European Commission launches proposals for single digital market

Several EU flags hoisted outside a building

The European Commission has put forward proposals in its new Digital Single Market strategy that could end digital copyright restrictions across Europe, allowing users to access services regardless of their location within the EU.

The changes could allow Britons to watch BBC iPlayer or Sky Go without needing to be in the UK. At present, access to such services as these, as well as Netflix, are disrupted because of different EU states having different copyright laws.

The EC said it would introduce regulations that allow "portability" of online content services throughout the EU, harmonising the laws of 28 member states.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: "We want to ensure the portability of content across borders. People who legally buy content films, books, football matches, TV series must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe. This is a real change, similar to what we did to end roaming charges. Today, we also set out our vision for a modern copyright regime in the EU and the gradual steps to achieve it."

He added that the EC wanted to widen access to cultural content online and "strengthen European R&D, using technologies like text and data mining."

The Digital Single Market is the blueprint for Europe claiming its place in the digital era, today we start making it a reality," said Ansip.

This comes as the Commission plans a new EU-wide copyright framework next year that better mirrors and enables people's use of digital content within the EU.

The four main aims of the framework are, first, to widen access to content within the EU and second to codify copyright exceptions. Third, the EC aims to create a fairer marketplace and fourth, fight piracy.

"We want a copyright environment that is stimulating, fair, rewards investment in creativity and makes it easier for Europeans to access and use content legally. Our ongoing work on the role of platforms and online intermediaries will also help to translate our plan into concrete proposals," said Gnther Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society.

In response to the new proposals, Charlotte Holloway, Head of Policy at techUK said that the Commission's thinking on the proposals will have a direct impact for UK companies operating here in the country and also exporting across Europe.

"In the push for a more harmonised single market, it is vital that we harmonise in a direction that supports innovation and doesn't seek to roll back the clock on Europe's digital transformation. UK firms, together with UK Government, will need to remain fully engaged on getting the detail right on what could be important pro-growth pro-innovation policies," she said.

She added that the Commission "must listen to companies to gain a clear understanding of the technical viability of what is being proposed".

"Creative media companies will be looking to further detail on proposals cross-border access that maintain the existing value facilitated by territorial copyright."

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.