Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

Viviane Reding says she will tackle the collecting societies on pan-European licencing and she will back projects for cloud computing. That should be good news.  But Our Lady of the U-turns has done it again. Because in the same speech she calls for the Telecoms Package to come into force, ignoring that it is about restricting innovative Internet services, and tries to belittle the importance of Amendment 138 which seeks to safeguard users' rights.


In a speech to the Lisbon council in Brussels last week, European Commissioner for Information Society, Viviane Reding, has vowed to tackle the biggest obstacle to so-called legal online content services  - the collecting societies and their resistance to a pan-European licence for Internet music and film rights.

 "In my view,growing internet piracy is a vote of

no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers" she said.


 A pan-European licencing scheme would make it possible to buy  the rights to use music and film content  on the Internet across all EU countries. To date, it has not been possible due to the collecting societies who represent the rights-holders refusing to change the way they offer their licences.

However, the political  issue is whether or not she has the power to address it because copyright properly belongs in the Internal Market directorate, and not in hers. She says she is working with Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who famously invited Mick Jagger to sit on her elite advisory committee of rights- and patent-holders.


Mrs Reding also said that cloud computing is a priority on her agenda, apparently  to open up the Digital Economy to small businesses.


But as usual, she contradicts herself -  in continuing to push for the Telecoms Package to be adopted as it it stands, she stands to reverse any benefits she may create.  The provisions in the Package to restrict the Internet will be harmful  to small businesses, risking a long slow strangulation of their business that will outlive the credit crunch.


 Mrs Reding is torn once again between supporting her friends in the film and music industries, and doing her job as Commissioner for the Information Society, which is based on an open Internet. What is at stake is that  she wants to stand for a third term as Commissioner.


It is evident that she is only interested in supporting the industry and not citizens. Her attempt to diminish the importance of Amendment 138 by citing statistics does not fool anyone ( see page 6 of her speech). Who in the Commission had time to count the Telecoms Package amendments?   

It seems to me to be a nonsense that  the Commission continues  to maintain this position that there is no other problem with the Telecoms Package. If Mrs Reding really wants to help Europe's Digital Economy, and develop the next-generation network infrastructure, her first step should be to remove the Internet restriction provisions  in the Telecoms  Package.

Moreover, her positioning of the Internet issue would appear a little  naive . She seems to think that it's only about 16-year olds, who need to be re-trained into passive consumers:


"Have we really looked at the issue through the eyes of a 16 year old? Or only from the

perspective of law professors who grew up in the Gutenberg Age?" she said... and she went on to say

 "Digital Europe can only be built with content creators on board; and with the generation of digital natives as interested users and innovative consumers"  

The implication is that the content creators are industry. The youth of today, who are used to creating their own content, are to be turned into mere ‘consumers'. What she fails to understand is that  people of all ages (over 18)  download. And the Internet is not just about media, music and film. People  do their banking and shopping, and job searches, and work,  on the Internet.  To position the issue around 16 year olds downloading pop music  is to shoot the arrow way off the target. 


What is also rather concerning, is that she launched a strategy for Digital Europe, based on partially-completed study, by the UK-based telecoms consultants  Analysys-Mason , and citing the Digital Britain report as an example to follow. The Digital Britain report, proposes, among other things, to give the regulator, Ofcom, the duty to reduce file-sharing and implement technical measures against file-sharers including protocol blocking. 


And  she still has an open consultation on Next Generation Networks and Universal Services.  It is arguably of limited benefit if the Commission does not intend to take the responses into account.



Read the speech: Viviane Reding: Digital Europe – Europe's Fast Track to Economic Recovery  


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009), 13 July 2009.  

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

Contact  me to use  iptegrity content for commercial purposes


States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web."

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net


FROM £15.99

Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.


Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark