Improving digital security can revive EU's ailing creative sector

Piracy is undermining Europe's digital industries, argues Mary Honeyball.

By Mary Honeyball

24 Oct 2014

Europe's creative talent has never been stronger, but its ability to grow is being stifled. Indeed, the creative economy is stagnating and the finger points to digital piracy. This troublesome news has been confirmed by a recent study, according to which the number of jobs and the economic value lost between 2008 and 2011 in Europe’s core creative industries is staggering. During this period, 400,000 jobs disappeared from the creative sector in the EU, and our creative economy suffered €20bn loss in value. Specifically, Europe's five main creative markets, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, holding over 70 per cent of EU gross domestic product (GDP) and employment contribution have lost 200,000 jobs.

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, speaking at the Berlin film festival in 2012 on the subject of opportunities for the digital world for cinema, said, "The overall effect is a benefit for consumers, for our economy, and our society, as long as you can adapt properly to digital developments.” This doesn’t solely apply to films, but to the overall creative industry which includes our cultural and creative treasures, such as television shows, video games, recorded music and software. The digital revolution has indeed allowed for the creative sector to access a wider audience on a variety of devices, as well as preserve and access our cultural heritage. However, this has come at a great cost for the industry, in the number of jobs and economic value lost due to online piracy. Uniform and strong safeguards for the creative sector to properly adapt to digital developments do not exist in Europe.

"The number of jobs and the economic value lost between 2008 and 2011 in Europe's core creative industries is staggering. During this period, 400,000 jobs disappeared from the creative sector in the EU, and our creative economy suffered €20bn loss in value"

The cultural and creative sectors have been recognised by the commission as growth sectors within the EU's flagship initiative Europe 2020. And it could be, would be, if not for the leaps and strides made in the digital sector, while EU policymakers failed to keep pace in protecting the creative sector, putting Europe’s innovators and creators at a severe disadvantage.

Too often, people are unaware of how vulnerable the creative sector is in the digital realm, in particular with the increased trend of digital piracy, with illegal traffic growth amounting to 321 per cent. It takes a tremendous amount of work to produce a television series, or to record a song, but with digital piracy, Europe's creativity and its economic benefits are being stolen.

The incoming Juncker commission has promised to bring a new sense of urgency and to create jobs and growth, as a group of new faces and new energies take up their residence in the Berlaymont. With this promise, it will be up to the parliament, up to me and my colleagues to hold them accountable. Even during his confirmation hearing, commissioner-designate for digital economy and society Günther Oettinger stressed the need to protect creators and the creative sector. The message is simple, we need to act. Europe's creative sectors account for €860bn or 6.8 per cent of EU GDP as well as 14 million jobs or 6.5 per cent of EU employment. Yet, words are temporary when actions carry a greater, more tangible impact.

 

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