The European Commission has outlined a new strategic approach to support Europe 's online content sector, including film.

The Commission estimates that potential retail revenues across the EU's online content market could quadruple from Eu1.8bn ($2.65bn)in 2005 to Eu8.3bn ($12.25bn)by 2010.

Given its scale and rapid growth, the Commission believes the sector would benefit from a stronger, more consumer-friendly single market for online content.

The adoption of a Communication on 'Creative Content Online in Europe's Single Market' is the first step in shaping this strategic approach.

The Communication highlights four main areas that merit action at EU level:

  • availability of creative content
  • multi-territory licensing for creative content
  • interoperability and transparency of Digital Rights Management systems (DRMs)
  • legal offers and piracy.

The Commission has particularly stressed the need for content producers, telecoms companies and internet service providers to work closely together to ensure that more content is available online, while still protecting intellectual property rights.

EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding said, ' Europe's content sector is suffering under its regulatory fragmentation, under its lack of clear, consumer-friendly rules for accessing copyright-protected online content, and serious disagreements between stakeholders about fundamental issues such as levies and private copying.

'We have to make a choice in Europe: Do we want to have a strong music, film and games industry' Then we should give industry legal certainty, content creators a fair remuneration and consumers broad access to a rich diversity of content online.'

The Commission also expressed its disappointment at what it sees as 'a lack of ambition' by stakeholders in the wake of 2006's 'European Film Online Charter'.

The Charter was intended to help support innovation and collaboration in making more content available online.

The Commission also launched a public consultation on content online. The aim is to prepare an EU Recommendation on Creative Content Online by mid-2008, which would be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

A 'Content Online Platform' will also be established to provide a forum to encourage collaboration between all stakeholders on issues where further discussion is necessary.

The Commission has indicated that consumers will have a strong voice on this forum.