Today’s Guardian blog has a piece by a high level Eurocrat. Neelie Kroes is responsible for Europe’s “Digital Agenda”. I understand from the Daily Malice that that’s an initiative to force all British families to watch gay porn over the Internet, but as far as everyone else is concerned it is basically about how Europe views the digital economy, and that includes ebooks.
So what does Ms. Kroes have to say? Well, she’s had a meeting with CEOs from the publishing industry, and they have come up with a declaration. It is called “Books Without Borders”, and the main objective is to make it easier to sell books throughout Europe. One of their main targets is the absurd situation regarding VAT whereby Amazon can get away with charging a very low rate (3.5% from memory) because it is “based” in Luxembourg, but UK-based publishers are forced to charge 20% on the same books. Of course they generally can’t get away with charging more to customers than Amazon does, so they have to take the extra government money out of what they pay themselves and their authors.
There’s more to the declaration, however. The key statement of principle in it is as follows:
Signatories of this declaration endorse the principle that there should be no barriers for consumers to acquire ebooks across territorial borders, platforms and devices.
If you are not sure that means what it sounds like it means, here’s some preamble:
Once they have paid for and downloaded their files, readers may face further obstacles arising from restrictions imposed by Digital Rights Management systems. These are intended to limit copying, but have the effect of preventing files from being moved freely between devices. Easing such restrictions will be important for the widespread acceptance of eBook.
So yeah, that’s an EU committee, and a whole bunch of European publishing industry CEOs, coming out against DRM.