EU agrees content portability

With Andrus Ansip, EC Vice-President in charge of the Digital Single Market, describing it as “a new important step” in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market, Europeans will soon be able fully to use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when travelling within the EU, following agreement reached by negotiators of the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission. This is the first agreement related to the modernisation on EU copyright rules as proposed by the Commission in the Digital Single Market strategy.

Ansip welcomed the agreement, reached just one week after a deal on wholesale roaming charges: “Today’s agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans. People who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market. I warmly thank the European Parliament rapporteur Jean-Marie Cavada, the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU and all those involved in reaching today’s compromise. Agreements are now needed on our other proposals to modernise EU copyright rules and ensure a wider access to creative content across borders. I count on the European Parliament and Member States to make it happen.”

“Digital technologies provide new opportunities to enjoy cultural content on the go, and people are eager to use them,” stated Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. “Today’s agreement opens new doors to citizens while at the same time protecting creators and those investing in the production of cultural or sport content. This balanced solution is an encouraging sign for our efforts to build a Digital Single Market that offers new opportunities for both creators and consumers.”

The new portability rules will fit to new ways Europeans enjoy cultural and entertainment content. According to the European Commission, in 2016, 64 per cent of Europeans used the Internet to play or download games, images, films or music. They did it increasingly through mobile devices. In a survey carried out in 2015, one in three Europeans wanted cross-border portability. For young people, this possibility is even more important. Half of people aged between 15 and 39 years old thought that portability and accessing the service they subscribe to when travelling in Europe is important.

The future regulation will enable consumers to access their online content services when they travel in the EU the same way they access them at home. For instance, when a French consumer subscribes to Canal+ film and series online services, the user will be able to access films and series available in France when he or she goes on holidays to Croatia or for a business trip to Denmark.

The online content service providers such as Netflix, MyTF1 or Spotify will verify the subscriber’s country of residence by using means such as payment details, the existence of an Internet contract or by checking the IP address. All providers who offer paid online content services will have to follow the new rules. The services provided without payment (such as the online services of public TV or radio broadcasters) will have the possibility to decide to also provide portability to their subscribers.

The agreed text must now be formally confirmed by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. Once adopted, the rules will become applicable in all EU Member States by beginning of 2018 as the Regulation grants providers and right holders a nine-month period to prepare for the application of the new rules.

In December 2015, the European Commission proposed a Regulation to broaden access to online content for travellers in the EU. It was the first legal proposal of the Digital Single market strategy, which was completed in September 2016 by modern EU copyright rules to increase cultural diversity in Europe and content available online, while bringing clearer rules for all online players. The Regulation targets those online content services where the application of copyright rules is most relevant. These can be video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV), online TV services (Viasat’s Viaplay, Sky’s NOW TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) or game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin). The main feature of these services is to provide access to content protected by copyright and related rights as well as audiovisual media services.

The possibility to have access to online content services when travelling will be even more important from 15 June 2017 when the new roaming rules enter into force. Thenceforth, people who travel periodically will pay domestic prices for mobile Internet, subject to fair use, irrespective of where they are travelling in the EU.

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