Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission
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Copyright in the digital economy: a way forward

You have may have seen that on Wednesday the Commission announced an important way forward on copyright. I've long said that we need to modernise copyright for the digital age: many of the rules have been in place since before things like YouTube, Facebook or data-mining techniques even existed. And, no matter what perspective you bring to the debate, it is obvious that the current fragmented rules in Europe and elsewhere have created frustrations. It's right to provide reward and recognition for artists: but the current copyright system sometimes doesn't do that as well as it could. Often, in fact, it makes it harder for you to legally access your favourite content. And in many ways it closes us off from digital opportunity, whether it’s the chance to explore innovative new business models, or new ways to conduct lifesaving scientific research. It's right that the EU looks at this. This framework must adapt to the digital era: and not with 27 different, fragmented systems, but acting as the EU: so that artists, entrepreneurs and citizens benefit from a borderless, digital single market, where accessing and distributing content is easy and legal, generating more value and more visibility. Wednesday's announcement follows two tracks. First, starting right from the new year, we will be looking at six key areas where we need rapid action – things like user-generated content, text- and data-mining for research purposes, and online audiovisual works (like TV shows and films). (For full details of the announcement, see the press release). Second, for the medium term, we will prepare analysis with a view to Commission decision-making in 2014. Yesterday in the European Parliament, my colleague Michel Barnier talked more about this issue: about the Internet value chain and how it offers new opportunities for creators. Because value can indeed be created in a variety of ways. One way is licensing in return for royalties – which will surely stay an essential part of the online content economy. But there are other ways for creators and others to make money online, across the value chain. Like free distribution supported by advertising, or using online content to promote tickets for live gigs. Imagine the "buzz" you can generate for new films or music on social media, drawing attention and driving subsequent sales. And, the more direct the link between artists and their audience, the greater can be the rewards for creators. I am delighted that, for the six urgent actions, Michel Barnier, Androulla Vassiliou and I will be jointly leading this work. I know that with all of us working hand in hand together – and involving an equally full range of stakeholders – we can find pragmatic solutions over the coming year. This process is intended to deliver market-led solutions: but doesn't prejudge the possible need for public policy action, including legislative reform. Meanwhile Michel Barnier and his team will be completing the relevant market studies, impact assessment and legal drafting work for decision making in 2014 on legislative reform. I hope we can deliver a copyright system that's fit for our digital age: a system that rewards artists, supports our cultural sector and makes it easier for everyone to take advantage of digital opportunities.
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