In its latest plenary session, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the resolution “Towards a Digital Single Market Act” (see press release). The resolution of 19 January 2016 forms the response to the Commission Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM) as announced in last May and pursued ever since.
When the EU Commission published its DSM Strategy in May 2015, it quite rightly received much attention throughout the European Union. The steps that have been proposed towards a truly functioning digital market across all Member States will change the landscape recognisably. This is why we have been monitoring the development from the first day on. Our DSM Watch team is a multi-jurisdiction, cross-practice group working together to keep you informed as the initiatives under the DSM strategy roll out.
In its resolution, the Parliament does not only welcome the Commission’s DSM Strategy, the parliamentarians also express their concerns with respect to the so far restrained handling of digital development within the European Union. Remarkably, the resolution received the approval of 551 of the 678 Members of the Parliament. The 128 paragraphs in total entail detailed comments on the several of the Commission’s initiatives – to name only a few, topics such as geoblocking, consumer rights, Big Data and online platforms are touched upon.
The Parliament mainly focuses on the economic impacts of the digital change the strategy shall bring about. The parliamentarians specifically vote for seizing the opportunities generated by new technologies, such as Big Data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, 3D-printing or machine-to-machine communication. Seen in this light, the topics covered by the resolution are as comprehensive as the DSM Strategy itself.
In many respects, the Parliament supports the initiatives envisaged by the Commission. For example, the EP shares the view that unjustified geoblocking in terms of online sales and unfair price discrimination should be banned. Cross-border portability of online content is seen as a first step in this direction. In this context, the parliamentarians however emphasize that territoriality of copyrights and a digital single market are not contradictory. In particular, it is stressed that territorial licensing is of high importance for the refinancing of European film productions.
Another important aspect is the ensuring of equivalent and future-proof consumer protection in the digital sphere. In this respect, the EP calls for evaluating whether new business models such as the “sharing economy” require any specific legislative measures. Furthermore, the parliamentarians ask for innovative solutions on cross-border parcel delivery to improve services and lower costs. Small and medium sized enterprises (SME) and start-ups ought to be supported by way of removing barriers in the field of new ICT-Technologies (e.g. Big Data and cloud computing). The environment for online platforms has to be even more innovation-friendly and in the context of intermediaries, the Parliament emphasizes the importance of limited liability. At the same time, the EP votes for a review of the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58 to ensure consistency with the new EU data protection rules.
What happens next?
The Parliament’s recommendations are mainly in accordance with the proposals presented by the Commission. Still, there are some demands and accentuations which go beyond the Commission’s envisaged measures and which have to be taken into consideration. Looking at the road map for 2016, it becomes clear that the Commission’s agenda is quite demanding. Plenty of individual initiatives are scheduled. The respective consultations have partly been conducted already; in part they are still pending. Numerous draft directives and regulations can be expected. The travel towards a true digital single market is gaining momentum.