CEBIT: IT industry wants less Internet regulation

The German IT industry wants lawmakers to focus on copyright and fair competition, but not to regulate other aspects of the Internet.

“We do not need any further administrative hurdles or bureaucratic restrictions. We do not need exaggerated data retention policies or massive online investigations,” said Willi Berchtold, president of the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom), speaking at the opening ceremony of the Cebit trade show in Hanover on Wednesday.

“The Internet must be kept free of restrictive taxes and levies. Copyright fees on printers and PCs, radio license fees for mobile phones — these are some of the excessive and counterproductive measures introduced by some countries, where the politicians concerned have simply gone too far. This is the kind of thing we definitely do not need,” he said.

The audience applauded enthusiastically — with the notable exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who looked on stonily while awaiting her turn to speak.

Germany is one of the countries that impose a copyright levy on the sale of digital storage media such as blank recordable CDs even and PCs containing hard disk drives in order to compensate music artists for private copying of their works.

The IT industry is not against all regulation, Berchtold said.

Notably, it needs “Sensible regulations that are uniformly applied throughout all of Europe,” he said.

This uniform legal framework should be “anchored in copyright law that is in stride with the pace of the digital world,” he said.

In December, the European Commission abandoned plans to reduce or eliminate such levies and harmonize the rules governing them across the European Union.

Merkel now has a chance to answer Berchtold’s call, as Germany holds the rotating presidency of the E.U., with influence over key policy priorities, until the end of June.

Another industry figure present at the opening ceremony also called for the right kind of regulation. Patricia Russo, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent SA, said “Governments need to refrain from the kind of over-regulation that stifles growth and investment, strictly enforce intellectual copyright laws and avoid favoring one company over another.”

On one point Merkel and Berchtold seemed to agree: business regulations must be reduced.

“It’s our objective to reduce bureaucracy: 25 percent of the cost of mandatory reports must be eliminated by 2012,” Merkel said, adding that she hoped the government could work with the IT industry to make the remaining mandatory reporting simpler for businesses.

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