Today, the European Commission published its Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy. The Commission’s stated vision and objectives are laudable: a borderless Europe-wide market for online goods and services where businesses serve consumers seamlessly across national borders. President Juncker has stated that this requires breaking down silos of national regulation in areas such as telecommunications and copyright. The existing fragmented regulatory landscape makes it needlessly complicated for European consumers and businesses to take full advantage of the internet and digital technologies.
While the DSM Strategy contains a number of positive elements, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is concerned about parts of the strategy that would hinder, rather than help build an open, innovative internet and digital market in Europe.
“The suggested imposition of a duty of care on all internet intermediaries with respect to third-party content casts a long shadow over the Strategy’s more promising proposals. The existing e-Commerce Directive has done an excellent job of defining the responsibilities of internet platforms with respect to hosting user-generated content. It enables free expression online, cross-border commerce, and social development, and provides a clear framework for dealing with illegal content. We do not see evidence of a need for revision of these rules,” said Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, CDT Director for European Affairs.
“In addition, the suggestion that a new set of regulatory obligations might be imposed on all manner of internet ‘platforms’ – a term that has not been defined – seems counterproductive. It could very well discourage the very development of the new enterprises and business models the Commission seeks to foster,” added Jeppesen.
These concerns notwithstanding, the Strategy has a number of sensible and useful proposals, including ones aimed at enabling free flow of data within the EU, reforming parts of Europe’s fragmented copyright system, and harmonizing the allocation and use of radio spectrum. “The Commission has identified some of the most pressing reforms necessary to achieve the scale that European innovators and entrepreneurs need to be able to build and grow successful businesses. They deserve credit for addressing these national and territorial regulatory barriers head on,” Jeppesen said.
As the EU institutions develop the initiatives announced in the DSM strategy, CDT will continue to advocate for improvements that will promote a free and open internet for Europeans, and nurture a competitive European digital economy.