Last Sunday, Google co-founder Sergey Brin had an interview with The Guardian, in which he talked about the challenges facing the principles of openness and universal access. These have been considered as cornerstones of the internet for three decades. Brin explained that there are "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world". Because of this, he is "more worried than [he has] been in the past ... It's scary." Threats to internet openness come from a combination of factors, these being (1) attempts by governments to control access and communication; (2) efforts by the entertainment industry to crack down on piracy; and (3) the rise of restrictive walled garden such as Facebook and Apple, which are busy controlling what software can be released on their platforms.
“The best thing about the Internet is that it is open. Indeed it's built on the idea that every device can talk to every other, using a common, open language. That's what explains its seemingly endless growth."
Commission's Vice-President further elaborated on this:
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"Sometimes the problem is ancient, pre-digital rules that we need to cut back or make more flexible. Other times, openness actually flows from strengthening regulation. And sometimes it's not about changing the rules at all, but about changing a mindset. People need to realise: they don't have to look backwards to the constraints and habits of the past; they can look forward to the open opportunities of the future. But that can take time."
Speaking specifically of copyright, Ms Kroes confirmed what the Head of Unit - Copyright, DG Internal Market & Services, Maria Martin-Prat, mentioned last week at the Fordham IP Conference (see earlier 1709 Blog post here). In particular, the complicating licensing systems for copyrighted material in Europe is deemed to prevent Europeans from enjoying great content and discourage business innovation, thus failing to serve the creative people in whose name they were established.
"Indeed, whether you're talking about audiovisual works or scientific information, current systems don't respond nearly well enough to online realities. And these are both areas we are looking at, including through updating EU copyright rules. And through new recommendations on access to publicly funded scientific research results and data."
Having said this, Ms Kroes, in line with Mr Brin, added that openness does not come at the expense of privacy or safety, as fundamental rights, liberty and security are guaranteed together. Being born very suspicious, this blogger spotted here a reference to legislative initiatives which are now discussed in Europe and the US. In particular, it is not difficult to think of ACTA and all the bustle it has been creating worldwide. The reference can also include other ongoing initiatives, at the level of EU Member States and the US alike. As to the former, one may think of the debate in the UK over email and web use monitoring (here). As to the latter, it may not be difficult to spot a reference to new US proposed legislation (now that SOPA and PIPA are in disgrace) known as Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA.
Stay tuned for the next moves.