National borders on the web are here to stay: The Commission’s draft strategy falls far short of establishing a digital single market in Europe – this is my assessment of the draft digital single market strategy which was leaked by Politico yesterday.

The ambition to ‘break down national silos‘ in the EU’s copyright framework has given way to timid political horse-trading: Instead of a comprehensive update, patchy measures against geoblocking appear to have been bartered for tougher enforcement of infringement. The Commission is making a huge mistake in caving to industry pressure in an area in which Europeans by the thousands have clamored for more Europe!

‘Roaming for Netflix’ is not enough, we need a net free from borders and dis- crimination! Tweet this!

We must put an end to the practice of locking people out of digital content based on their geographical location. Talking about the ‘portability of legally purchased content’ misses the point: In many EU countries large amounts of works are not offered for purchase today. Streaming services like YouTube financed by advertising and public broadcasters financed by taxes and fees would not be covered by introducing portability for acquired content – and thus most of the cases in which ‘this video is not available in your country’ would remain.

The Commission wants to leave open loopholes for geoblocking ‘where costs associated with cross-border e-commerce would be too high’. What we need is not just ‘roaming for Netflix’, but an Internet free from borders and discrimination. Cultural and linguistic minorities, for one, must no longer technically be prevented from accessing cultural offerings across borders. Offline, this is one of the EU’s central principles – we must not compromise on its digital implementation.

28 different EU copyright frameworks – that’s incom- prehensible Tweet this!

Barring substantial changes to the draft, 28 different copyright frameworks will remain to encumber the EU. Without harmonising at least the exceptions and limitations, a digital single market cannot be established. This way, it will remain illegal in some member states to share a photo you took of a public landmark – that is incomprehensible. People’s everyday online activities will remain mired in legal uncertainty – from simply sharing a link to modern cultural practices like audiovisual quotations. The 28 rulesets will continue to pose barriers to European startups, whose significance the Commission elsewhere pays lip service to – as well as to cultural institutions like libraries and archives.

Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is mentioned in the draft in the same breath as terrorist propaganda and child sexual abuse. The Commission appears to be considering obligating online platforms to actively monitor user content. This approach would not just further threaten human rights online, but also increase the costs for the development of online platforms in a way that concedes the market to the existing dominant players.


If the EU Commission doesn’t significantly strengthen this draft ahead of the strategy’s publication on May 6, we will miss the opportunity to create a working European digital single market. I can only hope that the remark ‘evidence [is] still needed here’ found in the draft doesn’t indicate that the only work remaining is to justifiy these unambitious plans.

My evaluation of 2001’s Copyright Directive for the European Parliament will be voted on in the Legal Affairs Committee on May 6/7. The plenary vote is expected for June 10.

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One comment

  1. 1
    Janette Miller

    Go for it!