European Commission acts on Internet rights

Unveils new online advisory tool eYouGuide

LONDON -- The European Commission has launched a new online tool offering practical advice on the digital rights consumers have under EU law, while reiterating the need for pan-European licensing solutions.

In Strasbourg, the Commission unveiled the online eYouGuide in response to a call from the European Parliament in 2007. It addresses issues including rights in connection with a consumer's broadband provider, shopping on the Web, downloading music and protecting personal data online and on social networking sites.

In a statement, the Commission said that providing consumers with clear information about their rights will increase trust and help unlock the full economic potential of Europe's single online market, worth €106 billion ($141.6 billion) in revenue.

"In the EU, consumer rights online should not depend on where a company or Web site is based," said Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, in a statement. "National borders should no longer complicate European consumers' lives when they go online to buy a book or download a song. In spite of progress made, we need to ensure that there is a single market for consumers as well as businesses on the Web."

"If we want consumers to shop around and exploit the potential of digital communications, then we need to give them confidence that their rights are guaranteed," added Meglena Kuneva, the EU consumer commissioner. "That means putting in place and enforcing clear consumer rights that meet the high standards already existing in the main street. Internet has everything to offer consumers, but we need to build trust so that people can shop around with peace of mind."

The European Digital Media Association (EDiMA) welcomed the eYouGuide initiative, while noting that the Commission should monitor and review the guide regularly to ensure it remains up-to-date and accurate.

Reding and Kuneva also issued an eight-point digital agenda highlighting areas where consumer confidence and the single market for businesses could be further enhanced. The areas for possible EU action include "giving consumers certainty about what they can and cannot do with copy-righted songs, videos and films they download, by ending the current fragmentation of laws on 'private copying'" as well as "paving the way for multi-territorial licensing regimes for online content" covering music, games, films and books.

The Commission has already ruled, in July last year, against 24 European collecting societies that it considered was impeding a pan-European performing rights licensing system. CISAC, the international confederation of authors' and composers' collecting societies, is appealing the ruling along with individual collecting societies such as GEMA.

The digital agenda also suggests working with industry and consumer associations to set up a European system of trustmarks for retail Web sites that comply with best practices.