Ansip: 'vested interests will fight us on copyright reform'

Ansip: 'vested interests will fight us on copyright reform'

"Vested interests" profiting only a few will attempt to hold up the reform of copyright, Andrus Ansip, vice president for the digital single market (DSM) at the European Commission, has said.

Speaking at the European Digital Forum in Brussels yesterday (1st June), Ansip said that copyright rules in Europe are a “mess”, and “we need to act with some urgency” to reform them. He also said that people “were tempted into illegal downloads” because they could not access their content when they went abroad.

But Ansip said creating a digital single market would not be easy. “There will be vested interests fighting us all the way: trying to keep things as they are, profiting only a few, putting a brake on innovation, preventing healthy disruption,” he said. “Take copyright, for example.

“Reforming Europe's copyright rules will be a major initiative in the DSM strategy and is expected to be one of the first that we propose, later this year. However we address this area, it will certainly be controversial. There are some very strong opinions out there when it comes to reforming copyright in Europe.”

Ansip said copyright reform would require “a delicate balance between increasing the opportunities for content users and protecting the rights of creators, who deserve to make a fair living”. Current rules are “not suited to the digital age, for responding to new technologies, consumer behaviour and market conditions”.

Ansip also said Europeans were “fed up” of not being able to access content abroad. “One in five Europeans sitting at home say they want to access content from other EU countries: films, e-books, audio books, news programmes,” he said. “Too often, people cannot do this. They are ready to pay, but they are not allowed to do so. Should they really have to resort to technological workarounds like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass the system, to achieve what should already be possible?

“Around 20% of Europeans use VPNs to do this. Too many people are also tempted into illegal downloads. That just means everybody loses out – and the creators are first.”

The Publishers Association has been among trade bodies voicing concerns on EU copyright reform.