If the recent flurry of digital download plans does nothing more than force a rethink of the 'wait and see' policy towards digital change in international markets, it will have performed a considerable service. In Europe, in particular, it's time to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

A few years ago, there was a lot of excited talk on the Continent about new technologies levelling the distribution playing field with Hollywood. Much of it was, of course, ill-informed and based on a cultural agenda that never fitted comfortably with business needs in a globalised market.

But lack of vision, fiercely competing vested interests and a general lack of engagement means the brave new digital world is beginning to look very much like the old one but now in bits and bytes instead of celluloid. The studios have been allowed to dictate the pace and direction of change in almost every area of the business.

There's no use blaming an overbearing Hollywood. Each studio is trying to ensure its interests are served in this period of change - they are businesses, that's what they do.

The job of European political leaders was meant to be to provide the infrastructure on which the industry could build. There are, of course, honourable exceptions in government and business, but the simple fact is that Europe is slipping ever further behind the US.

'Wait and see' was once a logical strategy: being the sucker who jumps first is always scary, even if it is often at the early stages that it's possible to make the biggest gains. But the message hasn't sunk in yet that no-one who adopts a digital plan now is an early adopter - this is catch-up time.

At whatever level you're working in Europe right now, digital change is going to affect you one way or another, maybe through pressure on budgets or difficult negotiations on digital rights.

There's good news though: the world is still going your way.

From the consumer perspective, we are only a little way into the era of ubiquitous entertainment. Across the planet, we can see that movement creeping further into our lives.

Every spare second is now up for sale to entertainment businesses. In fact, this race for consumer time has become the equivalent of the land grabbing of the old West in the US - a time-grab.

We've redefined any moment in which we are not being actively entertained as empty space, open for commercial development. It's surprising that religious leaders haven't taken more interest in the phenomenon. But we can leave discussion of the moral, spiritual and social effects to historians, because if you're in the entertainment business, it's all great news.

If we see that we are competing not for geographical territory or even bums on seats but for time, the prospects look strong if we can embrace the technology that allows film to more effectively steal some of that supposed free time.

If you are looking to move beyond 'wait and see', the first step now ought to be to get to grips with digital rights. Knowing what you own and taking a strategic view of what you want to sell is the necessary precursor to any business decision. In the time-grab, you need to be able to stake out what's your property.

In Europe, political leaders are waking up to the fact these rights need to be harmonised across borders.

There is also no excuse for not at least understanding the marketing power of social networking or the distribution potential of the web.

It's still not too late to make the future something you create rather than something that happens to you. But the clock is ticking.

- Do you agree' E-mail michael.gubbins@emap.com.