Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

You are on holiday but you cannot watch your favorite TV series on Netflix from abroad? The European Commission wants to fix this.

How did we get here?

The oldest of the norms regulating copyright in the EU was passed before the existence of YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook. Copyright laws weren’t created for the digital age and the current (not fully harmonised) EU rules are from 2011. This proposal is the first step to change that. It is not the big reform the Commission announced earlier, but rather the appetizer of a whole menu of new copright rules


Why is this important for me?

It is very similiar to roaming. You are not at home, but you want to enjoy things as you were at home. In this case: Online content you paid for (in your home country). So this proposal is supposed to encourage you to travel and work from abroad. Plus: Wider availability will help to fight piracy and ensure a greater variety of content. For more evidence, have a look at the Commission's factsheet.


What's the content?

The EU's aspiring power couple responsible for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip (from digitally very progressive Estonia) and Günther Oettinger (from digitally rather retarded Germany) presented their proposal in December 2015. These two want Europeans, who buy or subscribe to films, music, e-books and games at home to be able to access them when they travel or work in other EU countries. Currently, they are often cut off from most streaming services as soon as they leave their home country.

Example: A Dutch subscriber travelling to France will only be able to watch films offered by Netflix to French consumers - so she can probably not see her favorite Dutch TV series.

This is called "cross-border portability" and it is not the same as "cross-border access" which means that users, from their home country, can access online services available in another Member State - always. The Commission wanted the right to portability to be only temporary since you cannot just sign up for a (cheaper) streaming service in - let's say - Cyprus and then permanently use it in Ireland.

Yet, MEPs were against a fixed time limit. In order to avoid abuse, they suggest users shall submit a proof of permanent residence in their member state when subscribing to an online service. They will then have access to the content in whatever member state they are. The member state of residence shall be verified with random checks via the subscriber's IP address, in order to avoid abuse. The new rules will mainly apply to streaming services that you have to pay for.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

The European Parliament and the Council nearly finished the work on this issue. In the Parliament the Legal Affairs Committee agreed on its position in November 2016 and the Council agreed on a position in May 2016. Neogtiations between the institutions were wrapped up in early February 2017 with a provisional deal. The agreement was confirmed by a formal vote in the EP plenary in May 2017 and by the EU Council of Ministers in early June 2017.

Now the law only needs to be officially published. Member states will then have nine months to bring the new rules into force. As this is a regulation it is directly applicable across the EU and Member States do not need to adapt their laws. This means you will profit from the new rules in spring 2018!


Related Bills:

Eliminating roaming, securing net neutrality

Updated European data protection laws

New consumer rules for online shopping

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