European Commission releases Copyright and Telecom rules: end of Europe’s digital single market ambitions?

BY Heather Greenfield
September 14, 2016

Brussels, BELGIUM — The European Commission issued its proposals on Telecoms and Copyright today as part of the Digital Single Market Framework. Both proposals will impact Internet users, online services and more generally, most businesses using the Internet.

TELECOM LEGISLATION

The European Commission announced a revision of the EU’s telecoms rules that appears to contradict some of the previous goals of the Digital Single Market plan. The telecoms rules touch on issues as diverse as spectrum policy, access regulation and the rules for providing services. For the first time these rules cover next generation communications services provided online and not by telecoms companies. This may require these companies to connect to emergency services operators and possibly comply with future ePrivacy rules.

The following telecoms quotes may be attributed to James Waterworth, Vice President of CCIA Europe:

“Europeans benefit hugely from innovative online communications services giving consumers new ways to communicate for free or at low cost. Such services are also the embodiment of the digital single market. These services are often free so companies, especially smaller ones, may not be able to comply with these regulations in all markets, which would be a shame for companies and consumers.”

“By including online communications services in the scope of these sort of telecoms rules, the Commission will fragment the market with 28 sets of rules to be followed rather than 1. This is the opposite of its stated objective. It may also drive some popular communications options out of the market, reducing competition and preventing the release of new features in Europe.”

“The Commission should use this opportunity to reduce regulation in the hugely competitive market for communications services, rather than adding complexity. It should remain ‘technology neutral’ so that high speed networks can be deployed as quickly and cheaply as possible.”

For additional background information on the impact on online communications services and their users, please see Waterworth’s DisCo blog post here.

COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION

Meanwhile, the European Commission also has announced a revision of the EU’s copyright rules. The rules introduce, among others, a neighbouring right for press publishers covering the online uses of their news publications and the implementation of content filtering technologies by user-generated content services. The new rules also threaten the current limited liability regime of hosting providers, backbone of the digital economy.

The following copyright quotes may be attributed to Maud Sacquet, Public Policy Manager at CCIA Europe:

“The European Commission promised us a modern, more European copyright framework. Instead, the Commission’s proposal is backward-looking, to the detriment of Internet users’ fundamental rights and Europe’s creativity, innovation and research.”

“The European Commission’s promise not to reopen the e-Commerce Directive is broken. This proposal may mean thousands of websites become liable for the wrongdoing of by their users, with a devastating impact on the digital economy.

“The neighbouring right for press publishers will make it harder for Internet users to find information and more expensive for startups to innovate, at a time when continued innovation in news technology is necessary”.

“Requiring content filtering technologies does not comply with the ban on general monitoring from the e-Commerce Directive. Such a measure does not respect users’ fundamental rights and will be detrimental to European startups.”

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