[A2k] The Register: Commission to revise rules on rivals' agreements

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Nov 5 02:46:50 PDT 2010


http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/02/commission_revises_rules_on_competitor_agreements

Commission to revise rules on rivals' agreements
Uniform standards mean stronger competition, says EU body

By OUT-LAW.COM

Posted in Government, 2nd November 2010 13:00 GMT

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The European Commission will revise its rules on agreements between  
competitors to help companies to agree on technical standards, it has  
said. The move is designed to help encourage cross-border trade in  
digital goods and services.

Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said that an EU digital  
single market could only emerge if strong competition existed."Open  
networks are of little use without competitive prices, and we will  
keep this under close review," he said. "Limiting the availability of  
interoperability information can be used as a technical means to  
stifle competition, and we will continue to carefully scrutinise  
companies’ actions in this area."

The setting of standards – where even competitor companies agree to  
make goods or services behave in a uniform way – is vital for the  
prevention of technical stifling of competition, he said.

"It is also crucial to ensure that standard setting procedures work  
well, and that access to standards is available on fair, reasonable,  
and non-discriminatory terms," he said. "We are currently reviewing  
our Guidelines on Horizontal Agreements ... and in particular  
providing more  analysis of standardisation agreements."

Almunia said that the review will take effect before the end of this  
year.

He also said that the Commission would take action on copyright to  
attempt to make it easier to buy and sell copyrighted material across  
the EU's borders.

"The distribution of online content across the EU is expensive,  
difficult, and primitive if compared to the technology we now have,"  
he said. "In particular, we need to address the persistent market  
fragmentation for online rights management, which harms consumers,  
right-holders and everyone else in between."

"We need to open access to content, simplify copyright clearance and  
the management of cross-border licensing, make cross-border  
transactions straightforward, and encourage innovative methods of  
online payments," said Almunia. "Last Wednesday the Commission  
announced, in our Communication about the new Single Market Act, that  
we will table legislative proposals regarding copyright management.  
The aim of such proposals is to improve access to content and the  
transparency of rights management across the EU."

The Commission has previously identified the competing requirements of  
copyright laws in the EU's 27 member countries as a barrier to cross  
border trade.

"There is a huge Digital Single Market for audiovisual material. The  
problem is that it is illegal, and it is not monetised," said Digital  
Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes earlier this year. "We have  
effectively allowed illegal file-sharing to set up a single market  
where our usual policy channels have failed."

"Consumers can buy CDs in every shop but are often unable to buy music  
online across the EU because rights are licensed on a national basis.  
No wonder the US market for online music is five times bigger than  
Europe's," she said. "Creating the legal Digital Single Market will  
lead to a wealth of options for citizens. It will strike a blow  
against piracy and benefit authors and artists. And it will do this  
without endangering the open architecture that is essential for the  
internet. It is obviously common sense to fix problems like this."


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Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org


Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997








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