in programs to boost the reach of European movies and TV shows, through the creation of hubs and portals that make it easier to find and license content.
At the same time, the proposal includes a closer look at services that search and aggregate other people’s content.
“The Commission will assess if the online use of copyright-protected works, resulting from the investment of creators and creative industries, is properly authorised and remunerated through licences,” the EC said in a press release. “In other words, we will assess whether the benefits of the online use of those works is fairly shared.”
The EC notes that this is not necessarily a move to tax or require payments by aggregators. But while it’s not mentioned by name, Google could clearly be heavily impacted by any findings that content creators are not being paid fairly for work that shows up in its online listings or searches.
The proposals must now be debated by the European Parliament, where it’s not clear how much they may be modified, or when a final vote could be expected.
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