The European Commission has put forward plans to make it easier for Internet users to legally watch films and television programs online.
A green paper, published on Wednesday, acknowledges that "consumers increasingly expect to be able to watch anything, anywhere, any time and via any one of a number of devices" but that fragmented licensing and copyright laws across the European Union make this difficult.
"I want to ensure that Europeans can seize the opportunities offered by the internet," said Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier.
The green paper, which forms the basis for a public consultation, assesses the pace of change that the audiovisual sector is undergoing as part of the Internet revolution and how to best tackle the challenges this poses. One suggestion is that future authors or producers of audiovisual works would have the option to register their works and obtain a single title that would be valid throughout the E.U.
There are currently more than 500 online video services in the E.U. including Chello, Amazon's Lovefilm, Sony's Qriocity and iTunes, but these tend to focus on local audiences, addressing customers in their local language and offering locally-preferred films. However, users increasingly expect to be able to access films and programs whenever and wherever they want. This has led to a growing market for pirate copies of movies illegally available online.
According to the green paper, "appropriate measures to address infringing behavior including enforcement and cooperation by intermediaries, could help to address the significant levels of piracy observed in the audiovisual sector". Such developments should also stimulate demand for higher speed and network capacity, which creates the business case for investments in faster networks.
The consultation is available at http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2011/audiovisual_en.htm until Nov. 18.