EXCLUSIVE: A Commission departmental dispute over copyright licencing is responsible for the delayed publication of the EU strategy on cloud computing, EurActiv has learned.

A recent draft of the paper, seen by EurActiv, refers to the difficulty and cost of licencing digital content – such as music and streamed broadcast entertainment – on a multinational basis.

The draft says that the Commission’s proposal for a directive on collective rights management, published in July, will facilitate such agreements for on-line music, a move resisted by the powerful European collecting societies that wish to preserve the rights to licence by individual territory.

Directorates at loggerheads

EurActiv understands that the draft, originally intended to be published before the summer break, has been subject to rigorous debate within the Commission's directorates, between the Internal Market and Services Directorate (DG Markt), responsible for publishing the draft directive, and the Communications Networks, Content and Technology Directorate (DG Connect), which will be responsible for the cloud strategy paper.

The draft directive proposes simplifying management and multiterritorial licencing of rights in musical works for online uses, but the issue is complex and it is not known how much territorial control the collecting societies might retain when the directive is published, possibly later this year.

Copyright levies administered by collecting societies are imposed on music and content downloads onto devices with memory, such as memory sticks, mobile phones and laptops.

Cloud computing poses a crucial problem: since there is no limit to memory capacity, levies cannot easily be applied.

“The collecting societies want copyright to apply in the cloud the way it does elsewhere,” said Kostas Rossoglou, senior legal advisor at the European consumer organisation BEUC.

“DG Markt is more in favour of that argument. It’s very controversial and one of the reasons why the paper has been delayed from earlier this year,” Rossoglou said.

An IT analyst in Brussels told EurActiv on condition of anonymity that DG Markt officials were unhappy with the suggestion in the draft cloud strategy that DG Connect would take on the role of cheerleading to break open the territorial licencing of the collecting societies.

Copyright concerns

John Higgins, director-general of DigitalEurope, an industry association, said: “We’re looking forward to giving [the cloud strategy] our full support but we will want to see that it addresses those copyright issues that a cloud model shines a light on and makes more obvious; issues like how best to reward creators and how to let users buy once and use anywhere.”

A Commission spokesman confirmed that the cloud strategy would be published later this month, but declined to comment on the details.