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EPC news - March 2008

Your monthly EU media issues update direct from Europe's leading publishers




Dates for the diary

21 March - Deadline for registration for Open Alcohol Forum
17 April - Open Alcohol Forum, Brussels
9th-12th April - IADIS International Conference e-Society 2008, Algarve, Portugal
April - Art 29 Group will publish its study on search engines
1st half 2009 - Possible adoption of revised Broadcasting Communication (Commission)


Key issues of the month

Content online: EPC submits consultation document

Responding to the European Commission’s Communication on Creative Content Online by the 29 February deadline, the European Publishers Council (EPC) has broadly welcomed the document as “timely, clear and insightful” whilst using this opportunity to put a strong case for copyright, zero-rated VAT, acknowledgement of the importance of advertising, and protection against unfair competition from publicly funded services.

The Communication’s objective is “to launch further actions to support the development of innovative business models and the deployment of cross-border delivery of diverse online creative services.”

The EPC has said that it is keen to see continued support for traditional publishing which is still, and is set to be for some time, the biggest market in terms of revenues from digital distribution and exploitation of content. It sees one of its greatest threats as unfair competition from publicly funded services. In its paper, the EPC says: “The overriding challenge for the Commission is to ensure that, whilst it encourages new players, it does nothing to hinder, or worse, destroy the ability of established players to develop the market for new services. That is the only way that the Commission can fully realise its i2010 agenda for the benefit of citizens and consumers.”

The EPC is very pleased that the Commission has taken on board many of its concerns and especially pleased that the Commission has shown its support for the ACAP initiative[1] <#_ftn1> that is cited in the document as “ a commendable practice”.

However, the EPC has complained that it is still not getting the response it wants on VAT. One of the most important drivers for digital distribution in the publishing industry is allowing Member States to apply a reduced VAT rate or online publishing services. There should be no tax on reading or on access to content.

On advertising, the EPC says that it is vital that the Commission appreciate the crucial importance of advertising in the digital content revolution.

The EPC paper calls on the Commission to ensure that any initiatives taken as a follow-up to this Communication take full account of the importance of advertising in supporting and funding online publishing in the absence of traditional revenues.

The EPC is looking forward to participating in the “Content Online Platform” proposed in the Communication, and in further consultation in advance of any Recommendation being published by the Council.”


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ACAP: EPC initiative project cited in UK Government policy document

ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol), the new, open, global protocol that puts content owners in control of their online content in a way that is conducive to developing new online business models, putting new, high-quality content on the net and to maximizing the benefits of the relationship with search engines, has been cited as a new solution for the vast array of end-uses of content in the UK Government's major content industry strategy document. The document reads:

“An automated content access protocol for the publishing industry

The licensing of information collected from the internet is one issue that has emerged as traditional publishers develop new businesses on line. Pupils may use such content as reference material for their course work. Bloggers may link to it to promote their argument. And aggregators will typically collect content on a common theme from different sources.

Each group has very different requirements, but web-based licensing systems have not kept pace. Consequently, many publishers are not able to tune licences to users’ needs as they can with print. And traditional income projections are now unreliable because web based material can be repackaged in different ways without acknowledging the original source. The existing online licensing cannot discriminate between users’ needs and has limited application.

A group of international IP experts drawn from newspapers, magazines and content aggregators has been developing a new standard which can be adapted to differing end-uses of content. UK companies played a major part in this work, which has been led by Mark Bide of Rightscom Ltd since 2006. Following a £500,000 pilot to test the concept, a new Automated Content Access Protocol was launched in New York in November for extended commercial use. Its scope will be extended beyond text in the future to include still images, sound and movies.” (PDF file)

Project Director Mark Bide of Rightscom Limited said: “We are of course absolutely delighted with the UK Government’s support and ACAP is now cited directly in two policy documents: this one and the European Commission’s Communication on online creative content.

“ACAP is well on the way to being adopted as a universal open standard which will benefit everyone with an interest in digital content: large corporations, small corporations or indeed individuals. ACAP is all about maximising the potential of the Internet for making more and more high-quality content accessible and for giving all content providers the motivation and confidence to create and disseminate.”


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EP calls for tougher copyright protection

The European Parliament is urging member states to adopt newly drafted EU rules on copyright protection which includes the introduction of harmonised criminal sanctions across Europe for activities ranging from illegal downloading to the sale of counterfeit medicines.

The move is intended to stimulate the debate among member states - some of which are reluctant to go down the European legislative route in areas traditionally reserved for national authorities.

Socialist MEP Nicola Zingaretti has written to the Council asking them to take "urgent action" to address the "increasingly systematic violation of copyright by some Internet users".


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European Commission announces consultation process on Levies

On 14th February the Commissioner for the internal Market announced the consultation procedure. Commissioner Mr McCreevy said : 'There is a need for a genuine open discussion between all stakeholders and that is what the present consultation is designed to facilitate. There can be no question of calling into doubt the entitlement of rightsholders to compensation for private copying. At the same time there is a need to look at how the levies are applied in practice. It should be possible to envisage some workable solution that assures the rightsholders of their due compensation and at the same time applying the levies in a way that is commensurate with the loss caused by private copying. If pragmatic and workable solutions are to be found, all sides need to come to this debate with a constructive approach.'

Mr McCreevy said that the consultation period would be open until 18 April. He added that the Commission would then hold an open hearing in June which would endeavour to see if a common approach between all stakeholders can be developed.


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Term of copyright protection of the performers will be extended

Commissioner Charlie McCreevy announced on 14th February his intention to propose to the College that the term of copyright protection for European performers be increased from 50 to 95 years.

The Commissioner stressed that the proposal should not have a negative impact on consumer prices. "Empirical studies on the price effects of copyright protection show that the price of sound recordings that are out of copyright is not necessarily lower than that of sound recordings in copyright.


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Mobile data price cap threatened

Commissioner Viviane Reding has said that the Commission will regulate the cost of text messages sent and received abroad if the industry does not tackle overcharging. The measure would only affect wholesale prices though as Mrs Reding has said that it would not be appropriate to regulate consumer prices in such a young and developing market.

"Sending text messages or downloading data via a mobile phone while in another EU country should not be substantially more expensive for a consumer than sending text messages or downloading data at home," Reding told a mobile industry conference in Barcelona.

"This is the logic of the borderless single market which we in Europe agreed to create already 50 years ago. Higher retail charges abroad must be justified by additional cost of operators, or they will have to disappear," she said.

"The real breakthrough for data roaming will only come when the inter operator tariffs start to fall to a substantial level," she said. "It is these wholesale tariffs where the real problem lies for data roaming. Substantial retail price reductions are certainly desirable, but unless the inter operator tariffs also fall there is a danger of price squeeze."

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European Commission’s labelling proposal misses the target

The Choices International Foundation, a world-wide initiative set up to make the healthy choice the easy choice - has called for the European Commission and the European Parliament to consider the option to put a positive logo that highlights healthy choices, as well as a GDA-based energy logo front-of-pack, with full GDAs back-of-pack. The Choices International Foundation supports the European Commission’s initiative to make food labelling clearer and more relevant, but criticises the measure to put too much information front-of-pack which it thinks will deter many consumers, who spend little time on reading labels. Food labelling can play an important role in helping the consumer make informed choices when buying food, and thus can contribute to a healthier diet. Many food companies are looking for ways to offer effective food labelling, following the calls from the World Health Organization and the European Commission. As the number of different labels, each with a different format and – more importantly – different meaning, is increasing, the consumer gets confused rather than informed. A common approach for all companies in food industry, retail and catering is warranted. The European Commission’s food labelling proposal, released last month, requires products to show front-of-pack energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars and salt content of the product, expressed in terms of 100ml/100g or per portion as well as reference intakes (Guidelines Daily Amounts). It further allows national voluntary schemes to co-exist alongside EU requirements. Jup van ‘t Veld, secretary to the Choices International Foundation, says “it is important to distinguish the two objectives of food labelling: to inform the consumer about the nutritional composition of the product, and to guide the consumer to make the healthy choice among alternative products.” “GDA-labelling can be helpful in informing the consumer, as it offers objective nutritional information, but it leaves the interpretation to the consumers. ‘Choices’ interprets that information beforehand by assigning a simple logo to healthy choices only after meeting stringent qualifying criteria. Those criteria also include positive nutrients while GDA only mentions ‘negative’ nutrients.” “Apart from motivating consumers, the Choices Programme is a powerful incentive for food industry to improve products in order to make them eligible for the label,” van ‘t Veld adds. The Choices Programme provides a single logo across European countries thereby facilitating the internal market. The Choices label is fully compatible with the CIAA labelling scheme; GDAs are an informative complement to the guiding system of Choices. “Yet, an obligation to put full GDAs front-of-pack would be very counter-productive. It would become difficult for the consumer to correctly interpret all the information, as we know that consumers usually spend little time on reading labels. And as it focuses on ‘negative’ ingredients only, it could even lead to extreme diets.”


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Data protection

Search engines outside EU must stick by EU rules

European data privacy regulators have said that Internet search engines based outside Europe must also comply with EU rules on how a person's Internet address or search history is stored. EU rules state that someone must consent to their data being collected and individuals must be given the right to object or verify their information.

Any ISP with “an establishment” in any EU Member State or indeed any ISP that uses automated equipment from an EU Member State, must comply.

Meanwhile, European privacy regulators are set to impose tighter restrictions on the way search engines such as those of Yahoo and Microsoft keep customer data. Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner and chairman of the Article 29 working party that advises the European Union on privacy policy, has accused search engines of keeping data too long. Mr Schaar has said that the working party also plans to investigate targeted advertising in terms of data protection. This could be another potential blow to companies building businesses around their ability to profile and deliver tailored advertising to consumers.


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Information society

Online security remains a concern to EU citizens

In 2006, 12% of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU had not yet ordered goods or services over the internet because of worries about giving credit card or personal details online. Security and privacy concerns were most apparent in Spain, Finland and Cyprus according to data published by Eurostat on the occasion of the 5th Safer Internet Day.

The percentage of individuals aged 16 to 74 in the EU27 who ordered goods or services over the internet increased from 24% in 2005 to 30% in 2007. In the EU27, the percentage of internet users, which is to say individuals aged 16 to 74 who had used the internet in the last three months, increased from 52% in 2006 to 57% in 2007. During the same time period, the proportion of internet users who used internet banking grew from 38% to 44%. In 2007, nearly a quarter of internet users had had a computer virus in the preceding 12 months, which resulted in a loss of information or time.

The European Commission’s Safer Internet Programme is available at


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Open Alcohol Form – Brussels, Thursday 17 April 2023

Within the framework of the European Alcohol and Health Forum, the Commission services is organising an 'Open Forum' on Thursday, 17 April 2008 in Brussels.

The overall objective of the Forum is to provide a common platform for all interested stakeholders at EU level that pledge to step up actions relevant to reducing alcohol-related harm, notably in the following areas:

  • strategies aimed at curbing under-age drinking;
  • information and education programmes on the effect of harmful drinking and on responsible patterns of consumption;
  • possible development of efficient common approaches throughout the Community to provide adequate consumer information;
  • actions to better enforce age limits for selling and serving alcohol;
  • interventions promoting effective behavioural change among children and adolescents;
  • cooperation to promote responsibility in and prevent irresponsible commercial communication and sales.


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Postal services

Time up for legal monopolies on 31 December 2023

The Third Postal Directive has been published setting out a timetable for the abolition of legal monopolies on postal services by 31 December 2010. The Directive is the result of a broad political consensus on the way forward for the regulatory framework of European postal services. The Commission will monitor and assist Member States pro-actively in implementing the Directive. In particular, it will pay close attention to potential entry barriers that would deprive users of the benefit of a dynamic and open market.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said that: "agreeing this Third Postal Directive was a job well done. But work is hardly finished. A Directive means little if it is not properly transposed in national law and rigorously implemented on the ground. We have to be vigilant to ensure that what is given by one hand is not taken away by the other."

Commissioner McCreevy also insisted on the huge potential of the postal sector and said "I am not among those that consider it yesterday's business. It has a great future, that can not be substituted by electronic means. If anything, electronic commerce provides an opportunity rather than a threat to postal services. The postal sector provides essential infrastructure for our citizens and companies to communicate with each other. We can't have a state of the art economy without a state of the art postal sector."


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For more information please contact:
For more information, please contact Angela Mills-Wade , EPC Executive Director on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or Heidi Lambert on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or visit

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