European Digital Single Market – Good Opportunity or Wrong Way?
Digital Single Market strategy promises to take down many barriers and solve the current fragmentation in European countries in key legislative areas. Most of the objectives sounds cool: Rapidly conclude negotiations on data protection rules, reform telecom rules, reflect new digital technologies in in copyright law or simplify rules for online purchases. All these objectives are broadly described on more than 100 pages in approx. 16 key points (see more here).
I’m not going to comment on every single point of the Digital Single Market strategy. They are still to be run through the process of so called public consultations, that will surely form the final wording of all ideas in the strategy. Secondly, everyone can just walk through the strategy document and make his own opinion. Instead, let me walk through four general principles, that Commission should take into the account while forming future regulations and directives, that will for sure come out of the Digital Single Market strategy.
1. Internet Is a Medium Without Borders
These might seem to be an obvious observation, but it’s not. In a world of lawmakers, national borders are of very importance. Law created in Czech Republic or Germany is by it’s principle not effective in France or USA. This leads to serious consequences when we apply this fact in digital. Every digital company providing a service, regardless of its location, is a competitor to every European company running the same business. How will EU ensure the same enforcement of European rules outside of the EU? We might be somehow successful with the USA and TTIP. But what about the rest of the world? What if Europe is going to be less competitive, just because of rules being ignored by companies, which has no physical presence in EU but still serving EU citizens?
2. Every Regulatory Framework for European Digital Single Market Should Be General
Detailed regulation will be obsolete sooner, before the final text will be acknowledged by all relevant institutions. Today, digital is ruthlessly fast industry where if you keep still for just a few moments, your company might be run over by your competition in almost no time. If Europe wishes to be a competitive continent, that just broad and general regulatory framework is needed. Every business needs enough space for its flexibility and creative to be competitive and it’s even more important in the fast digital industry.
3. We Shall Not Play Just Defensive Strategy With Those Playing First League
Let’s face it. In the online world, we live in the shade of multinationals. Just go and count the most frequent online services you use every single day. How many of them are European? Taking this fact into account – does it really make sense to even more regulate Europe to help European digital business to grow? Or is this going to make our continent even more complex home for digital companies? From time to time, Europe is looking at the Internet economy through negative experience with multinationals. However, they are not the only one on the market, even they might be the majority. Many of the latest new services and technologies are born outside of the EU digital market. Instead of choosing defensive regulatory tactics we should focus on setting up the key milestones in the future where we as Europe want to be. Instead of being defensive, let’s kick of being offensive.
4. Predictability. Predictability. Predictability
Google is being investigated by European Commission in several areas for many years now. However, we still have no clue in which direction is the Commission going to move. Absence of predictability is big issue for European companies too. It’s hard to uphold to huge investments when you are not sure if your business model is going to be illegal from next month on. General principles being investigated by the Commission are in fact used by many European digital companies too. Rules and laws should always change to reflect necessary changes in the environment they are applied on. On the contrary, philosophy behind those laws should be predictable and especially – well known to the public and the business.
While Digital Single Market is for sure a big opportunity for Europe, it also can be a bit tricky when implemented in a wrong way. I’m pleased with the ambition of Europe to harmonize many areas to make things across Europe simpler. Unfortunately, I also see many questionable declarations as well, be it in connection to the Freedom of Panorama or paying for putting hypertext links on your website.
There is plenty of inspiration all around the world. We just have to choose right. I wish our Europe all the best finding the right way to go.