Fundamental Values of Intellectual Property and Privacy Protection Key to Europe’s Digital Success – 3Qs to Commissioner Gabriel

Three questions to Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society

It is a busy autumn for digital policy making in the European Union. Netopia asked three urgent questions to the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel. In the first response, she makes it clear that member states can not expect any direct compensation for natural resources, but instead must value the longer-term benefits. The second question is in a new light after the geo-blocking agreement this week, but the question of locally adjusted price points remains for much of the Digital Single Market. Lastly, Netopia is happy to share Commissioner Gabriel’s vision of innovation and cultural diversity as the strengths for Europe going forward.

Netopia: You want to harmonise spectrum in the single market. But member states make a lot of money on national spectrum auctions. How would you convince them to give that up?

Commissioner Gabriel: What is on the table on spectrum as part of the Code reform is not about transferring or giving up some money. It is about building in Europe the most prosperous digital economy of the world. The future of growth in Europe will depend on its capacity to embrace the 5G revolution which will be at the centre of new services – e-health, connected and automated cars, education etc. Yet, the effective rise of 5G will depend on access to more spectrum, which will require that Member states agree to manage spectrum in a more harmonised and predictable way. Unless Member States realise that spectrum is the coal and steel of the digital age, and if we continue to manage this resource without coordination, it is possible that we collectively fail as we did with the roll out of 4G, for which coverage in Europe is well below current global standards across the developed nations.

In the proposed ban on geo-blocking, there is an exception for audio-visual services and video games. Is it true that you are against the exclusion of video games from the ban on geo-blocking? Many game companies offer lower prices in member states with lower purchasing power. Do you not want the consumers to have the benefit of locally adjusted price points for games?

The interest of European consumers is at the centre of this proposal: the geoblocking regulation proposal aims primarily at enabling consumers to have real access to a more diverse offer of goods and services across Europe. In this respect it is complementing the initiatives on roaming and portability that will make it easier to access content and communication services while traveling.

Co-legislators clearly confirmed the need for an exception for copyright protected audio-visual and non -audio-visual digital services

At the same time, we need to pay a particular attention to some sectors which have specificity like video games and music which are creative sectors.

The political agreement reached on 20 November by the co-legislators clearly confirmed the need for an exception for copyright protected audio-visual and non -audio-visual digital services. which includes video games. Co-legislators have also agreed to undertake a review which will take place two years after the entry into force of the regulation, which will assess whether the market conditions have changed and whether an inclusion of these services in the scope of the regulation should be considered.

What is Europe’s strength in the digital age? The US has venture capital and big data giants, Asia has big electronics manufacturers and cheap labour. What is Europe’s opportunity and how do you want to make policy to take advantage of that?

Europe has several key strengths in the digital age.

It can also rely on a set of fundamental values – intellectual property or privacy protection – which is enshrined into a solid set of laws which makes its legal environment predictable and balanced.

Europe is doing very well in research and development as well as for the digitalisation of its industry. Its innovation capacity together with its cultural diversity enable Europe to be very strong on digital content like software, music, movies, games or online applications. It can also rely on a set of fundamental values – intellectual property or privacy protection – which is enshrined into a solid set of laws which makes its legal environment predictable and balanced. The checks and balances as well as the social protection pillars that we have in Europe are also strong assets to enable our societies to benefit from digital opportunities while being stronger when facing the fractures, tensions and inequalities that are created by the current technological revolution.

Finally, in a global world where brain mobility is crucial, Europe should seize the opportunity of being one of the best places in the world to live in: the environment, culture, high tech centres should be considered as highly valuable assets for making Europe a high tech hot-spot.

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