EUROPEAN REVIEW

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ISSUE 71 page 8

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Sites of Interest

 

Watered down single market sows digital confusion
AT LAST THE NEW PROPOSALS FOR A EUROPEAN DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET have been published. Highlighted by Commission President Juncker as a top priority for his new administration, the harmonisation of copyright laws and the breaking-down of barriers to e-commerce between Member States is heralded as a breakthrough that will enable digital ‘creators’ to reap rich rewards from wider markets while assuring consumers are not blocked from enjoying films and television programmes or Internet shopping across borders. However some of the language of the new strategy seems to have been toned down since previous documents were leaked. This may be due to tension between the two commissioners responsible. Andrus Ansip, an EU vice-president from Estonia had previously commented ‘I hate geo-blocking’, the practice whereby Internet content from one country is prevented from being viewed in another. In response Gunther Oettinger, the German digital economy and society Commissioner, opined ‘I hate my alarm clock at five o'clock in the morning’ indicating that blocking could protect cultural diversity among the 28 Member States. There is suspicion that the removal of phrases such as ‘unhindered access’ and ‘no discrimination or barriers’ from previous drafts of the document reflect Oettinger’s desire to protect powerful German publishers. Although Ansip believes that a harmonised EU digital market would boost the economy by €300 billion there is a formidable set of stumbling blocks to overcome. National governments jealously guard their hold over the allocation of bandwidth to mobile ‘phone operators, V.A.T. rates vary and the U.S. government has already taken up the case of American Internet giants such as Google and Amazon who feel threatened by E.U. enquiries into their dominant market position. Only 7% of small businesses sell across national borders with 62% citing high parcel delivery costs as a barrier to Internet commerce. The new strategy sets out 16 key actions which will be carried out by the end of 2016. ‘I want people to buy like at home and companies to sell like at home. We have to hurry up’ insisted Commissioner Ansip.
Europeana and Google team up to spread culture
New EU rules to protect Internet travel shopper

THE EU”S REPOSITORY OF CULTURAL DIGITALIA, EUROPEANA has come to an agreement with giant American search company Google to supply content to its Field Trip web application. The app seeks to enhance the experience of tourists and travellers by drawing their attention to art, architecture, cuisine and other interesting features of the locations through which they pass. So far items about archaeological sites, historical buildings and important monuments in Poland, Estonia and Sweden have been shared with Field Trip in a pilot project. It is hoped that a new piece of software developed by Europeana will easily enable further extension of the project to its tens of millions of digitised items from libraries, archives and museums. ‘We want to enable and promote the creative reuse of cultural content in the tourism sector’ commented Jill Cousins of Europeana while a Google spokesman said that they could ‘offer Field Trip users new and rich stories about cultural treasures as they travel throughout Europe’.

THE WAYS IN WHICH MOST PEOPLE BOOK HOLIDAYS HAS CHANGED fundamentally over recent years. The dominance of High Street travel agents with their racks of brochures has been replaced by an array of web sites ranging from all-in-one package deals to mix-and-match flight, accommodation and car hire choices by individual consumers. Up until now, while packages have been covered by the pre-Internet legislation and individual arrangements by various consumer rights and air passenger laws, a grey area has existed for those booking customised combinations from a single firm or linked web sites. The European Commission is trying to plug the legal gap by extending its 1990 Package Travel directive as well as by strengthening its protections. 120 million more travellers will now benefit from clearer information, fairer and more predictable prices, stronger cancellation rights, clear liability, assistance if something goes wrong and  money-back guarantees.




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