Let’s judge the DSM by its results, not ambitions

May 15, 2017

Every startup starts with a groundbreaking idea. However, until one can speak of success, many more things have to happen. There is a whole discussion about whether the idea or execution is more important. In that spirit, we propose judging the Digital Single Market by what it achieves, and not by what it sets out to achieve. Last weeks midterm review left us wondering whether the Commission is focused on churning out proposals or on producing results.

The Digital Single Market set out to create simpler, harmonised market conditions, which would also let startups in Europe thrive. We’re following many undertakings, ranging from copyrights to free flow of data, or from digital contract law to geo-blocking. Here are our thoughts on the most important files for startups.

There finally will be a legislative proposal on the European data economy, which is good news. However, the Achilles heel of the proposal is the distinction between personal and non-personal data. If this implies more legal complexity and further fragmentation, we’re secretly building data walls. This is the opposite of what the DSM sets out to do. We’re challenging the separation: Even if you can draw a clear line, does this mean that startups will need to implement more policies on the same databases?

A prime example, and perhaps even the litmus test whether the DSM is really good for startups, is the copyright directive. It focuses on a few aspects in the relations between individual and established players without taking into account the wider economy. That’s one reason why the file is causing so many headaches in Parliament, and perhaps explains why the review shies away from acknowledging these difficulties. Startups in Europe voiced their concern repeatedly. In the review, reiterating general and contradictory goals of the directive is insufficient.

What happened to reducing complexity, red tape and administrative burdens in the individual proposals? Ultimately, even though we’d love to grade the Commission with an A for their work because this is in the interest of all businesses and citizens in Europe, we’re not there yet. That’s why we’ll take the review as a step towards a successful DSM and just like a successful business, we’ll judge the right mix of idea, ambition and execution.