EU Telecommunications Commissioner Viviane Reding believes music download pricing should be simplified and harmonized in order to prevent piracy. Reding made these comments last week during a speech about digital Europe at an event in Brussels held by the Lisbon Council. Download a PDF of her speech here. A YouTube video with excerpts of the speech is (here.

My first and most important priority for Digital Europe is: To make it easier and more attractive to access digital content, wherever produced in Europe. The availability of attractive content that appeals to European viewers, listeners and readers will be decisive in driving further the take-up of high-speed broadband internet. It is therefore regrettable that we currently have an extremely polarized debate on the matter: While many right holders insist that every unauthorized download from the internet is a violation of intellectual property rights and therefore illegal or even criminal, others stress that access to the internet is a crucial fundamental right. Let me be clear on this: Both sides are right. The drama is that after long and often fruitless battles, both camps have now dug themselves in their positions, without any signs of opening from either side.

In the meantime, internet piracy appears to become more and more "sexy", in particular for the digital natives already, the young generation of intense internet users between 16 and 24. This generation should become the foundation of our digital economy, of new innovation and new growth opportunities. However, Eurostat figures show that 60% of them have downloaded audiovisual content from the internet in the past months without paying. And 28% state that they would not be willing to pay.

These figures reveal the serious deficiencies of the present system. It is necessary to penalise those who are breaking the law. But are there really enough attractive and consumer-friendly legal offers on the market? Does our present legal system for Intellectual Property Rights really live up to the expectations of the internet generation? … In my view, growing internet piracy is a vote of no-confidence in existing business models and legal solutions. It should be a wake-up call for policy-makers.

Reding then gave two examples: An EU-facilitated licensing scheme to overcome the time and expense required to license media across the fractured, 27-member market; and a "modern set of European rules that encourage the digitisation of books." In addition, Reding called for a consumer-friendly space for mobile payments and for more small companies in the digital economy.

Reding offered no details, but she clearly desires a reduction in piracy through new business models, not additional penalties, but her comments are out of sync with anti-piracy measures in some countries. And she showed more empathy toward teenagers than media companies. In the UK, the Digital Britain report calls for a carrot-and-stick approach. Harsher anti-piracy measures have been proposed in France.

Rather than talk about anti-piracy measures that seek immediate results, Reding emphasized long-term goals that, she believes, will eventually reduce piracy. "To seize this potential in our digital economy," she said, “Europe will need to create the right framework for ensuring effective competition and sound regulatory conditions in a well-functioning single market as well as incentives for innovation.”

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