A Top EU Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, Takes the First Step: Admits Copyright Has A Problem

Neelie Kroes has made the Forbes' list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women numerous times. She is an economist, who has worked as a member of Parliament and as the Minister of Transport, Public Works and Telecommunication in the Netherlands. Since 2004, Ms. Kroes has served as VP of the EU Commission. One of her responsibilities for the EU is woking with big content owners and telecoms, overseeing information and communications technology policy for all of Europe.

In a Sept. 10th, 2012 techdirt post Mike Masnick observes that Ms. Kroes (after initial doubts about her close ties to big business) has increasingly become an advocate for new business models and a rethinking of the old rules - like copyright - to better conform with the new digital reality.

In particular, on Sept. 10th, 2012 Neelie Kroes addressed an Intellectual Property and Innovation Summit held in Lisbon.

In that speech, Ms. Kroes called for a revision of the entire copyright scheme. Her argument against Old World copyright was built upon the barriers to trade that the existing copyright laws and practices encourage. For example:

"[O]nline licensing restrictions make it impossible to buy music legally. Sometimes, for example, you can't buy an MP3 across an EU border."

The existing laws, according to Ms. Kroes, do not measure up to the requirements of 21st century business:

"Do they make it easier or harder for people to upload and distribute their own, new creative content? And is that the best way to boost creativity and innovation?"

Perhaps most revolutionary, was the acknowledgement from Ms. Kroes that the world has fundamentally changed in the last 14 years. Ms. Kroes' eloquent explanation of how far we've come from the Old World of gatekeepers (many of whom are the large corporate powers that support the EU) - to the New World of the distributed network, should be required reading for every filmmaker and film educator, and anyone who uses the word "pirate" to describe creators and fans who upload and interact with (remix/parody/transform) content online:

"The last major EU copyright instrument, the Copyright Directive, was adopted in 2001. The Commission proposals it was based on date back to 1998.

Let's remind ourselves what's happened since then.

In 1998, Mark Zuckerberg was 14. Today, almost one billion people around the world actively use Facebook, to share photos, videos, and ideas.

In 1998, YouTube didn't exist. Today, one hour of video is uploaded every second.

In 1998, most people listened to music on the radio, CD or tape. Now digital downloads often overtake conventional sales. New technologies allow downloading or streaming; easily, instantly, wherever you are. Not just to passively listen, but to interact and give feedback, to creators and friends.

But changes are not limited to the content business, they affect all sectors. Huge changes have taken place in the research area. Today, new scientific discoveries don't just come from new experiments, new drugs, new clinical trials: in fact, now, we can get new results by manipulating existing data. Data and text-mining techniques now lie behind a huge field of research, like human genome projects, potentially life-saving. They could hold the key to the next medical breakthrough, if only we freed them from their current legal tangle. Research activities are not clearly exempted from the copyright rules and there are many different rules in the 27 member states.

And here's the most important change since 1998. Back then, creation and distribution were in the hands of the few. Now they are in the hands of everyone: democratizing innovation, empowering people to generate and exchange ideas, supporting and stimulating huge creativity."

The ideas expressed by Neelie Kroes on Sept. 10, 2012 are nothing new to readers of this blog - but they are striking considering where they come from - deep inside the pro-business and deeply conservative EU Commission.

When even the EU Commission is acknowledging the change in how content circulates - how much longer will it be before new systems for monetizing digital content become the standard for doing business?

As they say in AA: "The first step is to admit you have a problem."

Thanks to Lance Weiler for the link.

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