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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Business in Europe, January 2010 - digital life, digital laws

Today:
  1. Headaches ahead for e-waste recycling
  2. Fishing cheats to lose licences in EU crackdown
  3. EU online music deal to challenge big labels' clout
  4. EU to tackle digital book copyright in 2010
Shorties:
  • EU opens historical archives to public
  • Denmark gives green light to Nord Stream
  • Bulgaria ousted from Russia's South Stream pipe
Quote of the day:All the rights should belong to the author, the publisher should only be a middle man between the author and the public.

Headaches ahead for e-waste recycling

16 October 2009

As the EU prepares to review its electronic waste legislation, industry is calling for a reality check of a European Commission proposal setting binding waste collection targets for manufacturers and making them pay for collecting consumers' scrap.

The Commission is proposing to change the collection target for Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) from the current 4kg/capita per year ('one size fits all') to a variable binding target of 65% of the average weight of equipment placed on the market during the two previous years.

But producers argue that the target is not realistic as only 30% of household WEEE comes back to producers' recycling systems. The rest is collected for profit by municipalities, recyclers and other actors operating outside the official system or illegally shipped to third countries, said Hewlett Packard's European waste policy advisor, Mark Dempsey on 14 October.

Achieving the collection target is thus held back by the fact that much WEEE is not in the official system and producers cannot get their hands on it, he told a meeting on the WEEE recast organised by DigitalEurope in Brussels.

Thorsten Brunzena from the European Commission's environment department acknowledged that nobody knows where some 50-60% of the WEEE goes, as only 30% is officially recycled and 12% still ends up in landfills.

Dempsey noted that the Commission proposal may lead into a situation in which producers are obliged to buy WEEE to reach their collection target. However, any trade of WEEE leads to an artificial increased cost of recycling without any environmental benefit, he said.

Such "profiteering" has recently been recorded in the UK, where producers have seen recyclers increase the price of 'recycling certificates' sold to producers who need to achieve their recycling targets, Dempsey said.

The EU executive is proposing that producers finance the costs of separate collection from private households.

"Producers need to do more to get the WEEE back through separate collection, but they need incentives to do so," he said, suggesting that producers either set up their own systems or strike deals with municipalities and organise awareness-raising campaigns, for example.

Meanwhile, Stéphane Arditi from the European Environmental Bureau, a green group, believes that making producers more responsible of their WEEE would lead to a "virtuous competitiveness cycle". In a drive to cut down costs as much as possible, he said producers would start designing products that are easier and cheaper to re-use and recycle.

source

My comment: Well, I don't know about other countries, but in Bulgaria it is an absolute nightmare to find a place to trow away electronics or batteries. Only the big hypermarkets for electronics have such places and they are usually outside the city, so they are not really useful. So I also think that producers must do more to increase recycling and not only to whine that other companies gather their garbage. Well, waste business belongs to the mafia, we all know that. And it shouldn't be up to the citizens to figure out where to deposit their waste when they want to do it in the best way possible. So I say - pay for old appliances and not only when one buys a new one, make special depots, run a campaign on the tv and everything will be fine. But there must be a way to get out of that mess.

Fishing cheats to lose licences in EU crackdown

21 October 2009

EU fisheries ministers agreed on Tuesday (20 October) to crack down on overfishing, saying their fishermen would get points on their fishing licences each time they broke rules or quotas and would be banned for excessive infractions.

The points system, taking effect next year, is part of a drive to reduce excessive fishing which has severely depleted European stocks of cod, haddock and hake.

Ministers agreed new quotas for Baltic cod and herring and put on hold a controversial proposal that national tallies include fish landed by recreational anglers.

They also cut the amount of overfishing that will be tolerated to 10% from 20 - drawing criticism from a Green member of parliament that this was accepting "legalised cheating," though on a reduced scale.

Under the new points system, if fishermen rack up a certain number of offences - for example, using small-mesh nets to trap extra fish, or fishing in closed seasons - they will lose their right to fish in EU waters for several months.

After five serious infractions, they risk losing their licences permanently.

EU countries that fail to enforce the new system could lose access to EU funds for overhauling their fisheries and could even have their quotas cut.

Ministers also agreed that cod fishing can be increased by between 9 and 15% in the Baltic Sea next year, after signs the stock was recovering there. source

My comment: I support this completely. I love fish, but I hate the feeling of guilt when I eat it and I'm not sure if the stock is all right or it's disappearing or if they caught it destroying the coast. The regulations should be stricter and I find this fair. And of course, they should stop killing whales. Really! Even for "scientific purposes"! What idiot thought that science might need all those killed whales? It's an absolute outrage that we allow that!

EU online music deal to challenge big labels' clout

21 October 2009

The European Commission has brokered a deal with the music industry to establish online European repertoires as a way to boost cross-border sales. The move is also expected to challenge the power of big labels and to have a positive effect on tackling online piracy.

In a joint statement, collecting societies, labels, online music shops, consumer groups and manufacturers agreed to pursue new licensing platforms comprising repertoires of several collecting societies.

They will now be encouraged to cooperate among each other and put together "the largest possible repertoire" made up of their national catalogues.

The agreement could favour the revival of national and less known artists since their music will now be easier to download and is likely to be less expensive.

The deal, brokered by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, will now be subject to further negotiations to thrash out the detail.

In practical terms, this means that online music shops such as iTunes or Amazon will be able to access the tracks and CDs of European artists in a single move, without facing different national legislations and conflicting collective societies.

So far, fragmented national copyright rules have led to smaller offers and different prices for consumers according to their country of origin. The strict application of these rules has even prevented consumers from buying music in online stores registered in other EU countries, violating the principles of the EU internal market.

The French, Italian, Spanish, and Scandinavian collecting societies have already shown an interest in creating a common repertoire to boost online music offers. Indeed, English collecting society PRS for Music said there might be more than one single common repertoire.

Big labels such as Universal or EMI will be free to put their catalogues on the common portal or sell them directly to retail chains. EMI has already announced that it will soon sign "non-exclusive" deals with the Spanish and French collecting societies.

The agreement is also expected to help the fight against piracy. Indeed, expanding repertoires and simpler administrative procedures are likely to decrease costs for the industry, and ultimately cut prices for consumers, who in turn will be encouraged to choose a legal path rather than illegally downloading tracks on peer-to-peer websites.

Meanwhile, the market is experiencing the emergence of new business models. In April last year, Danish incumbent telecoms operator TDC launched a new offer giving its customers free access to online music. Under the deal, customers can access the catalogues of big labels as part of their monthly subscriptions. source

My comment: I sincerely don't believe anything will cut piracy. The whole model is wrong, the songs are way to expensive - even those in the online stores, their prices are still not real and the biggest part of the money won't go to the musician but to the company. Well, for me it's clear that the company should be paid, because of the investment, but it should definitely take less than 30%. And I believe it's not the case. What I think would/could work for me, if that I get subscribed to a service - to download any song or movie I like in a good quality. And to own it forever, without any limitation where I can play it. In such case, if the subscription fee is low enough, I might pay it. Because I don't want to steal the products of anyone. Or to pay for downloading 10 songs/movies a month some very low fee - it's fair and everybody wins. But with current prices ($1.30 for a song in iTunes!)- why bothering! For a song that I will play few times in a year! I'd rather listen to the music channel or radio, than buying the music myself.

EU to tackle digital book copyright in 2010

21 October 2009

The European Commission will establish "simple and cost-efficient rights clearance systems" on the digitisation of published works and their availability on the Internet, it announced this week (19 October).

The legal implications of digitisation en masse and the potential costs for rights clearance are the two main issues that emerged from a consultation with libraries, publishers and other stakeholders.

The Commission says it will deal with the copyright aspects of digital publishing in the context of a new strategy on intellectual property rights in 2010.

Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy and Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding were the joint authors of the communication, which is the result of a public consultation on 'Copyright in the Knowledge Economy'.

Both Reding and McCreevy are ostensibly convinced of the benefits of digitising books to provide the knowledge economy foreseen under the EU's Lisbon Strategy.

The consultation revealed two divergent views: libraries, archives and universities favoured a flexible copyright system operating in the "public interest", and publishers and authors sought strict licensing agreements on the digitisation of published works.

Libraries argued that it is in the public interest to have certain exceptions from the legislation, favouring broader access over copyright. Publishers counter that exceptions would allow 'free-riding' and decrease profits made through licensing contracts.

The issue of rights clearance in particular will prove a point of contention between the two camps.

Publishers want libraries to seek authorisation from the copyright holder before digitising material, but libraries argue that the cost of individual rights clearance is too high and too difficult, especially when it comes to unpublished letters, private diaries and business records.

In addition to costs, a second issue to emerge from the consultation is orphan works - books and published works whose rights holders are unknown (EurActiv 08/09/09).

In a strict licensing scenario, orphan works would end up in a kind of limbo and would probably fade away on library shelves. However, the EU has not provided a clear definition of orphan works.

Again libraries are worried that they will incur high costs if they are required to carry out an extensive search for the rights holder.

The EU says it will define "the level of due diligence in searching for owners of orphan works" after it has conducted an impact assessment on the issue next year.

Reding reiterated her view that Google's settlement with the American Author's Guild in the US should not form the basis of a European agreement (EurActiv 08/09/09).

"If we act swiftly, pro-competitive European solutions on books digitisation may well be sooner operational than the solutions presently envisaged under the Google Books Settlement in the United States," she said.

The US settlement would see the creation of a Book Rights Registry whereby a larger cut of the money earned from works accessed via Google search would go to the rights holder - the author or the publisher.

But this agreement would disadvantage European rights holders at it would limit access to European books located in US libraries to American consumers only, cutting their European owners off from a potentially lucrative deal. source

My comment: If you ask me, the best thing to do is to open completely the digitization with 70-90% of the money generated by online reading (like from ads) or from selling to go for the author. Simple and very good. For the authors. And authors to pay whatever they have dealt with the publishers. And royalties to continue only 10 years after the authors death. It's not serious to have to pay to the author 30 years after he's not already on this Earth and to look for the right's holders of orphan book. All the rights should belong to the author, the publisher should only be a middle man between the author and the public. At least, this is what I think.

Shorties:

EU opens historical archives to public

20 October 2009

Thousands of EU publications were made available to the public for free last week (16 October) following the launch in Frankfurt of a new digital library, the 'EU Bookshop'.

The EU Bookshop website hosts an electronic library containing 12 million scanned pages from over 110,000 historical publications. A further two million pages from more recent ones are also included.

The site, launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, features all publications edited by the EU's Publications Office on behalf of the European institutions, agencies and other associated bodies since 1952.

New publications will be added every day at a rate of up to 1,600 per year. Users can choose to access content from over 370 EU institutional authors in 50 languages, including Russian, Chinese and all 23 official languages of the Union, and are given the option of ordering printed copies. source

Denmark gives green light to Nord Stream

22 October 2009

Denmark on Tuesday (20 October) became the first country to grant a construction permit for the Nord Stream gas pipeline, a development described by a project official as "a very good sign" that construction will start in 2010.

Sebastian Sass, head of Nord Stream's EU representation, said the green light from Denmark, a country known for its high environment standards and with considerable experience in offshore pipelines, gave sufficient guarantees as to the technical and environmental quality of the project. source

Bulgaria ousted from Russia's South Stream pipe

20 October 2009

Russia has obtained all the permits necessary to build its 'South Stream' gas pipeline through Turkish territorial waters, discarding Bulgaria as one of the project's transit countries, the Russian press writes today (20 October).

Taner Yildiz, Turkey's economy minister, has granted all the necessary authorisations for the South Stream project to run through Turkish territory, the Russian daily Kommersant writes.

The event, which was hosted by Italian Economy Minister Claudio Scajola in Milan on Friday (19 October), eliminated Bulgaria as a transit country for the Gazprom-favoured pipeline, the daily writes. Bulgaria was also evicted from the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, the newspaper adds. source

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