Impala’s digital single market strategy summary

Following the release of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy last week we would like to promote IMPALA’s summary of the main points of importance, below.

Revising the copyright framework and transfer of value/host exemption
The EC wants more harmonisation of copyright rules, and better access to works by users, across the EU. Of importance to us, and in line with IMPALA’s calls, the EC will seek to clarify the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content. The EC will also modernise enforcement of IP rights with a focus on the “follow the money” approach. The point on the intermediaries’ relationship to copyrighted works is a direct consequence of IMPALA and other music organisations’ push for clarification that services should not be able to hide behind the liability exemptions/safe harbour when they are distributing music.

The EC will table proposals on portability, cross-border access, greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions. The copyright proposals will be tabled towards the end of this year.
The EC is also planning to review the satellite and cable directive to assess the need to enlarge its scope to broadcasters’ online transmissions.

Platforms and intermediaries
As hoped, the EC is taking a closer look at online platforms and intermediaries. It will launch before the end of 2015 a comprehensive assessment of the role of platforms which will cover issues such as transparency (e.g. in search results), platforms’ use of collected data, constraints on the ability of individuals and businesses to move from one platform to another. A key move for IMPALA will be the EC’s assessment of the relationship between platforms and suppliers, and the strategy flags the impact on SMEs as a specific concern. IMPALA specifically asked the EC to have a closer look at the relationship  between big platforms and SMEs suppliers and possible unfair trading practices. The EC will also analyse how best to tackle illegal content online.

Competition sector enquiry into e-commerce
The EC is launching a competition sector inquiry focusing on the application of competition law in the e-commerce area. It will focus on goods and services in which e-commerce is most widespread (e.g. clothes, electronics, etc.) as well as digital content, and will cover all EU member states. We are seeking clarity on the scope of this.

Reducing VAT burdens
The EC will make proposals in 2016 to reduce burdens related to having to deal with different VAT regimes. Proposals will include extending the one-stop-shop already in place for broadcasting and electronic services to intra-EU and third country online sales of tangible goods, introducing a threshold for small businesses and removing the VAT exemption for the importation of small consignments from suppliers in third countries. The EC is also planning to explore how to address the difference in VAT rates between certain e-services (books are mentioned as an example).

Preventing unjustified geo-blocking
The Commission will table proposals in the first half of 2016 to end ‘unjustified’ geo-blocking (practice of restricting access to content to specific regions). While this does not appear to be a big issue for the music sector, we will keep a close eye  on this.

Affordable high-quality cross-border parcel delivery
The postal industry is invited to conduct a self-regulation exercise to improve cross-border parcel delivery and price transparency. The EC will monitor action taken by the industry, launch complementary measures and assess the need for additional measures after two years from adoption of these first measures.

Review of the audiovisual media services directive
The EC plans to review the audiovisual media services directive, with a focus on measures for the promotion of European works, the rules on protection of minors, and advertising rules.

New telecoms rules
After failing to achieve much progress with its previous attempt to modernise the telecoms regulatory framework, the EC is now planning to present in 2016 another overhaul of the sector.

Other initiatives in the strategy include: the establishment of a public-private partnership on cybersecurity, reviewing the ePrivacy directive (once new rules on data protection are adopted), tackling restrictions on the free movement of data, working on standardisation and interoperability, addressing digital skills, and presenting an e-government action plan.

For further information you can read the full press release here, the full Communication here and the factsheet here.