EU on-line content portability policy – agreement reached for accessing services while abroad
From the CAMRI Policy Observatory.
The EU has reached an interinstitutional political agreement on the content portability proposal addressing “geo-blocking” which is preventing the users from accessing their domestic subscriptions to on-line content while temporarily abroad viewed as discriminatory. The European Parliament’s (EP) press release states:
“Today, consumers visiting another EU country often cannot access and use online content services, such as music, games, films, entertainment programmes or sporting events, that they have subscribed to in their home country, because their cross-border portability is restricted by territorial and exclusive licensing practices. The new rules will remove these restrictions for all new subscriptions and also for those purchased before the rules enter into force, thus enabling EU citizens to access this online content while temporarily abroad in another EU country on holiday, for studies or for business. However, they will apply only to online fee-based services. Free-of-charge services will not be subject to the rules, but their providers will have the option of making them portable EU wide.”
Following the European Commission’s proposal of 9 December 2015, this dossier has now entered its very final stage when formalisation of the informal agreement on the text by the EU institutions is pending within the EP and the Council of Ministers and is likely to be accomplished in the coming months. It should then enter into force shortly. It is part of the modernisation of the EU copyright regime and a distinct feature of the EU Digital Single Market Strategy aiming at seamless cross-border exchange of the digital services and goods and hence at elimination of related barriers. This move also represents Europeanisation of this policy area, since its coming in the form of Regulation – a directly applicable legal instrument that should bring about more unified rules across the EU.
This initiative was strongly welcomed by the consumer organisations. Depending on the funding model that varies in Europe, on-line content geo-blocking is being experienced, apart from commercial providers, with some PSBs as well, as is the case with the BBC iPlayer. Reportedly, however, the BBC iPlayer was exempt from the rules as not having user verification system in place. The BBC, however, in 2015 expressed willingness to make the on demand content accessible outside the country for the UK licence-fee payers subject to modernisation of the licence-fee and its extension to the iPlayer that would enable user verification.
The EU is besides in the process of further tackling the geo-blocking while accessing tangible and digital goods vendors on-line from another EU country. The latter that comprises also the access to the audio-visual services of foreign (but intra-EU) providers is within the context of the review of the EU Satellite Broadcast and Cable Transmission Directive and another element of modernisation of the EU copyright regime. While the post-Brexit situation poses many perplexities regarding the applicability of the recently adopted or upcoming EU policies, it is very likely that many of them will have an impact on the UK. For instance, the UK is set to implement the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) adopted last year and coming into force in spring 2018, despite the UK’s unfavourable stance towards this law during the GDPR deliberations.