It’s Easy Being Green at Adobe

Posted by Jace Johnson, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy

Sustainability has been part of Adobe’s culture since its beginning. The invention of the PDF not only made signing and sharing documents easier, it also dramatically reduced unnecessary waste. Since then, Adobe has promoted a culture of sustainability among its employees, customers, and communities that we operate in, and the company’s newly released Corporate Responsibility report highlights just a few ways that Adobe is making a significant impact on the world around us.

We are a leader in developing software and digital delivery tools that reduce our impact on natural resources. 97 percent of Adobe’s software is distributed electronically, greatly reducing the need for paper and plastic packaging as well as unnecessary truck deliveries. In fact, the 6.2 million Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions reduced the product’s carbon footprint by at least 90 percent.

Adobe sustainability efforts extend beyond our products and into the company’s workplace as well. More than 73 percent of Adobe’s employees work in LEED workplaces, and our employees achieved a 92 percent waste diversion rate by implementing recycling programs, greatly reducing our impact on the world’s oceans and landfills.

Adobe’s products also help customers make environmentally smart decisions. The 38 million Adobe Sign transactions made in 2015 saved 14 million pounds of wood and 43 million gallons of water from being used. In addition, Adobe products greatly reduced the need for business travel. 5.4 billion hours of Adobe Connect meetings reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 5.4 million tons due to avoided air travel.

These achievements move us one step closer to accomplishing the benchmarks we outlined last December when we joined the RE100 and announced our commitment to The White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Adobe is proud to be a part of these efforts and leading the way to a more sustainable future.

E-Signatures: Unsung Hero of the EU’s Digital Single Market

Posted by John Jolliffe, European Government Relations Lead, and Andrea Valle, Senior Product Manager for Document Cloud

When European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker launched the EU’s Digital Single Market programme back in 2015 it was issues like geo-blocking and the possible regulation of online platforms that attracted most of the media attention. But when it comes to actually creating a digital single market – removing the regulatory obstacles that prevent companies from doing business across borders – it’s the less glamorous and more technical work of the European Commission that is often more impactful.

Electronic Signatures are one such example. The new eIDAS Regulation, which comes into effect this July, will smooth away differences in the way different legal systems in Europe treat electronic signatures, harmonise technical standards and provide legal backing for new ways to use electronic signatures.

At Adobe we’re convinced that these new rules will help businesses, citizens and governments in the EU save time, cut costs, protect the environment and increase efficiency wherever processes require a signature. So today, in response to user feedback, we’re announcing some important new features that will not simply make sure our solutions comply with the new rules, but which we think will support the adoption of e-signatures in Europe:

Source of Trust

  • New indication of the “Source of trust” of PDF digital signatures: back in October 2015 we announced support for EU Trusted Lists, enabling users of the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader software to verify signed documents based on certificates issued by providers accredited in the EU. Now Acrobat and Reader will also indicate whether a signature is trusted by a provider listed in the EU Trusted Lists, in the Adobe Authorized Trust List (AATL), or by some other trusted sources.
  • New indication of EU Qualified Certificates. Acrobat is now able to recognize EU Qualified Certificates, in line with new ETSI standards and to display the information in the Signature Properties, in line with the requirements of the eIDAS Regulation.
    A Qualified Certificate can only be issued by a Qualified Trust Service Provider according to standardized procedures aimed at verifying the identity of the subject to whom it is issued.
  • New indication of EU Qualified Electronic Signatures and Seals. An EU Qualified Electronic Signature (QES) is an advanced electronic signature based on a Qualified Certificate created by a Qualified Signature Creation Device (QSCD).
    Adobe Acrobat is now able to recognize these elements and to indicate when both apply and that the signature is considered as Qualified.
    Similarly, when a signature is created with a Qualified Certificate for Seals, Acrobat will indicate a Qualified Electronic Seal to confirm that an electronic document was issued by a legal person.
  • Full support of the PAdES Baseline profiles in line with the latest ETSI standards. PAdES is a profile of PDF digital signatures created by ETSI, which ensures compliance with the eIDAS Regulation and improves the interoperability of electronic procedures.

We’re excited by these updates which, we think, will help eIDAS succeed where the 1999 e-Signature Directive failed and finally persuade businesses to move away from the analogue way of doing business – a “wet ink” signature on a piece of paper – and to embrace digital technology. Europe is only beginning to see what electronic signatures can do, and Adobe will be there with more updates and features in the future.

New EU e-government strategy: back-end wizardry, but where’s the citizen?

Posted by John Jolliffe, Head of EMEA Government Relations

In this blog we’ve frequently commented on the efforts governments are making across the world to transform their digital services. So naturally we were very interested to read the new EU e-government strategy, the latest policy document to see the light of day under the EU’s wider Digital Single Market strategy.

In many ways, it’s a good document. The overarching ambition – that “public administrations and public institutions in the European Union should be open, efficient and inclusive, providing borderless, personalised, user-friendly, end-to-end digital public services to all citizens and businesses in the EU” – is the correct one. And many of the underlying principles that flow from that objective – digital by default, inclusiveness and accessibility, trustworthiness and security – are absolutely the right ones.

Many of the 20 actions that the European Commission outlines in the rest of the strategy are also important ones: the promotion of full e-procurement (Action 1) the interconnection of national business registers (Action 9) and the cross-border exchange of Social Security information (Action 15) to name just a few, are worth achieving. This is the hard, unglamorous and often highly political work of interconnecting national legal and technical systems, which only the European Commission can undertake.

EXPERIENCE person holding a smartphone on blurred cityscape background

Many of these actions require extensive and indispensable CIO- or CTO-led back-end wizardry. What we would have liked to see more, of, however, is greater focus on the citizen as the end user of these services. For sure they are there as the implied beneficiary of all this good work. But more explicit recognition of the need to invest in the capability to properly understand citizen’s needs, and even give them a stake in defining those services, would be been a welcome addition.

Citizens increasingly expect governments to offer levels of digital engagement that are as compelling as the best commercial websites they see every day. Delivering that level of engagement, however, will require governments to think seriously about how they can apply best practices in user engagement from the private sector in a public sector context.

One example of where government can take a leaf out of the private sector book is by creating a government equivalent of the Chief Marketing Officer, a Chief Service Officer for government. The CSO’s role would be to act as a customer advocate within government and help shape government digital services to those needs as a counterweight to the top-down, IT-led vision of government digital services. The CSO would partner with the CIO to define technology needs and develop the systems for engaging with, and retaining, their customers using sophisticated tools to present and target digital content to different demographic needs in ways that consumers respond to, across all devices. Such a customer focus is, ultimately, key to making principles such as “digital by default” work and driving greater digital inclusion.

Adobe is keen to keep working with the EU, and other European governments, to inject this citizen-led approach into e-government practices. We think it’s the missing ingredient that makes the overall objective achievable. It’s a subject we’ll return to again as the EU programme unfolds.

Nothing But Net!

Scoring the winning points at a basketball game

Posted by Mike Dillon, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary (as seen originally on mike’s blog)

I was with a friend last weekend (I’ll call her “Mom”) who was giving me some feedback about my blog. She said that she enjoys my writing, but encouraged me to cover things other than work. “How about something more interesting, like the Warriors?”, she asked.

Well, here’s my attempt to make her happy.

Northern California has once again fallen in love with a team. In this case it’s the Golden State Warriors who finished the season with a record .890 winning percentage and successfully redecorated the Bay Area in blue and gold.  And although I’m a huge fan of Curry & Co. there’s another local team that with little fanfare has amassed an even better record than the Warriors. They are an organization that plays with focus, intelligence and incredible defense. They are the group of talented individuals within our Adobe legal team and outside counsel who are positively kicking ass against patent trolls.

(Sorry, Mom. I tried.)

I’ve written for years about the blight to innovation and our economy resulting from the misuse of patent litigation. During my career, I’ve witnessed first-hand the waste, the judicial burden, the financial impact and job loss, resulting from the patent troll industry. (As an aside, I considered a new moniker other than “troll”, but ex-speaker John Boehner beat me to it.)

Eighteen months ago, I described Adobe’s approach when faced with these meritless claims – an approach that resulted in Adobe going 6 – 0 in cases against patent trolls. I wrote that blog not as a bit of chest pounding, but rather to encourage other companies to take the same aggressive response when faced with these lawsuits. Absent legislative action, it’s the only way to change the economics that favor patent trolls. (In that spirit, for all of you companies fighting this same battle, feel free to give us a call. We’re happy to help and share best practices.)

So how have we done since then?

  • In January 2015, after a 9-day trial, Adobe prevailed against Everyscape’s allegations that Adobe’s Photoshop product infringed two patents. The jury also invalidated the Everscape patents.
  • In July, 2015, the court dismissed with prejudice a suit originally brought by another patent troll, Blue Spike, against Adobe in the Eastern District Court of Texas in 2012.
  • That same month, Afluo dismissed its litigation against Adobe and its customers with prejudice after Adobe obtained a favorable ruling from the Patent and Trademark Appeals Board.
  • This was followed by Adobe prevailing against YYZ (seriously, patent trolls, please put at least a little effort in your names) in a summary judgment motion.
  • In February, 2016 Adobe had another summary judgement win  against Fo2Go, another patent troll.
  • Adobe won a summary judgment against Rosebud in February, 2015 and the lawsuit was dismissed, but Rosebud chose to appeal. In March, 2016 the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal putting to rest a battle that has spanned three lawsuits and 5 years of legal expenses.
  •  Grecia, another patent troll, filed a lawsuit against Adobe, but never served it on us and in March, 2016 the case was dismissed.
  • The following month, Adobe prevailed in another summary judgment motion against Collaborative Agreement, another patent troll.
  •  Around that same time, Genaville, who had sued over three dozen companies for patent infringement, with no payment, dismissed  its case against a customer Adobe had stepped in to protect.  Notably, almost all of the companies Genaville sued were users, and not manufacturers, of the alleged infringing product.
  • In the same month, the Federal Circuit affirmed a 2014 Adobe trial court win and invalidated the patents Digital Reg asserted against Adobe.
  • And, recently we’ve successfully prevailed against two other patent trolls on behalf of our customers, also in the Eastern District Court of Texas.

So, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s 18 wins for the Adobe Dream Team and 0 for the patent trolls.

To the “Dubs”, we wish you all the best in the NBA finals. But we know which team has the best record in the Bay Area.

 

Section 508 Updates Should Promote Harmonization of Accessibility Standards

room with open door to the meadow with green grass and glue sky

Posted by Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager, Accessibility and Standards

Adobe has made it a priority to develop digital tools that are world class and support accessibility for people with disabilities. We work to provide accessibility features in our products and programs while encouraging developers to produce rich, engaging content that is accessible. As a global leader in the software industry, we take this responsibility very seriously because all people should be able to take advantage of digital technology – regardless of ability.

Adobe has taken a number of steps to make its products engaging for all users. Last year, Adobe released Acrobat DC and Reader DC with some significant new accessibility features, including assistive technology for reading PDF content on Mac OS X as well as improvements in the existing Windows support. For the first time, Mac users were able to use VoiceOver to create, edit and read accessible PDF documents.

Establishing and promoting accessibility standards is another important area in which we strive to set a forward-thinking example. For many years, Adobe has participated in the development of national policies and global accessibility standards efforts, including co-chairing the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) working group. Despite these efforts, there is still a great deal more to be done when it comes to establishing universal accessibility standards.

The U.S. federal government is in the process of updating its accessibility standards outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which aims to ensure that all of the federal government’s electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. To keep pace with evolving technology, Adobe expects that the United States Access Board will update its standards so that it is in line with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Such an update will help vendors ensure that all of their products meet the needs of as diverse a group of users as possible by adopting common criteria for developers as they build the next generation of technology. With WCAG 2.0 forming the basis of policies around the world – including, we expect, in the European Union’s proposed Directive on the Web Accessibility of Public Sector websites – it makes sense for the United States to follow suit and use WCAG 2.0 as the foundation of any legislative or administrative updates in the future.

An update is badly needed because many of the standards are no longer applicable to modern technology. The last time the standards were updated was in 2001 – almost seven years before the first iPhone. Since then, technology and the public’s expectations for efficient digital experiences have evolved greatly. Making matters more urgent, a recent surge of lawsuits against companies accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act has left much discretion up to the courts. Rather than leaving it to the courts to interpret the rules, greater guidance should be provided to companies.

When it comes to crafting effective accessibility standards, the goal is to empower and enable users with disabilities around the world and provide consensus standards for regulators to reference in new policies. Harmonizing accessibility standards across the globe is the key to maintaining a level playing field for all. Harmonization minimizes market confusion and allows companies with Global operations such as Adobe to deliver solutions which effectively address accessibility across markets.

At Adobe, we believe that different abilities should never limit opportunities. We will continue to create software solutions that can be used by as broad and diverse a range of people as possible, while working globally to establish accessibility policies adapted to our constantly changing world.

Moving Beyond Earth Day: A “Small” Change with Significant Impact

As seen originally on the Adobe Document Cloud blog

Posted by Vince Digneo, Global Sustainability Strategist

Every year, Earth Day marks an important milestone in the sustainability movement—rallying people, government and businesses around the world to focus on sustainability and preservation of the environment. Despite my appreciation for Earth Day, focusing so much attention on a single point in time carries risk—the risk that attention will be lost for the rest of the year.

So I’d like to help keep attention on sustainability beyond just today by sharing the impact of paper document use, the paperless practices some brands have implemented, the results they’re seeing, and where to start in your organization.

The Impact of Paper-based Practices 

Making paper requires tremendous amounts of wood, water and fossil fuels. Mashable discussed this point on Earth Day 2015, backed by data from the Clean Air Council and the EPA, with a great infographic. Here are some more quick facts:

  • The average U.S. office worker generates approximately 2 pounds of paper and paperboard products every day;
  • Among U.S. companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are printed or copied each year;
  • 500 paper documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year; and
  • Corrections, revisions and updates on printed documents contribute to 90 percent of all office waste in the U.S., and the remaining 10 percent is taking up space in storage facilities

To the extent we can keep more documents in the cloud and off the printer, the lower the impact directly on our environment, hence greater sustainability.

Adobe_EarthDay_Infographic[5]

Calculating the Impact 

Many brands want to operate more sustainably, but need to justify any move with a significant amount of data to support a reasonable return on investment (ROI). The good news is, there are means to estimate impacts based on specific actions and they’re far easier to implement than one might think.

For example, non-government organizations like the Environmental Paper Network and the Environmental Defense Fund have collaborated to provide an estimate of the environmental impact of paper-based practices. In partnership with them, we’ve posted it as our Resource Saver Calculator on Adobe.com. Although sustainability leaders understand that at times calculations made by such tools may be questioned by the paper industry and others, this calculator provides a set of impacts that drive home the point that reducing paper dependency can lead to measurable outcomes.

Forward-leaning companies typically pay more attention to sustainability than simply greenwashing their messages. Let’s look at some real-life ways Adobe and our customers are getting more sustainable by transitioning to digital from paper.

  • Documents created, signed, shared, and stored in Adobe Document Cloud drive a 90 percent cost savings and 91 percent reduction in environmental impact compared to paper-based processes.
  • In 2015 alone, the total transactions completed with Adobe eSign saved the equivalent of 14 million pounds of wood and 43 million gallons of water—at a cost savings of over $10.4 million (US). That’s significant.
  • In 2015, Adobe announced its commitment to power operations and digital delivery of products with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. We are committed to leading by example, encouraging our customers to move from paper- and resource-heavy processes to electronic signatures powered by renewable energy. Today Adobe’s Procurement and Legal teams are running on paperless processes and the success from their transition is creating adoption by other groups including People Resources (HR at Adobe) and IT.

Successful Sustainability Practices 

Examples of the impact of sustainable document management are everywhere. Take government, for example. The Washington Local Government Association reduced paper consumption by more than 50,000 printouts by moving to electronic signature workflows and supported sustainability goals by reducing paper consumption and printing supplies by more than 80 percent. The City and County of Denver improved sustainability practices by delivering contracts, agendas, and other documents as PDF files. And they lowered cost of ownership by reducing the number of software versions supported to a single license.

Using data from the Mashable article, if the U.S. alone cut its office paper use by just 10 percent by moving to digital workflows, it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 1.45 million metric tons. That’s the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for an entire year.

What Can You Do? 

Brands from large to small are taking sustainability seriously. Are you looking at ways to improve sustainability in your business or enterprise? You can start by examining how you can reduce the vast wood resources, water and fossil-based energy that paper production and waste demands.

A great place to start is by visiting environmentalpaper.org or EDF.org.

The Federal Government Needs to Embrace Open Standards

Posted by Brian Paget, Technical Director for Public Sector

As a long-standing supporter of the open source community, Adobe welcomes the OMB’s new draft policy on the federal government’s use of open source software. The long-rumored policy, known as the Federal Source Code Policy – Achieving Efficiency, Transparency and Innovation through Reusable and Open Source Software, reminds us of the importance of understanding the different roles of open source and proprietary software in the federal government’s overall IT strategy.

In a mature IT governance structure, proprietary, open source and mixed source technologies each play an important role for the federal government. Balancing the use of these differing technologies is critical for the successful deployment of software across the federal government enterprise. Swinging the pendulum too far in one direction or the other based upon ideology rather than program requirements is detrimental to the health of government IT programs.

Adobe believes strongly that open source, open development and open standards play a critical role in fostering innovation and aims to build products that are open and standards compliant. Adobe developers also contribute to a number of open projects and standards. Dr. Roy Fielding, Senior Principal Scientist at Adobe and co-founder of the Apache HTTP Server Project, is a pioneer in the open source community and has consulted with the U.S. Government about the development of the modern World Wide Web infrastructure, innovation, policy and a wide-range of technology issues. In February, Adobe also released the Digital Design Templates for Government, an open source package that enables public sector website managers to quickly deploy U.S. Digital Service and 18F draft U.S. Web Design Standards.

At its core, the proposed OMB policy aims to ensure that the government gets the most cost effective solution to a specific requirement by addressing custom source code developed for the federal government, either in-house or via a contractor. It states that such custom code should be heavily invested in open source. At Adobe, we support the goals of this policy and believe that it will assist government in saving taxpayer money by more effectively leveraging the investment that is made in customizing and configuring software and reducing duplication.

However, beyond open source, the important principles of open development and open standards must be rigorously applied. The bundling of open source software with open standards and open API’s ensures data transparency, portability and interoperability. Open standards ensure that software developed by one vendor can effectively interoperate with software developed by a government agency or another software vendor. This enables a level of interoperability that is critical to successful deployment of software in government and provides assurances beyond those provided by open source.

Federal CIO leadership must understand that open standards are needed to fully realize the potential of cloud and increase competition among providers of cloud technologies, helping to reduce vendor and technology ecosystem lock-in. Over time, this will lead to increased choice and lower prices for consumers.

Patent Reform Is within Grasp

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

Note: This op-ed first appeared in The Hill on March 8, 2016

Adobe Stock Image

The numbers are in.  And they aren’t good. Patent trolls filed 3,604 suits in 2015, making it the second busiest year on record for abusive patent litigation.  And if anyone had any doubt about the merit of these suits, the busiest filing day last year, by far, came one day before a court rule permitting vague complaints was set to expire.  A record 212 patent infringement lawsuits were filed on November 30. That is nearly 18 times as many as a normal day. What kind of patent holder would scramble to file a suit to take advantage of this rule? A patent holder who knew their suit had no merit.

These recent numbers reveal that court decisions and rule changes do not discourage abuse of our patent system. In the current system, trolls continue to bring frivolous suits in sympathetic courtrooms around the country. Only legislation will change these dynamics.

Trolls are not just targeting large innovators like Adobe for a quick payoff. They continue to go after small businesses that use our products.  While companies like Adobe can continue to stand firm and not settle frivolous lawsuits based on invalid or clearly non-applicable patents, too many small businesses are forced to settle. America’s innovators cannot stem the tide of this parasitic business model without help. The patent system is overrun with trolls, and it is time to root them out.

Adobe supports a patent system for the 21st century that protects innovators. The best way to achieve that is passing patent reform legislation that contains four essential elements for solving the troll problem: shifting fees if suits are frivolously brought, limiting the defendants’ exposure to unnecessary discovery costs, establishing clear rules for pre-suit investigation before forcing the defendants to engage in a multi-million dollar defense of their property, and venue reform to ensure that forum shopping becomes a thing of the past.

These principles will rebalance the system to make patents a reward for true innovation.  Real insight plus hard work can secure valuable intellectual property, investment and long-term business success. But the misuse of the litigation system to extort settlements from defendants who cannot afford the high cost of defense has tainted the good name of patents.

Congress has a clear mandate to act, and act swiftly. The debates are over, the hearings are complete, and the language has been crafted.  Let’s put together the final package and take this to a vote.  We don’t need any more time, evidence, or data.  Patent abuse has to stop.  If you are interested in being part of the solution, the coalition United for Patent Reform will welcome your participation and needs your voice.  We only have a limited amount of time in this legislative year, so the time for the final push is now.  Please join us.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Posted by John Jolliffe, Head of EMEA Government Relations

Late in 2015, EU legislators reached an agreement on a new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), updating the existing EU Directive which dates from 1994. The new text will come into effect sometime in mid-2018.

A lot has been written about what’s in the new Regulation. (See useful summaries here from Bird&Bird and Hunton & Williams). But while there are important changes on many substantive questions (for example the definition of personal data) there are perhaps even more significant changes in the way EU data protection law will be governed and enforced going forward.

Consider the status quo: Article 29 of the current EU Directive established a Working Party (WP) of national supervisory authorities with “advisory status” to, among other things, “make recommendations on all matters relating to the protection of persons with regard to the processing of personal data in the Community.” The Working Party has fully exploited this prerogative down the years by issuing a series of Opinions on points of law which, while technically non-binding, carry enormous weight and which data controllers ignore at their peril. In doing so the WP emerged as a leading player in the interpretation of EU data protection law, and became one of the most active advocates in the recent negotiations on the new GDPR.

Under the new GDPR, the Article 29 Working Party will be renamed the European Data Protection Board (EDPB). Its Opinions will no longer be merely “advisory” but will be binding on data controllers and national supervisory authorities. Its sole mandate will be to “ensure the consistent application of this Regulation”, with the power to issue a series of “opinions, guidelines, recommendations, and best practices”.

Of course, a body able to ensure consistent application of law is a must and will hopefully provide clarity for both citizens and the companies that serve them. But it should be remembered that not only are EDPB Opinions to be binding on data controllers – and therefore only challenged before a court – but they are linked to significant new powers to fine companies and halt data processing. What’s more, the deliberations of the EDPB (as with its predecessor the Art 29 WP) are likely to be held in camera, with little outside consultation with the technical experts of the companies that they oversee.

While the GDPR does state that the EDPB should “consult interested parties”, the law is silent on how this consultation should be established, how extensive it needs to be and how frequent, leaving the whole question to the discretion of the Board. Given that the current Article 29 WP is not notably dialogue inclined, and given the presumption that all EDPB deliberations will be internal, legitimate questions can be asked about the Board’s willingness to access relevant expertise or entertain outside ideas. It matters a great deal to companies like Adobe how the EDPB will interpret new concepts like “imbalance” between consenting parties, or where it will draw the line on “risky processing”, what it will consider to be a “compelling legitimate interest” for a controller to override a data subject’s objection. Will companies’ voices be adequately heard?

We hope so. But the limited mandate of the EDPB – whereby it is bound to consider only matters relating to the interpretation of data protection law to the exclusion of other highly relevant factors such as the economic impact of their decisions – risks being too narrow. Data processing and data protection are not just a part of the economy, they ARE the modern economy and cannot be examined in isolation.

In short, the EDPB will have enormous influence over the EU economy. We hope it exercises this power responsibly and with the utmost consideration for the world beyond the one outlined in its official mandate.

The Future of Our Digital World: Why You Should Care about the EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy

Posted by John Jolliffe, Head of EMEA Government Relations

“A Digital Single Market is one in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured and where individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence.”

Launched amid much fanfare in May 2015, the Digital Single Market Strategy laid out the European Commission’s vision for digitally driven economic growth in the EU. As someone who has worked on technology policy issues for over 13 years in Brussels and other European capitals, it’s reassuring to see the EU at last recognise that “(ICT) is no longer a specific sector but the foundation of all modern innovative economic systems.”

But the idea that “Achieving a Digital Single Market will ensure that Europe maintains its position as a world leader in the digital economy, helping European companies to grow globally” reveals a deep-rooted inward-looking mindset which, if not carefully monitored, risks undermining the DSM’s ability to enhance Europe’s international competitiveness.

In the end, what’s missing is any sense of the connectedness and dependence of the European economy on the rest of the world. The implicit message from the European Commission is clear: if only we can get our house in order, the EU can lead the global economy.

This feels like political wishful thinking. And studies such as the recent work by Erik Van der Marel from Brussels-based economy think tank ECIPE on “The Importance of Complementary Policy for ICT in the EU” confirm that things are a little more complicated. In his well-written analysis of the impact of the software industry on the EU economy, he points out the clear inter-connectedness of the European economy with the rest of the world. It’s a timely contribution that puts the DSM strategy into a wider international trade context, and makes clear that if “digital” is really to generate, as the Commission claims, “up to EUR 250 billion of additional growth in Europe,” then it will need to maintain a global mindset.

Van der Marel reminds us that an economy is like a machine, with inputs and outputs. In an era of global supply chains all economic actors big and small need access to software and a policy framework that enables them to use it if they are to increase productivity and add economic value. “Policy rigidities slow down the endorsement and therefore the use of new technologies of ICT in the wider downstream economy.” He cites a number of complementary policies that can hinder use of technology and, by extension, European competitiveness: labour market policies, IPR protection, product market regulations, and restrictions on the free international flow of data. The entire DSM programme and related policies – from geoblocking and digital signatures to copyright reform and data protection – can be linked to one of those broad categories. But, as the grueling debates over data protection and Safe Harbour have shown, that sense of inter-connectedness is often in short supply.

Will the DSM Strategy help the EU address these important challenges of international competitiveness? We are about to find out. The first formal legislative proposals were published just before the Christmas break, and will enable us to begin to take the real measure of the DSM strategy. Another 14 new pieces of legislation are expected by the end of this year. It’s our hope that in attempting to remove barriers within an EU internal market – a very worthwhile objective – it doesn’t create new policy rigidities, or lose sight of the inherent interconnectedness of the global economy. We’ll be looking at some of those proposals in future blog posts, starting with the Commission’s proposed new contractual regime for the supply of digital content.