EU plans overhaul of Internet download rules

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union needs new rules for Internet downloads that would make it easier for people to access music and films without resorting to piracy, the bloc’s telecoms chief said on Thursday.

Mapping out priorities of the EU’s executive arm for the next five years, EU Telecommunications Commissioner Viviane Reding said it should consider new laws that would reconcile the interests of intellectual property owners and Internet surfers.

“It will therefore be my key priority to work... on a simple, consumer friendly legal framework for accessing digital content in Europe’s single marker, while ensuring at the same time fair remuneration of creators,” she told a seminar.

Current laws are ill-devised, she said, because they appear to force people, especially the young generation, to become Internet pirates, or download content illegally.

“Internet piracy appears to become more and more sexy, in particular for the digital natives,” she said, quoting a survey that showed that 60 percent of people aged 16-24 downloaded audiovisual contented in the past months without paying.

“Growing Internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should a wake-up call for policy makers,” she told the seminar, organized by the Lisbon Council thinktank.

Reding is expected to seek the telecoms portfolio again in the next Commission after the five-year term of the current one ends late in 2009.

She said her other priority was to speed up the digitalization of books, with 90 percent of books in European libraries no longer commercially available.

The Commission should also seek to encourage payments with the use of mobile telephones by proposing common rules for them.

“The lack of common EU-wide standards and rules for ‘m-cash’ leaves the great potential of ‘m-commerce’ and the mobile web unexploited,” she said.

The Commission will work to popularize video-conferencing to cut the number of business trips, which would lower emissions of gases responsible for global warming.

“If businesses in Europe were to replace only 20 percent of all business trips with video conferencing, we could save more than 22 million tonnes of C02 per year,” she said.

She also urged European Union countries to accelerate the switchover from analog to digital television to free up airwaves for other applications such as mobile broadband.

“I call on EU governments not to wait until 2012, the deadline for the switchover. They should bring these benefits to citizens now.”

Editing by Philip Blenkinsop