Digital single market 'crucial' to stimulating EU growth

Catherine Stihler outlines why copyright reform is essential to implementing a fully functioning digital single market.

By Catherine Stihler

10 Mar 2015

At the heart of the EU’s competitiveness and its biggest economic strength, lies the single market. With a market of more than 500 million people, the EU has the opportunity to be a global economic powerhouse.

However, 20 years after its official creation, the single market is still not fulfilling its potential. This is primarily due to national administrative obstacles and lack of union legislation enforcement by member states. 

The full potential of the single market will remain untapped if the digital single market is not completed; both are interlinked and are key tools for reigniting economic growth and creating quality employment in the EU.

Advancing the digital single market is crucial to stimulating growth, creating employment and ensuring the EU economy remains competitive globally. It could generate GDP growth of 0.4 per cent (€520bn) over the period up to 2020, and create more than 223,000 new jobs. 

It also has the potential to improve access to information, to bring efficiency gains in terms of reduced transaction costs, dematerialised consumption and reduced environmental footprint and to introduce improved business and administrative models across the 28 member states.

European commission vice-president for the digital single market Andrus Ansip promised to deliver a strategy with six clear objectives by May 2015. More than 10 commissioners are involved in the process of bringing the strategy together - this just proves the extent of areas that are becoming increasingly digitalised.

"The full potential of the single market will remain untapped if the digital single market is not completed; both are interlinked and are key tools for reigniting economic growth and creating quality employment in the EU"

As part of the digital single market strategy, a proposal on copyright reform is expected to be completed and presented by European digital economy and society commissioner Günther Oettinger this autumn. 

In light of this upcoming proposal, several committees in the European parliament have drafted their own opinions and I have the pleasure of being the internal market and consumer protection committee’s opinion rapporteur on the implementation of the Infosoc directive of 2001.

As highlighted above, we live in an increasingly digitalised world where copyright legislation has to be fit for purpose. The 2001 Infosoc directive dates back to when the majority of us just only started using computers - YouTube or Netflix were hardly imaginable. 

Things have rapidly changed since then and copyright laws must be updated in order to reflect the needs of our society and consumers, most of whom use digital services, watch films and stream music online almost daily.

In my opinion report, I emphasise the important role cultural and creative industries play, employing more than seven million people and promoting cultural heritage. Any copyright reform needs to ensure that rights of all categories of rights holders are protected and that they are fairly remunerated.

However, the issues of territoriality and market fragmentation need to be addressed, as EU consumers have the right to access their paid-for content wherever and whenever they want it.

I urge the commission to promote a flexible and balanced framework for certain exceptions and limitations that does not harm rights holders and conforms to consumer expectations.

This should apply to exceptions and limitations agreed on for public interest reasons, for the purpose of formal education and teaching.

I call on the commission and member states to consider eBook lending as part of public lending schemes, provided that all necessary agreements with the relevant stakeholders are reached. This way, we can future-proof our libraries.

I welcome the fact the UK is paving the way in eBook lending, allowing the panorama exception and not imposing any levies on digital goods, and I hope that other member states will follow suit.


Read the most recent articles written by Catherine Stihler - Citizens and research: The forgotten voices of copyright reform

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