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The world needs to move towards a more open internet and remove the “digital handcuffs” that stifle innovation and democracy, according to EC vice president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes.

During a speech at W3C in Lyon Kroes said that the EU required new legislation to protect a free and open internet while also ensuring that copyright holders were properly recognised and rewarded.

But she also criticised the complicated licensing systems for copyrighted material in Europe, stating that copyright societies were lying when they claimed to be working to protect artists.

[Copyright laws] guarantee that Europeans miss out on great content, they discourage business innovation, and they fail to serve the creative people in whose name they were established.

She said the EU is currently working to update copyright laws so they better reflect online realities.

However she stressed that an open internet shouldn’t “come at the expense of privacy or safety.

Openness doesn’t mean anarchy: laws and social norms, rights and responsibilities exist in cyberspace, just like in the real world. And indeed they help promote an open and safe environment where ideas prosper.

Following Kroes’s speech she took part in a panel session with Sir Tim Berners-Lee to debate whether the internet is a human right.

Berners-Lee said that though he didn’t think the internet should count as a human right it was important to speak of it in that context in order to motivate governments to give people web access.

We need to have internet access established as a right so when it is removed we can shout about it.

He also attacked the music industry’s approach to tackling online piracy, suggesting that the punishments handed out for illegally downloading music were disproportionate to the crime.

If someone steals music on the internet you can’t cut off their internet connection, as they use it for other things as well. In the old days they would cut off someone’s hand for stealing a sheep so they couldn’t steal anymore, but we’ve moved on from those days.