The European Commission is sometimes a confusing, strange beast. I have been to meetings and conferences organised by them countless times and have always come away not sure I knew quite what was going on.
Recently they have been been looking for Big Ideas to help formulate their digital policy and agenda. This is part of an, in my view laudable, effort to involve a wide group of stakeholders in policy development and let them help set the agenda.
One such big idea, which I have been slightly involved with, was submitted by the European Publishers Council and has made it through a selection process whittling down about 100 ideas submitted to just seven which were then discussed at the Digital Agenda Assembly at the end of last week. I was part of the panel presenting the idea at the start of the day.
Their big idea is to ensure the various standards and systems for managing copyright are interoperable, so that finding information about pieces of content and obtaining licences is easier. Boring though it sounds, this is an essential piece of plumbing (one person referred to it as “killer plumbing”) which will enable many great things to happen.
As you can see from the agenda for that session, a pretty wide group of organisations and stakeholders were represented in the discussion, from Yahoo, Amazon and Microsoft through consumer organisations, artists organisations and collecting societies to the European Parliament, as well as others who contributed from the floor.
The whole thing will be written up and responded to by the Commission in due course I’m sure. My impressions were that the idea was a big hit and will probably lead to some action on the part, mainly, of the stakeholders and hopefully with the support of the Commission to get everyone together.
I’ll post further reflections too, but for the moment my strongest impression from the day was this.
Every panellist, when asked whether they support the idea of creating a “Creative Content Access Alliance” to move the idea forward, said yes.
With the exception of Google, who said they were already supporting the Global Repertoire Database (a music industry initiative which would be an important part of the Killer Plumbing) and, er, weren’t sure if they could support an alliance.
Now, everyone was put on the spot by the question, and I suppose everyone will have the opportunity to further reflect as the process develops, but it was an interesting anomaly that only one organisation demurred from offering their support. What, I wonder, would Google have to be concerned about?