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Europe agrees content portability rules

EU citizens with subscriptions for online films and TV will soon be able to access their content while temporarily in another EU country, following a vote in the European Parliament.

The new rules approved by the Parliament – and previously agreed with Council negotiators in February 2017 – will remove restrictions so that EU citizens can use online services such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Deezer while in another EU country for holidays, studies or business.

The rules cover:

  • access to online subscription content while in another EU-country
  • checks on permanent residence of the user to avoid copyright breaches
  • safeguards for users’ data protection and privacy

Citizens visiting another EU country are often prevented from accessing online content such as films, TV series, music, games, or sporting events, which they have paid for in their home country. The new rules were adopted by 586 votes to 34, with 8 abstentions.

 Residence check and data protection

Online content service providers may take ‘effective and reasonable’ measures to verify that the subscriber has not permanently moved to another EU country as required copyright licenses may differ between countries. A list of permissible methods for verification purposes includes identity cards, payment details, public tax information, postal address details or IP address checks. Service providers must ensure that any processing of personal data is proportionate and must introduce safeguards, especially for IP address checks.

The new rules will only apply to online fee-based services but providers of free services can also make their content portable EU-wide provided they comply with the requirements relating to residency checks.

European citizens have been waiting for these new rules, which represent a step towards a common digital market,” declared Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, FR), the ‘rapporteur’ responsible for guding the legislation through Parliament. “The new rules increase mobility and successfully offer portability to users of European online content, without affecting copyright,” he added.

Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, welcomed the vote and thanked Cavada for his work in achieving the outcome and looked forward to final approval by Member States in the coming weeks.

The rules voted today mean that, as of the beginning of next year, people who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in the European Union,” he declared.

Combined with the end of roaming charges, it means that watching films or listening to music while on holiday abroad will not bring any additional costs to people who use mobile networks. This is an important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market. We now need agreements on our other proposals to modernise EU copyright rules and ensure wider access to creative content across borders and fairer rules for creators. I rely on the European Parliament and Member States to make swift progress to make this happen,” he concluded.

Next steps

The draft law still needs to be formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers. Member states will have nine months from the date of entry into force of the regulation to bring the new rules into force.

The Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) has welcomed the European Parliament’s adoption of the proposal, but expressed concern at the SatCab (Broadcasters regulation) which it claimed would limit the possibility of these same services to invest in and acquire content.

 

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