TTIP can help reap the rewards of the ‘Internet of Things’

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 10/02/15

The Internet of Things – also known as Industry 4.0 –  is rapidly becoming reality, driven by the convergence of increasingly connected devices.  TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, can help reap the rewards it promises, writes John Higgins.

John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE explains some of the concrete benefits that technological innovations could offer to over 800 million people on both sides of the Atlantic, following a successful conclusion to the TTIP.

Does it matter that Americans typically have whiter teeth than Europeans? Probably not. But would it matter if an American firm developed a technology that made an important breakthrough in the diagnosis of life-threatening medical conditions, but couldn’t offer it to European citizens due to conflicting technical regulations and a lack of common technical standards? Probably.

In the next five years, we are more likely than not to see major breakthroughs in the fields of electronic and mobile health technologies (e-Health and m-Health) that will dramatically improve our ability to diagnose and track diseases.

Similarly, how would the visually impaired in the US feel if people with similar disabilities in Europe were enjoying far easier access to the Internet, thanks to new home-grown e-accessibility technologies?

Regardless of whether the company is American or European, it is clear that over 800 million consumers on both sides of the Atlantic share very similar needs and wishes when it comes to healthcare, helping those with disabilities, and the technology-driven innovations that are transforming these and other important areas.

There aren’t many tariffs obstructing the trade in technology products between the two markets. However, there are reams of regulations and forms that need to be handled in order for companies to be able to gain access to a market so similar to their own in terms of consumer needs and expectations.

It may come as a surprise to many readers that the US imposes just as many – if not more – red tape on importers than European countries do.

And contrary to what the protesters say, we in Europe have a lot to gain from getting rid of those barriers – especially small and medium-size European enterprises, which are the backbone of the European economy.

The Internet of Things – also known as Industry 4.0 –  is rapidly becoming reality, driven by the convergence of increasingly connected devices. It is pushing manufacturing and automation industries to new levels of service and process integration, driven by ICT technologies.

EU and US negotiators must adopt a coordinated approach to this exciting new field if our two economies are to reap the rewards the Internet of Things promises.

The TTIP, like all bilateral trade agreements, aims to remove barriers to trade so that both sides benefit. Independent research estimates that the TTIP could boost the EU economy by up to €119 billion a year – equivalent to €545 per year for a family of four. To overlook the concrete benefits of freer transatlantic trade would be to sell European citizens and companies short.

[DIGITALEUROPE, and its equivalent in Washington DC, the Information Technology Industry trade association (ITI) co-signed a position paper outlining what should be included in the TTIP in order to share the benefits of the technology available already, as well as the innovations coming down the pipeline. Suggestions focus on specific areas like e-health and e-accessibility, e-labelling.]


Prepare for the second wave of digital transformation

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 09/12/14
Tags: ,  

By John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

A second wave of digital transformation is coming.  The first one revolutionized the way we order information and spans technological advances from the advent of the mainframe computer to the arrival of Internet search. This second wave will reinvent how we make things and solve problems. Broadly it can be summed up in two words: Big Data.

The expression ‘Big Data’ is used to describe the ability to collect very large quantities of data from a growing number of devices connected through the Internet.

Thanks to vast storage capacity and easy access to supercomputing power – both often provided in the cloud – and rapid progress in analytical capabilities, massive datasets can be stored, combined and analysed.

In the next five years Big Data will help make breakthroughs in medical research in the fight against terminal illnesses. Per capita energy consumption will decline sharply thanks to smart metering – another application of Big Data.  Traffic jams will be rarer, managing extreme weather conditions will become more science, less guesswork. Makers of consumer goods of all kinds will be able to reduce waste by tailoring production to actual demand.

This new ‘data economy’ will be fertile ground that will allow many new European SMEs to flourish.

Broad adoption of such Big Data applications can only happen if the data is allowed to flow freely, and if it can be gathered, shared and analyzed by trusted sources. Size definitely does matter. The bigger the dataset, the more insights we can glean from it, so it’s important that the data can flow as widely as possible.

Some elements of Big Data might involve personal data. People need to be confident these are protected by laws and agreements (such as  safe harbour). All actors in the data economy must work hard to ensure that data is as secure as possible against theft and fraud.

The European Commission has taken an important first step in outlining possible elements of an EU action plan for advancing towards the data-driven economy and addressing Europe’s future societal challenges.

To complement this initiative DIGITALEUROPE has drafted a paper (click here to check it out) outlining what we see as the policy focus in relation to Big Data. We have identified eight priorities:

•    Adopt a harmonised, risk-based and modern EU framework for personal data protection that creates trust while at the same time enabling societally beneficial innovations in the data economy

•    Encourage the protection of Big Data applications from cyber-attacks, focusing regulatory efforts on truly critical infrastructures

  • Support the development of global, voluntary, market-driven and technology-neutral standards to ensure interoperability of datasets

•    Clarify the application of EU copyright rules so to facilitate text and data mining

•    Boost the deployment of Open Data by transposing the Public Sector Information Directive into national law by June 2015 at the latest (EU Member States)

•    Create trust in cross-border data flows by supporting the implementation of the Trusted Cloud Europe recommendations

•    Continue addressing the data skills gap by supporting initiatives like the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs

•    Continue encouraging private investment in broadband infrastructure and HPC technologies with public funding

DIGITALEUROPE is ready to engage constructively with the European Commission, Parliament and Council to help them formulate a European action plan for the data economy.

It is essential to get this policy framework right., but it is also important to move fast. While Europe is preparing the ground for widespread adoption of the new digital age, the rest of the world is not standing still.

Click here to check our DIGITALEUROPE position paper: Making Europe fit for the Data Economy article


Cybersecurity in Europe must remain focused on critical infrastructures  

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 20/10/14

By John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

The 28 member states of the European Union run the risk of undermining a new cybersecurity  law that will play a central role in protecting Europe’s critical infrastructures from cyber attacks.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament narrowed the scope of the proposed Network and Information Security (NIS) directive to focus more specifically on critical infrastructure – including banking, energy and transport networks. The Parliament’s version passed with overwhelming support.

However, as the three institutions – the European Parliament, Commission and Council – begin final stage negotiations on the wording of the directive, a growing number of Member States are pushing for the inclusion of so­‐called “over the top” services like cloud computing, application stores, search engines and social networks within the scope of the law.

Inclusion of these broader “information society services” would not only threaten the innovative capacity of this sector in Europe by creating a burdensome regulatory regime with no corresponding security benefit, it would also heighten the workload for often struggling regulatory agencies, and it would expose citizens’ personal data to unnecessary risk.

Incident data should be reported by the critical infrastructures themselves, as only they have a 360­‐degree view of the incident. They in turn pass on their reporting obligations to their technology vendors through contractual obligations.  This is what the industry advocates and is a proportionate way of protecting critical infrastructures.

Widening the scope of the directive to cover web­‐based services would mean that technology vendors would be obliged to pass customer data, including personal information, to regulatory agencies without any guarantees of what would happen with this data, or how it would be shared between national authorities in other EU Member States.

Many EU member states have limited capability to handle incident reporting within their government departments and agencies. It’s going to be challenging and costly for them to acquire enough capability to develop and maintain robust reporting systems just to cover critical infrastructures, let alone internet enablers and over the top services providers.

Calls for a broader scope of the NIS directive therefore risk undermining the law’s ability to protect what really needs to be protected. There are not enough IT-­security experts in the world today to protect everything that is connected to the Internet equally. While defenses have improved, attackers have also become much more sophisticated. In this constant race where cyber defence tries to keep up with cyber offense, prioritization is key.

Those who call for this law to “protect everything” will end up less secure than the starting point today. And Europe will have missed a unique opportunity to prepare itself for cyber attacks against truly critical infrastructures which could lead to catastrophic impacts on public safety, national security and the broader economy.

A transatlantic trade deal will generate jobs and boost Europe’s feeble economic growth. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 13/10/14

By John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

If the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was all about dumbing down our consumer protection standards to allow big American corporations to charge in and flog us more of their wares, then I’d be with the protesters who came out to oppose the trade agreement at the weekend.

But it isn’t.  It’s about removing the sort of red tape that serves no consumer purpose, but has been put in place to discourage competition from abroad.

The aim of this trade agreement is to make it easier for European companies to do business in the US and vice versa.  The trade agreement would boost the EU economy by an estimated €120 billion and the US by around €90 billion.

That means more jobs and a much-needed boost to economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic. As Europe teeters on the edge of another economic downturn we can’t afford to reject such an opportunity out of hand, as the protesters appear to be proposing.

The benefits of an agreement would be felt most by small companies that are least able to navigate the obstacles, which take the form of tariffs, taxes, as well as complex rules and regulations.

The debate about the TTIP has become heated, and much of the concerns expressed in Europe give a distorted impression that Europe needs protection from the ‘anything goes’ mentality in the US.

The fact is that the US has just as much, if not more red tape obstructing foreign firms from competing locally as Europe. Red tape such as US taxes on the import of Danish pastries from Denmark, tariffs on imported canned artichokes from Spain, and complex customs form filling for German piano makers.

The TTIP aims to get rid of these hurdles plus many more that are effectively keeping European firms both large and small from thriving in the US market.

In the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the TTIP could allow for faster adoption of innovative products and services with universal benefits.

For example, both sides of the Atlantic are looking how to ensure that ICTs including websites, mobile phones, computers etc are accessible to people with impaired vision or hearing. Wouldn’t it make sense for both markets to adopt the same rules and standards, since disabled people the world over face the same challenges?

New emerging areas of technology such as eHealth, including health monitoring apps for mobile phones and tablet computers , would develop much faster if companies could target a larger market with their products and services.

Similarly, both the EU and the US are seeing more and more products with so-called e-Labels – miniature electronic screens showing that the product confirms with the required safety standards.

Wouldn’t it make sense if the two markets adopted the same standards for e-Labelling? It would save companies both big and small a lot of money if they didn’t have to adopt different labels for each market, and at the same time it would provide consumers with better, more up-to-date information about the products they buy – a win-win for companies and consumers alike.

The trick with the TTIP will be to open up markets while maintaining the safeguards consumers on both sides of the Atlantic expect. Protesters against the trade talks claim that reaching such a balance is impossible. That’s not true.

And what’s more, with our economies suffering from a prolonged downturn, neither side can afford not to engage in this effort to liberalize trade across the Atlantic. It may sound repetitive, but amid such hostility to the talks it’s worth reminding European citizens that this deal is all about job creation and stimulating economic growth.


Let’s all play a part in securing the EU cyber future

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 06/10/14

The opportunities that digital technologies offer to our society are countless. More and more devices that we use on a daily basis – phones, computers, tablets, cars or fridges – are or will be connected. The Internet is not only used as an unlimited source of information anymore but it is at the centre of our lives. We are truly living in an application economy where apps are driving new business models, creating jobs and enabling innovative new services. We use our devices to listen to music, to shop, to access bank accounts or to store data. We are living in an economy that is digital. But as the industry keeps innovating, the cyber threats keep evolving.

The importance of awareness raising has now been acknowledged for some years in the European Union. The Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October is supported by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) and the European Commission. It aims at promoting awareness about cyber security among citizens and enterprises, providing information through education and sharing good practices. “Being aware” constitutes a crucial step in ensuring that citizens can be fully empowered by the tools that today’s and tomorrow’s innovative technology offers them.

This year again, we will play our part in the ECSM. DIGITALEUROPE is organising an educational workshop, hosted by Member of the European Parliament Pilar del Castillo, a leader within the European Parliament on digital. We will use this opportunity to outline what is happening, what the industry is doing to protect products and services, how industry and government respond when an incident occurs and our overall cooperation. It will also include a speaker from ENISA.

Cybersecurity is often regarded as an issue for organisations, rather than individuals. But while the involvement of governments and industry are of utmost importance to fight cyber threats, cybersecurity should be a concern for us all.

That is also why in addition to the workshop, DIGITALEUROPE’s members are raising awareness inside their own organisations and hosting external events.

Let’s use this month’s opportunity to raise awareness, but particularly to reinforce the fact that citizens have a critical part to play in ensuring we have a safe and secure online environment.


Look across borders for a secure digital world

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 02/04/14

The Post online letter published on 27 March 2014

From John Higgins and Lotte de Bruijin

The dust of the Nuclear Security Summit has descended. The world has an additional number of arrangements for security. Next year, the Netherlands will host the Fourth International Cyberspace Conference. This Ministerial Conference is an opportunity to also make the world digitally safer.

The open Internet has led to an incredible contribution to economic growth and brings people from all over the world closer together, every day. Within the next five years 30 billion devices and sensors together form the ‘Internet of Things’. With the Netherlands as Digital Gateway to Europe this offers a wealth of new opportunities for economy and society.

This can only be realized if there is trust in the digital economy. This trust is undermined if users are wondering who they can trust online, if it is not clear who has access to data or if data is stored safe on the Internet.

In response to this, there is a call within countries to initiate own measures to keep data secure and to guard systems against cyber attacks. For example to start building a separated Internet or to only allow data to be stored in their own country. This is not the right way.

Almost nothing is as international as the Internet. It is built on international foundations, systems, devices and software. This development is not just confined to borders but takes place all over the world. Dutch software companies export annually 2 billion. Dutch industry is looking far across borders and is like no other active abroad. There is almost no country where Dutch companies are not active.

Yes, cybercriminals operate internationally: an attack that is today focused on Brazil can hit the Netherlands tomorrow. In addition, cyber criminals use the same internet to start attacks from various countries And not nearly all of these countries have their law enforcement arranged properly.

International cooperation is therefore an important key in creating a safer digital domain where the user benefits with trust. This requires international agreements. More than other countries, the Netherlands will benefit from them.

There is an urgent need to agree on international standards that are leading in the world and which are practical for both large and small businesses. In addition, we need agreements on a basic level of protection in Europe to prevent weak links, but a level that leaves room for companies to innovate and adapt to new risks. Europe is well on its way here. Thirdly, on international exchange of information on cyber threats. Cybercriminals do not respect borders. Fourthly, on rapid and effective cross-border law enforcement on cybercrime and tackling cyber criminals. Now the chance of getting caught is too low, with the risk that countries independently expand their digital investigative powers to foreign countries. May the Dutch police hack a server in Russia and may Russia may also do the same to us? Fifthly, agreements on the rules of engagement for countries and their intelligence services on the Internet.

Focus on cybersecurity should not lead to fear. Fear is a bad counsellor. But to profit from the opportunities of the Internet and ICT, we should have a good answer to the threats. That only works in an international context. The Cyberspace Conference next year provides a unique opportunity for the Netherlands to take the lead. It starts in the national parliament that is debating cyber security this week. We ask Members of Parliament to set the agenda internationally.


Privacy can be protected without protectionism

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 25/03/14

Financial Times letter published on 25 March 2014

From Mr John Higgins and Mr Dean C Garfield.

Sir, With the threat of conflict on Europe’s eastern borders, it is more important than ever for the European Union and the US to show unity. The transatlantic relationship represents the most important trade partnership in the world. Efforts to strengthen this relationship through an ambitious trade and investment agreement are more important than ever. We urge leaders meeting in Brussels this week to address the key challenges that stand in the way of an agreement. Most notably, the issue of international data flows.

Recent revelations about government surveillance practices on both sides of the Atlantic have dented citizens’ and governments’ confidence in the safe, protected flow of data. At its most extreme, this discussion has led to calls in some countries for the localisation of data – or in other words building walls around the internet on a regional level to restrict data flows. This would be a huge mistake. It threatens to isolate countries, or even entire regions from the global digital economy. Talk of forced localisation of data is being heard in countries as far apart as Brazil and Indonesia.

We must not be naive about this. Data protection is only part of the reason why some are calling for data restrictions. Some countries want data kept locally because they think it is good for local business.

There is a real risk that by restricting data flows we will open up an era of economic protectionism that would have a harmful impact on global economic growth. The EU and the US must send a clear message in support of international data flows as they negotiate their bilateral trade agreement. Not only is it crucial for transatlantic trade and the two partner economies that are directly involved; it will also send a message to other trading partners around the world about how vital the free movement of data is to all economic activity.

In addition to the TTIP talks, it is important to reach a prompt and clear conclusion to the review of the safe harbour agreement. Transatlantic trade in many important industry sectors cannot work without it.

Concerns about government surveillance have undermined people’s confidence in how their personal data is handled on the internet. To restore that trust the EU and US both need to clarify under what circumstances and how their governments should be able to access people’s personal data. They also need to demonstrate that they respect each other’s privacy rules. Without the trust of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, our economies will not be able to take full advantage of technologies such as cloud computing and data analytics, which are becoming key drivers for our economies. As Neelie Kroes, the EU digital commissioner, recently said: “ ‘No’ to data protectionism; ‘Yes’ to data protection.” This week’s EU-US summit is an excellent opportunity to promote this principle at the highest level.

John Higgins, Director General, Digitaleurope, Brussels, Belgium

Dean C Garfield, President and CEO, Information Technology Industry Council, Washington, DC, US

To download the article please click here.

Europe must beware of a Balkanised internet

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 21/02/14

Protectionism is not the answer to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s doubts about control of the internet, says DIGITALEUROPE’s John Higgins.

This weekend, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, said that at a Franco-German summit in Paris on Wednesday (19 February) she would discuss EU-based alternatives to the current US-dominated internet infrastructure.
It is great to see a European leader of chancellor Angela Merkel’s stature engaging in the debate about digital issues that will have a long term impact on Europe’s economic standing in the world.
I share her desire to see the creation of world-class European providers of digital products and services, and I agree on the need to build an online environment in Europe that is secure, and that inspires confidence among Europe’s citizens.
Three elements are needed to achieve these two inter-connected goals. First, data protection law needs to be robust, consistent and flexible.
Robust enough to re-assure citizens as they engage with networked technologies; consistent in the sense that one set of rules applies to the whole continent, giving companies the legal certainty they need to do business across the EU; and flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide range of different types of data, with differing levels of sensitivity.

Second, Europe and her allies need a coordinated response to the way security agencies have been accessing citizens’ data. Keeping data in Europe won’t keep it safe from the spies. Efforts must focus on making security agencies more transparent and establishing rules of engagement to prevent them trawling through personal data of innocent citizens unless it’s necessary for our security.
And third, Europe’s politicians must create an environment that will help foster world-class technology companies. This means more investment in R&D and infrastructure, better teaching of the skills needed in a digital economy, and tax and investment conditions that encourage entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas here, instead of in Silicon Valley.
Some people interpret Chancellor Merkel’s comments over the weekend as a call to protectionist arms. I disagree. Mrs Merkel knows that setting up barriers to the free flow of data beyond Europe’s borders would, like all protectionist measures, provoke a race to the bottom that would harm all trading partners, and all industries that rely on data – in other words all industries.

If Europe forced companies to keep all data within EU boundaries this would undermine its negotiating position with other trading partners around the world who are also considering taking protectionist measures to preserve local companies from competition from abroad.
If protectionism is allowed to take root this would spell the end of an open Internet, and instead of being an open and dynamic environment, the Web would become Balkanised.
By putting up barriers at Europe’s borders, we would be throwing away huge potential for Europe in terms of innovation in a wide range of economic activities. Technologies that are only now coming on stream rely heavily on data analytics, which in turn relies heavily on large datasets.

Isolating Europe’s data behind a protectionist wall will not only harm Europe’s economy as a whole. It will also harm Europe’s standing in scientific and medical research.

While our largest trading partners will be fully harnessing the potential of data analytics, Europe will be consigned to having data analytics lite, and will be put at a major disadvantage to other regions.
Europe must prevent the debate over data protection becoming a move towards data protectionism. I urge Chancellor Merkel and President Francois Hollande of France to keep this important and necessary debate on the right tracks when they meet later this week.

By John Higgins, director-general of DIGITALEUROPE

This Op-Ed was first published by the European Voice on 17 February 2014.

Be aware, stay secure

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 14/10/13

Sadly most of us only get serious about our security, cyber or otherwise, when we or someone close to us have a bad experience. And with cyber it’s worse. While the consequences of inadequate physical security have been clear from the time men lived in caves, cybersecurity has no such place in our collective psyche. That’s why we need to get behind initiatives like the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM).

October 2013 is European Cyber Security Month (ECSM), a European Union advocacy campaign which aims to promote cyber security among citizens, to change their perception of cyber-threats and provide up to date security information through education and sharing good practices.

Talking about ECSM 2013, Neelie Kroes said that “the dream to create a connected continent cannot be accomplished without trust and confidence in a secure digital realm”. I couldn’t agree more: a digitally-powered Europe can only be achieved if a genuine circle of trust exists among governments, citizens and ICT service providers.

DIGITALEUROPE is very happy to support this initiative from DG CONNECT and ENISA, and we will be an official partner of the European Commission throughout the whole month.  We are dedicated to raising awareness and promoting a safe cyberspace to governments, business and citizens, and we want to play our part in this important campaign.

Part of our awareness-raising programme will include the ECSM talk co-organised with the European Commission during the official kickoff event for the campaign on 11 October.  DIGITALEUROPE is also participating in the organisation of a conference hosted by the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania on 25 October, where cyber issues will be at the centre of the debate between MEPs, EU officials and industry representatives.

Cybersecurity is not confined to national borders and so I am particularly pleased that the ECSM coincides with the US Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Effective global cooperation underpins a safe internet. We are also committed to promoting the leading role of industry in cybersecurity. The Seoul Conference on Cyberspace will provide a good forum for information exchange between government and industry.

But cybersecurity is not just for governments and industry: the end-user must become a stronger player in the cyber game in order to improve security for all. Citizens must be aware of current risks and future threats, take an interest in this debate and learn how to develop good security habits.

We as individuals are the cornerstones of cybersecurity.  In my view, cybersecurity goes beyond the obvious of protecting networks and preventing cybercrime. It must also include individual safe conduct on the net. Given the speed of technological progress – bear in mind that the smartphone boom only started in 2007 – we must each take on a greater role in keeping our cyber world secure.

I am glad to see that the European Commission has taken the initiative to dedicate one month to raising awareness about cybersecurity. But does this mean that our efforts should be put on hold for the next 11 months? If we want to stay secure, we must all be aware now and tomorrow.

John Higgins – Director General DIGITALEUROPE

Culture aux hormones, guerres dans l’audiovisuel: game over!

Posted by DIGITALEUROPE on 25/07/13

Les dirigeants politiques européens s’apprêtent à renouer avec les erreurs commises à l’époque où la directive Télévision sans frontières muait en directive sur les services de médias audiovisuels: il était alors envisagé d’étendre le champ d’application de cette législation aux loisirs interactifs tels que les jeux en ligne. Heureusement, une majorité comprit rapidement que des signaux audio et vidéo d’apparence semblable pouvaient recouvrir des expériences de nature radicalement différente. Tandis que le jeu doit son succès au défi du changement permanent qu’il lance à ceux qui s’y adonnent, les films et émissions télévisées – quel que soit leur mode de transmission, linéaire ou non – invitent à une passivité exigée par leurs auteurs, intégristes du caractère inaltérable des contenus.

Quand l’histoire repasse les plats
De nos jours comme en 2009, les secteurs soumis à un bouquet épineux de contraintes sont enclins à recommander au régulateur de jeter plus loin son filet pour augmenter ses prises. Plus on est de fous, plus on rit, disent-ils. Tout en inspirant la sympathie – qui ne voudrait soulager la peine des autres ? – ce discours menace l’innovation en Europe et, partant, la compétitivité mondiale de la création européenne.

Témoin l’appel que vient de lancer la Fédération française des télécoms (FFT). Se fondant sur une étude qui affirme que la technologie numérique est le principal moteur de croissance des contenus culturels, elle revendique le premier rang des soutiens à la culture française et invite les autres secteurs à suivre son exemple. Point pourtant de bousculade au portillon. C’est que fabricants de terminaux électroniques, équipementiers télécoms ou OTT, tous ont bâti leur réputation d’excellence sur une concentration sans faille sur leur métier d’origine. On comprend donc qu’ils hésitent à adhérer à des schémas compliqués auxquels ils se sentent étrangers.

De même qu’on ne prête pas foi à celles qui se prétendent à demi enceintes, l’Europe ne saurait renoncer à moitié à exercer son ascendant historique sur la création artistique mondiale : ou bien on arrête les frais ou bien on joue pour gagner.
Le rapport commandité par la FFT contient un autre grain de sable: l’invitation qu’elle y lance à partager sa douleur prend l’exception culturelle pour acquise. Or rien n’est moins sûr. L’originalité de ce choix politique consiste à sanctuariser une série de produits et services ainsi mis hors d’atteinte des lois qui régissent le commerce international. Son cadre dépasse largement celui des « exceptions générales » prévues à l’Article XIV du GATS qui permettent aux signataires de se donner les moyens de protéger la morale, la santé et l’ordre publics ainsi que l’intimité et la sécurité, ou bien de prévenir la fraude dans la stricte mesure où ils ne pratiquent ni discrimination ni restriction déguisée du commerce des services. Cette suspension des obligations des parties contractantes au GATS ne conférait pourtant pas aux Européens une latitude suffisante pour pratiquer la violation intégrale et permanente des règles commerciales à laquelle ils entendaient avoir recours afin de protéger leur culture. Telle est l’origine de l’exception culturelle née des négociations du GATS de 1994.

Mais le doute plane encore sur deux questions-clés: la durée légale de cette dérogation et lequel du Traité de l’OMC ou de la Convention de l’UNESCO sur la diversité culturelle prévaut sur l’autre instrument. La persistance de cette incertitude juridique explique l’âpreté des délibérations du Conseil, le mois dernier, sur l’exception culturelle et le TTIP. D’évidence la révolution numérique appelle à une révision drastique de l’exception culturelle désormais privée de sa raison d’être. La pénurie de contenus qui justifiait subventions et quotas a fait place à une saturation mondiale sous le double effet de l’ubiquité d’accès et de la transformation des consommateurs en autant de créateurs virtuels. Le foisonnement culturel qui en résulte porte la diversité éponyme à son zénith au point que les contenus de qualité ne se soucient guère des gouvernements pour trouver leur public.

Une culture peut en cacher une autre
Il n’est pas inutile de mieux cerner la culture si l’on veut dissiper toute ambiguïté à son égard. L’internet est souvent loué comme un bouillon de culture, une sorte de lubrifiant idéal des échanges culturels. Plus proches des recherches en laboratoire que de l’or et des paillettes des scènes de spectacle, les formes de culture auxquelles il donne naissance sont tout aussi indispensables à l’avenir de l’humanité. Craignant d’être débordés, les intermédiaires de la culture qui ont proliféré au temps de la technologie analogique font aujourd’hui cause commune avec les autorités fiscales pour s’emparer des découvertes qui se trament dans le creuset des « boîtes de Pétri » de l’internet. Une telle ambition mérite toutefois réflexion: priver cette culture aujourd’hui en permanente ébullition des ingrédients que lui dispense son écosystème est le moyen assuré de la voir s’étioler à jamais.

Le contraste n’est pas tant entre culture des élites et culture de masse qu’entre culture organique et culture de synthèse
La seule culture que reflète l’appel de la FFT est celle de l’assistanat. Elle produit rarement des chefs d’œuvre. Qui attache ses soins exclusifs à se munir du bouclier parfait renonce à l’audace. Les béquilles ne figurent pas au rayon des conquérants, non plus que la laisse ou le sucre à celui des vrais créateurs. Les cultures qui font le tour du monde se nourrissent des ingrédients qui mijotent au sein des « boîtes de Pétri » que l’internet met à la disposition de tous. Instrument-clé de la collaboration de masse, l’internet offre un vaste réseau de micro- ou mini-labos où infusent les contenus du futur.

Le meilleur moyen pour un Etat de donner aux trésors de créativité de ses ressortissants une dimension planétaire consiste à mettre l’internet à la portée de tous. Le marché décidera de la suite à donner. En parfaite adéquation avec l’ère numérique, un tel changement de cap ne serait pas incompatible avec des soutiens publics pourvu que ceux-ci soient assis sur l’ensemble des contribuables – dont l’intérêt est incontestable pour agir en faveur de la conservation du patrimoine national – et accessibles à toute production de nature à arrondir cet héritage. A l’inverse, n’est-il pas contraire à la logique comme à la morale de forcer les têtes d’affiche qui caracolent à la pointe des palmarès internationaux à financer des oeuvres qui ne trouvent même pas preneur localement ?

Les pères de l’exception culturelle ont déployé une impressionnante maestria pour exploiter si longtemps les succès de la production extra-européenne au profit de leur idée propre de la culture européenne.

En propulsant l’entertainment mondial sur des orbites jusque-là inexplorées et en mettant la culture à la portée de tous, les technologies numériques ont bouleversé la donne : les outils de gestion de la pénurie sont devenus non seulement inopérants mais inutiles. Le ralliement de la FFT au chœur des chantres de l’exception culturelle est suffisamment récent pour atténuer les effets de sa complicité avec ceux dont la distorsion de concurrence alimente le fonds de commerce depuis des décennies. Il n’en demeure pas moins essentiel – pour eux comme pour tous les bénéficiaires de la révolution numérique – que les opérateurs de télécommunications comprennent que la partie est définitivement terminée. Une autre s’amorce, bien plus prometteuse.