The European Commission is planning to support a single market to boost the online distribution of music, films and games, while promising to uphold intellectual property rights. It says retail revenues could quadruple within two years if clear and consumer-friendly measures are taken by industry and public authorities.

The Commissioner will make recommendations by the middle of 2008 on new ways for achieving a single online market for 500 million potential consumers which is predicted to be worth 8.3 billion euros by 2010.

The Commission wants copyright licences for online material covering several or all of the European Union Member States. It is also seeking interoperability and transparency of digital rights management systems.

Piracy, including the unauthorised up- and downloading of copyrighted content, remains a central concern. The Commission intends to instigate “codes of conduct” between access or service providers, right holders and consumers to ensure not only the widespread offer of attractive content online but also adequate protection of copyrighted works, and close cooperation on the fight against piracy and unauthorised file-sharing.

“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,” said Viviane Reding, the European Union Commissioner for the Information Society and Media.

“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,” she added.

The retail sale and distribution of high value “creative” content online represents a major structural change in the European content market said the Commission. While the online market share of music sales is reportedly reaching 25% in some European countries such as the United Kingdom, the retailing of videos and the availability of on-demand television programming via the internet is as yet a nascent market.

The Commission is launching a public consultation to prepare a recommendation on Creative Content Online for adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. It will also establish a stakeholders’ forum in which it says consumers will be given a strong voice.