New rules on content portability across the European Union will come into force on April 1, enabling users of online audiovisual services to view content while outside their home country within the EU.
The new rules will apply only to pay service, although providers of free-to-view services may opt in. Providers of online content services should be able to provide cross-border portability of online content to their subscribers without having to acquire licences for other territories where the subscribers stay temporarily, with safeguards in place to protect rights-holders.
Providers of pay online services including movie and TV services have to provide their subscribers with the same service wherever the subscriber is in the EU, with the same catalogue available everywhere.
The portability access agreed covers situations where subscribers are abroad temporarily, for example for work or holidays. However, the meaning of ‘temporarily’ is not clearly defined. Identifying the country of residence of subscribers will be left to service providers.
Free-to-view service providers can opt in. Those that do opt in will be subject to the same rules as paid for content providers, with subscribers having to log in to use the service.
Public broadcasters’ content can be covered by the same rules, with regulation depending on whether consumers can access services on all devices or only some. Pubcasters also have to either make content available against payment or submit to the rules governing access – for example with registration and login – on a voluntary basis.
Pay content providers will not be able to impose additional charges for portability, however.
The rules do not cover content offered in member states other than the home country of the user and portability is offered only on a temporary basis. Wider portability , promoted by the EC, has been stymied by the European Parliament, which voted to restrict it to news and current affairs programming. The proposed regulation on broadcasters’ online transmissions and retransmissions of radio and TV programmes is still under negotiation as part of the trilogue between the different EU institutions.
The EC estimates that about 5.7% of EU consumers are likely to make use of cross-border portability initially, with the number likely to more than double over the next two years.
In a joint statement, EC Vice-President Andrus Ansip, digital single market Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, IT and communications commissioner Ivaylo Moskovski and Members of the European Parliament Pavel Svoboda and Jean-Marie Cavada said in a statement that “reaching an agreement on portability is a great result of close collaboration between the EU institutions and European companies and stakeholders” and “a concrete step towards building a true Digital Single Market”.
“Citizens are at the core of all our digital initiatives. As of 1 April, wherever you are travelling to in the EU, you will no longer miss out on your favourite films, TV series, sports broadcasts, games or e-books, that you have digitally subscribed to at home. The rules will apply to paid-for services, but providers of free content may opt in. Providers of online content will also benefit from the new rules. They will no longer have to acquire licences for other territories where their subscribers are travelling to,” they said.
“Removing the boundaries that prevented Europeans from travelling with digital media and content subscriptions is yet another success of the Digital Single Market for our citizens, following the effective abolition of roaming charges that consumers all over Europe have enjoyed since June 2017.”