The Digital Economy

From Spotify to Angry Birds: Supporting the creative sector in a digital world

Uffe Elbæk / Jun 2012

Angry Birds in action. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The cultural and creative industries are among Europe's most dynamic and valuable sectors: they account for around eight million jobs and over €150 billion in exports, not to mention helping people learn and expand their horizons.

Add to that one of the richest cultural heritages in the world, and you'll see that this sector is a blessing and a treasure.

Ensuring the lasting value of these treasures means embracing the digital future. The digital world brings new ways to provide, to access and to distribute content. Not to mention extra ways to make money from it. The EU's future global cultural success depends on how well we embrace these digital technologies.

Quite simply, by making best use of digital technologies, we will not just support our "creative capital", but build a society that is both more culturally rich—and more economically competitive.

But if Europe doesn’t grab this opportunity, we are doing a great disservice to our creative sector, and to the citizens who could be enjoying its fruits.

In the past 10 years, we've missed too many tricks from the digital world – with platforms like iTunes and Netflix pioneered in the USA before the EU caught on.For the sake of our future prosperity we cannot afford to miss out again.

We are confident that this business innovation can flourish over here: already it is everywhere you look. Streaming services like Spotify show that digital technologies can be an opportunity, not a threat, to the music industry. Call of Duty and Angry Birds alike show that there is money to be made in creative subsectors that did not even exist before the digital age. Print geniuses like JK Rowling are also flicking the digital switch, using the magic of technology to "apparate" her works to a wider audience.

We need to extend that innovation ever wider. Bring it to every other creative sector, and put our full policy machine in support. How?

First, we need the best possible framework conditions to stimulate and spread creative works. There are many barriers in our digital single market. This means consumers lose out on great deals – and creators can't benefit from economies of scale. The fact that a work is protected by copyright should not prevent people from legally buying material online within a single market. The Commission is preparing new rules.

Second, we need to make the most of new platforms that can support cultural content. For example,, Europe's digital library, museum and archive. Already it contains 19 million objects from 1500 places and it is scheduled to reach 30 million digital objects by 2015. This is our rich cultural heritage – online and for free.

It also means making the most of innovations like Connected TV: a technology that promises to combine the best of TV content with the best features of the web – social, interactive, on demand. Soon, Connected TV could be everywhere – and the European Commission's policy paper on it is due later this year.

Meanwhile the cloud computing offers new opportunities for artists. Like the possibility to record and remunerate every single use of a creative work.

Europe already has the largest market anywhere on the planet - and a track record of creative success. Let's help new technology to support that. Then we could make our digital creative content the envy of the world.

Uffe Elbæk

Uffe Elbæk

June 2012

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