Mr Barnier, the Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, said to the MIDEM 2013 music industry conference in Cannes: "Europeans are often frustrated that they can't access online content offered from other member states even when they would be ready to pay for it.
However, music lovers are not the only ones who encounter difficulties. All those who invest – often quite heavily – in finding, producing and distributing new talents, often find that, after release, their work can be immediately found on illegal downloading sites."
He said that Europeans listen on average to two hours of music a day, adding that "music is our common language" and that "artists from Mozart to the Beatles and Daft Punk to Adele" played a major part in Europe's cultural and economic status.
The Commissioner added that there are many barriers to a single market in online music, some of which have nothing to do with copyright, such as the limited capacity of broadband networks in Europe, the commercial strategies of service providers or the cost of payment services and so on.
But he made clear that there could only be a solution if copyright was transformed into a modern and effective tool to support creation and innovation, provide access to quality content beyond borders, encourage investment and strengthen cultural diversity.
Mr Barnier emphasised that the future Directive on collective rights management – proposed by the Commission in July 2012 and now being negotiated in the European Parliament and by the Member States -would make it easier to provide multinational online music services.
The proposed EU law covers the governance and cross-border operation of collecting societies, which collect fees for the use of copyrighted music, on behalf of authors and artists.
Complementing this, the Commission has launched a consultation on how better to prevent breaches of copyright – in particular those being committed "on a large commercial scale". Mr Barnier called for an end to the idea there is some kind of "natural digital law" that justifies limitless sharing of copyrighted material. He said the consultation would also cover questions such as whether web sites offering illegal file-sharing should be able to obtain advertising revenue.
Mr Barnier said that in parallel stakeholders should get round the table under the Commission's "Licenses for Europe" initiative launched in December 2013 and agree solutions to copyright and licensing issues. This included the music industry, consumer organisations and collecting societies. He said the onus was on the industry to boost transnational access to online music, including for "subscribers moving around Europe with their smartphone or tablet". The industry also needed to consider carefully how to deal with the legal uncertainty over "user-generated content" that reuses other online content and with the difficulties SME have in getting licences adapted to their needs.
If solutions could not be achieved through negotiations, the Commission would consider proposing EU legislation.