Reinforcing the competitiveness of Europe’s publishing industry
Par Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media
The high-level event provides a perfect opportunity to give you the headline messages from our recent consultation on the competitiveness of the publishing industry. We published a Commission Staff Working Paper on the competitiveness of the industry. It was not a consultation on a directive, and this document did not represent a formal position of the college. Three Member States offered contributions, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. That they contribute to this consultation is a testament to the importance that they attach to the continuing health of the publishing industry.
All respondents to the consultation are optimistic that publishing will make the transition to electronic delivery successfully, in their own time. A key competitive advantage is the established brands that you have, and the trust that you have built up in those brands.
Trust means that professional publishing will survive even in our new age of text bloggers and video bloggers, when consumers can generate their own content. This seems to be a reasonable assessment for Europe. (…)
The need for a strong and predictable copyright regime is a leitmotiv that runs throughout this consultation. Authors and publishers agree on this. You call for the Commission to maintain Directive 96/9 on the protection of databases. Authors even question the need for a review of copyright.
Digital rights management arouses the concern of consumers because they fear that big media companies will use DRMs to lock down content and increase prices. Other respondents including publishers have a much more positive view, considering that DRMs will enable new business models and that the data they generate will reveal new consumption models and enhance collective management of rights.
Authors are willing to cooperate in developing new business models but they are concerned about publishers’ market power in negotiations; so they insist on the continuing need for collective management of copyright. I have no problem with the principle of collective management. What worries me more is the national structure of collective management, which partitions the Single Market. We need a forward-looking approach to copyright that exploits the flexibility of new technologies and offers new possibilities to publishers, authors and users, on a European scale. From the Information Society side, I am reflecting on the possibility of a policy document on DRMs during 2006 in order to try and build bridges between those who consider them to be an opportunity and those who consider them to be a threat.
The consultation also signalled your strong support for voluntary self-regulation in advertising. Predictably consumers prefer legal guarantees. You insist on maintaining a strict distinction between licensed media – broadcasting – and unlicensed media, publishing, using the opportunity to signal your concerns about my plans to revise the Television without Frontiers Directive.(…)
The existing “Television without Frontiers Directive” is inspired by Single Market principles, especially the country of origin principle. Many of you signalled your strong support for this principle in the publishing consultation, notably in relation to Rome II. This instrument seeks to harmonise the law applicable to non-contractual obligations. Rome II covers issues such as defamation and violation of privacy. You are concerned about the impact on press freedom this will have. Private law is not based on the “country of origin” principle, rather the law of the country where the damage takes place. This is also called the “country of destination” principle. You fear that harmonising on this second principle will expose you to the law of multiple national jurisdictions; you are concerned that litigants will be able to go forum shopping in order to find the most favourable jurisdiction for the award of damages.
I must acknowledge that you publishers – and the broadcasters – have undertaken a rather brilliant campaign in support of the “country of origin” principle. Because of you, the European Parliament has rejected “country of destination” in favour of “country of origin”, ignoring the advice of its own legal affairs committee. This puts the Commission in a difficult position. In spite of our strong belief in the country of origin principle, we know well that Member States will never accept the full “country of origin” principle in Rome II. It favours, in their view, publishers too much compared with victims. And Member States point out that the right to privacy is as much a fundamental right as freedom of expression. (…)
The Commission considers that the compromise proposed in the Wallis report merits further consideration. It would allow a court in country A to apply the law of country B. Only one legal code would apply; this is the same underlying principle as the “country of origin”, a single jurisdiction. The alternative is to exclude defamation from the scope of Rome II. The Commission could accept this, but the Council wants to include it. Please reflect carefully on your position, because the option you support is not acceptable in the private law context.
In conclusion, I want the converging media content industries to deliver more growth to the European economy in line with the Lisbon agenda. They already contribute 0.5% of EU GDP. There is scope for further growth, both in respect of the rapidly expanding on-line platform and in digital TV.
Second, I wanted improved working relations between the media industries and the Commission. Inevitably, some policy initiatives still touch on the media; but I hope they are more focused and proportionate. Improved policy co-ordination will complement Commissioner Wallström’s efforts to improve the presentation of our policies, which you will hear about later today. In my view, policies motivated by “Better Regulation” will anyway be easier to communicate and require less “spin”.
I wish you all the best for a series of lively and successful debates during this Publishers’ Forum.
Extract: SPEECH /05/764, Reinforcing the competitiveness of Europe’s publishing industry, by Viviane REDING, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media European Publishers Forum, Brussels, 6 December 2005