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How European Copyright Laws Encourage People to Pirate Media

The Anti-MediaJun 14, 2015, 3:38:21 PM

Josh Paniagua June 13, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Copyright laws in the European Union are being targeted for reform. The Digital Single Market strategy was recently endorsed by the European Commission to create a less restricted online platform for citizens of different countries.

Currently, E.U. copyright laws vary by region, creating a web of 28 markets with conflicting regulations. Due to these laws, online restrictions such as geo-blocking not only prevent users from reaching specific content, but impair the reach of businesses both small and large and prevent them from initiating cross-border transactions with foreign customers.


Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the Digital Single Market, addressed the issue at the MIdem, an annual music industry conference (full interview here). According to Ansip, the current regulations across the European Union encourage people to download pirated material due to their inability to access it legally. Norway seems to be a perfect example of the effectiveness of this logic, as they recently gave their citizens access to paid media outlets.

In Norway some years ago, 80% said they are using so-called ‘free’ downloads,” Ansip said. “But today, just 4% of Norwegian people say they are using free downloads.”

Additionally, Ansip mentions that Australia experienced a similar phenomenon when Spotify became available. As one may have guessed, the more people downloaded Spotify, the more illegal downloading was curbed.

To put it simply, after the citizens of Norway and Australia were given the option to pay for safe streaming and media, they preferred it over illegal downloads. Therefore, it would be rational to assume that providing legal services to the entire European Union would substantially decrease the unauthorized download rate, which is staggering in Europe. According to Ansip, approximately 68% of movie viewers in the E.U. use pirated material.

Although many users see this initiative as progressive and hopeful, there are critics. Many filmmakers, distributors, producers, and others have been loud opponents of the Digital Single Market. They claim the reform mainly benefits companies with a global presence, such as Netflix, Google, and Amazon. Other opponents argue that putting a cap on how far individual territories can go with their copyright laws is an attack on European cultural diversity.

The Digital Single Market has made it clear that it does not wish to revoke the rights of individual regions to establish their own copyright laws. However, its does intend to revisit laws that inhibit the flow of online business and access across the European Union. Ansip states in his interview:

I’m not against territoriality, I’m against absolute territorial exclusivity. We have to allow portability of the content. There are 100 million Europeans sitting at home who would like to get access to digital content in some other E.U. member states but they cannot, because of geo-blocking.”

Frankly, even from an American perspective, it is relieving to see something as touchy as copyright law receive attention and reform without putting the weight of the change on the people. For years, copyright laws in both the E.U. and U.S. have been changed and amended with the evolving digital market in attempts to protect increasingly archaic business models. Now, with this type of reform, newer and innovative businesses with more digitally-based infrastructures have more opportunities to expand their market reach across European borders.

The Digital Single Market strategy is expected to be in full effect by the end of 2016.