EU copyright laws stifling Netflix-like services

European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kreos

Speaking at the World Copyright Summit, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kreos said that Europe’s strict copyright laws are inhibiting the development of Netflix-like services on the continent—and, as a result, Europe is falling behind the United States and other nations in terms of providing digital content to consumers.

“While US companies compete to provide attractive online content experience to millions of consumers, Europe can boast several regional players at best,” Kroes said. “This has to change.”

Although the European market boasts some half a billion consumers, developed economies, and widespread adoption of broadband technologies, the European Commission finds music downloads in the United States are four times the levels in Europe, primarily due to barriers imposed by regional copyright laws. Kroes went on to laud the success of services like Netflix while at the same time noting that services like Spotify are still unable to offer service throughout the EU due to the complexities of legal digital media distribution.

European copyright regulation is managed on a nation-by-nation basis.

“Some people say that I am for compulsory pan-European licensing, some even say I am against copyright!” Kroes said in her remarks. “But the reality is much more pragmatic. I want a European copyright system that enables this dream to be realized: I am utterly neutral as to how we get there.”

The European commissioner for internal markets announced last month that the agency plans to develop a system for multinational copyright licenses the would be valid in several nations. While the system may help break down some regionalism in European copyright, it’s not yet clear how the licenses would sort out, or whether, in the end, they would be a significant help.

“Time is not on our side,” Kroes noted.

Kroes was previously the head of the EU’s competition commission; during her tenure, the EU laid down massive $1.35 billion and $1.45 billion antitrust penalties against Microsoft and Intel, respectively.