Digital Agenda: Caution required for the future EU Net policies (Press Release)

Strasbourg, May 19, 2010 - Today, with the release of Neelie Kroes' Digital Agenda, the European Commission is unveiling major policy orientations regarding Internet-related policies. Several leaked drafts of the document revealed heavy pressures from various special interest groups. While the general outcome of the final document is encouraging, the crucial question of interoperability and open standards was eventually arbitrated in favour of US software vendors' positions. On IPR enforcement and cybercrime, the worst has been avoided but some very ambiguous wording remains.

A more detailed analysis of the Digital Agenda is available.

  • Creative Content: After years of the blatant conservatism of rights holders, the Digital Agenda makes a first timid first step to move forward1. It might eventually pave the way to a reasonable and balanced evolution of copyright in the EU if it leads to a truly open debate on the question, and creates the conditions for a possible policy-shift.
  • Cybercrime: A final addition of very ambiguous language illustrates pressure from Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to include wording supporting Internet blocking and filtering in the Digital Agenda2. The language could lead to dangerous interpretations. While removing pedopornographic content from the Internet is the only way to effectively fight child abuse worldwide, "preventing viewing" could refer to filters installed and controlled by end-users or to the very problematic network-wide blocking of websites.
  • Net neutrality: While announcing a consultation on the matter over the summer in view of the report due to the Parliament by the end of the year, the Digital Agenda acknowledges the importance of Net neutrality for freedom of expression.
  • Interoperability: The deletion of references to open standards in the Digital Agenda3 is a clear defeat for innovation and competition on the Internet. It seems to be a clear indication of the dangerous influence of the lobbies of proprietary software manufacturers on the Commission.

"The whole Digital Agenda is the partly equivocal result of ongoing tensions within the Commission, but it also reveals intense pressure coming from corporate lobbies. While parts of the agenda are somewhat disappointing for open standards and Free Software users, the proposals are quite encouraging overall. That said, the Digital Agenda is not binding for the future of EU legislation. It should be an invitation for every citizen to ensure that this constructive document turns into a continued commitment to the public interest. We congratulate Mrs Kroes and hope that she will be able to stand strong against special interests in order to pave the way for a true knowledge society, respectful of people's fundamental freedoms", says Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen-advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

A more detailed analysis of the Digital Agenda is available.

  • 1. The document states some interesting objectives for reforming the collective management of copyright in order to mitigate the control of entertainment companies on the circulation of cultural works and better recognizes users' prerogatives. How much these objectives will actually result in a better balance remains to be assessed at the time of implementation. The Commission is also aware of the need to move ahead to ensure that out-of-prints and orphan works will be available to European Internet users
  • 2. "(…) to tackle sexual exploitation and child pornography, alert platforms can be put in place at national and EU levels, alongside measures to remove and prevent viewing of harmful content"
  • 3. The IDABC European Programme previously adopted an internationally endorsed demanding definition of open standards