Tag: european union

Petition calls for Brexit to protect EU collaboration on R&D

European flagA total of 38,370 people has called on the UK government to protect access to European Union research and development programmes in the run up to Britain leaving the bloc.

The petition says that UK access to the programmes “stimulates billions of pounds of investment” and gives us here access to skills and technologies.

“Ending our access to these programmes will weaken our economy which depends on exploitation of innovative science and technology,” the petitioners say.

The government under its own rules has to respond to petitions if over 10,000 people sign.

But as far as Brexit goes, the government hasn’t really made a response except in the blandest of terms.

“The Government continues to value scientists, researchers and students, including those from outside the UK who come to learn and work in our country and recognises the benefits that the rich diversity of our research and scientific communities brings to our society and our economy. The UK continues to be one of the best places in the world to do science and the Government will work to ensure that our excellent education and research remains a magnet for brilliant minds.”

That, according to one of the lead petitioners TechEye spoke to this week, is nothing short of scandalous.

The petition says that while the UK might be able to replace the lost EU funding, it wouldn’t be able to restore research collaboration and indeed they’d have no financial incentive to do so.

You can find the petition here.

EU proposes cross-border portability

European flagThe European Commission has made a set of proposals that would allow European Union citizens to use online subscriptions wherever they travel in the bloc.

The proposals, which would have to be voted on by the European Parliament would let people use their online subscriptions such as films, music and e-books they’ve legally bought.

As examples, the Commission said that a French user of the MyTFI film service can’t rent a new film if she or he is in the UK, while a subscriber trying to use his HBO from Scandinavia gets a message in Italy saying the service is not availale.

Savvy people generally use VPNs to access content across borders, and a recent study suggests 20 percent of the people surveyed do just that.

The EU believes that its proposals won’t make subscriptions more expensive and will encourage more revenues for the creative sector.

EU wants to break the internet for big content

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Commission
is preparing a frontal attack on the hyperlink, according to the Pirate Party MP Julia Reda.

The concept is based on a long standing wish from Big Content to be paid by search engines and news portals for articles which are free.

This is a similar to Germany’s and Spain’s ancillary copyright laws for press publishers which backfired.

Reda said that the Commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection. This means that Big Content could sue you if you linked to content.

The drive to do this comes from a few states to try and solve the problem of hyperlinking by-passing firewalls legally and the EU law being a little too fragmented.

However the way this is framed it is basically demanding thriving internet companies such as google to bail out suffering publishing houses by giving price tags to exactly the same act of linking that has been clearly pronounced non-infringing by the European Court of Justice.

“The publishers are clearly wielding so much influence through lobbying that there is nothing that can stop big-party politicians from trying to misapply copyright law in order to support obsolete business models,” Reda said.

What is worrying is the leaked text is not a law proposal, but just a summary of the Commission’s plans for next year. The plan is supposed to go public on 9 December. Affecting change in the now-known versions is nigh impossibly until then.

Vendors fined over DVD price fixing

European flagThe European Commission has fined a group of vendors £131.6 millions after finding that they illegally fixed the prices of CD and DVD drives.

The companies involved in the cartel were Hitachi, LG, Quanta Storage, Sony, Toshiba and Samsung.

The European Union opened an investigation into the matter after it found that companies were price fixing drives bought by HP, Microsoft and HP.

In a statement, the EU competition commission Margrethe Vestager said that companies operating cartels can’t dodge fines by holding clandestine meetings outside Europe.

Philips escaped punishment because it was the whistleblower which implicated the other vendors.

The vendors colluded in the cartel between 2004 and 2008, according to the EU.

Taiwan lets Google off the hook

GoogleExecutives in Google’s legal department are able to breathe a minor sigh of relief because the Taiwanese Fair Trade Agency has decided that Maps and Play services don’t break regulatory rules.

But even though it has closed two investigations into Google, the FTA is still keeping an eye on Google’s activities.

Google said it was pleased that the Taiwanese had followed the lead from the USA, Brazil and Germany which it claimed found the search giant’s activities were not evil.

But though that may represent a minor victory for Google, the European Union isn’t giving up into its probes that Google biases search results in favour of its own customers and services.

The EU started an investigation into Google back in 2010 and it’s not going to let the company off the hook.

4G coverage in Europe grows

European flagA report issued by the European Commission (EC) said that nearly eight out 10 households in the European Union had access to 4G LTE broadband at the end of last year.

The EC report said that next generation access (NGA) broadband was now available to 68.1 percent of EU homes, meaning that there were 15.5 million households using 30Mbps or greater broadband compared to last year.

Fixed broadband coverage was flat at 97 percent, indicating that member states are now focusing more on mobile tech and NGA.

And there is better news for people in the EU living in rural communities, with NGA coverage growing from 18.1 percent in 2013 to 25.1 percent last year.

The standout countries in Europe are Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden – they have 99 percent LTE coverage. The Czech Republic and Malta also saw considerable growth in 2014. Malta had no coverage in 2013 but 67 percent of people there have access to LTE now.

Fibre to the front door – which gives very fast broadband connections – was available in the European Union to 18.7 percent of households. Lithuania and Latvia are leading the rest of the states.

Europe agrees plan on data protection

European flagThe Council of the European Union has outlined a common approach on general data regulation meant to help protect individuals and to increase business opportunities across the 28 countries that are its members.

The move has to be approved by the European Parliament and will meet with representatives on the 24th of June.

The EU believes that personal data has to be collected and processed under strict conditions and people have to give unambiguous consent by individuals to use personal data. Facebook might fall foul of such a plan.

It also believes people should have more access to their data, information what happens to it, the right to be “forgotten”, and a right of portability so that not just one social network provider can hog it.

It also wants limits to profiling personal data to show work performance, how right or poor people are, whether their ill or healthy, and what their “personal preferences” might be.

The EU plan also wants to prevent personal data being transferred to other countries and organisations, with the European Commission and the European Parliament deciding the rules of “adequacy”.

Google offers bribes to journalists

GoogleGoogle – under close scrutiny from the European Union for anti-competitive practices – has said it will donate €150 million to publishers and journalism startups over the next three years.

Google has been repeatedly criticised for diminishing the value of journalism content by showing headlines and content promiscuously.

Four years ago, Google was widely criticised by smaller online journalism sites for instituting an algorithm called “Panda” which had the effect of greatly diminishing their ability to compete with publishing giants.

Some media companies have welcomed Google’s money – they are so-called “founding partners” of the move and include Die Zeit, the Guardian and the Financial Times.

Other organisations that have bitterly complained about Google’s activities in the past – including the German Axel Springer group – have declined to join the initiative.

Google said it will provide money to find out how people read news and also pay for training in “digital skills” to journalists.

Some journalists might contend that journalists need no training from a monopoly which has cost thousands of jobs worldwide through its aggregating effect dragging down the price of online advertising.

European Union hammers Google

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsAs we reported earlier today, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager was expected to announce action against Google today.

And now she has given Google 10 weeks to respond to a statement of objections against Google for alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

Google said it didn’t agree to Vestager’s allegation. She has widened the investigation against Google by formally saying she will pursue whether the way Google supplies apps and services for the Android operating system also is an unfair abuse of trade. That is a separate investigation.

She believes that early findings showed that Google indeed gave prominence when people searched a site with people ending up seeing products and services the search behemoth sold.

Companies including Tripadvisor and Microsoft initially made the complaints in 2010.

She said she thought Google artificially skewed the comparison market in favour of its own services.

Amit Singhal, a senior executive at Google said on his blog that the allegations of harm for people and for the company’s competitors “are wide of the mark”.

But the complainants supported the EU commissioner’s actions today.

Other countries including Canada, Russia, Brazil, and Taiwan are also in the process of investigating Google’s alleged anti-competition practices.

Europe launches legal attack on Google

The failure of Google to change its privacy policy in Europe has led six countries to coordinate an enforcement push.

The UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain have all launched investigations into Google’s net privacy and the penalties, if the corporation is found guilty are swingeing, amounting to millions of dollars.

The investigations centre around a decision made by Google at the beginning of last year to share data for services including YouTube and Gmail. The investigation was prompted by national agencies in all 27 countries in the European Union, which asked France to initiate an investigation.

Google maintains that its privacy policy doesn’t break European laws but in the middle of March investigators from the six countries met with executives and said there was not a satisfactory response from the company.

What the next step in the investigations will be is so far unclear – it appears that each of the six countries involved will have to approach Google separately because, according to the Wall Street Journal, there isn’t Europe wide legislation governing such matters.