EC unveils intellectual property strategy


BRUSSELS -- The content industry must work with telecom giants and Internet service providers to develop an online market for films, music and games that guarantees copyright protection, the European Commission said Thursday.

The commission -- the European Union's executive authority -- unveiled a strategy that calls for all market players to work on resolving their intellectual property concerns for the online content sector, expected to be worth 8.3 billion euros ($11.8 billion) by 2010. It said formal policy proposals would be published in mid-2008.

"Europe's content sector is suffering under its regulatory fragmentation, under its lack of clear, consumer-friendly rules for accessing copyright-protected online content, and serious disagreements between stake-holders about fundamental issues such as levies and private copying", said EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "We should give industry legal certainty, content creators a fair remuneration and consumers broad access to a rich diversity of content online."

The move to accelerate the EU's online market comes after a number of commission studies showing that effective measures by industry and public authorities could boost Europe's music, film and games sector and allow retail revenue to quadruple by 2010.

Piracy concerns are one of the main reasons why the sector has not developed as much as it might, siphoning off potential online revenue and deterring media companies from putting content online. The commission strategy says the problems are real and need a common solution. "They can best be addressed at European level as most of these new services need the dual advantages of economies of scale and cultural diversity that the EU internal market provides," the strategy says. "Therefore, this communication is launching a focused public consultation in preparation for the adoption of a recommendation on creative content online."

The commission also wants to see efficient digital rights management systems to manage and protect digital content, but it recognizes that many stakeholders are concerned that the lack of interoperability or standardization in DRM might hold back development.

Another issue is that media companies have not yet fully adapted their business models to new distribution technologies, which cut across national borders and traditionally separated sectors. The commission strategy seeks changes in the way content rights are traded and exploited. "The commission is, therefore, strongly encouraging stakeholders to find innovative and collaborative solutions to exploit the market for content online," the strategy said, adding that its 2006 "European Film Online Charter" was met with a lackluster follow-up.