Europe agrees cross-border access to digital content by 2018

8 Feb 2017

In 2018, EU citizens will be able to access their digital content wherever they go in Europe. Image: AstroStar/Shutterstock

The European Commission has agreed a new portability ruling, stating that as of 2018, EU residents can access their digital content in all EU countries.

The European Commission has set new rules that remove geographic limitations on where EU residents can access their digital content such as digital books, video games, music and more.

The move comes just a week after the EU agreed to end mobile roaming charges, starting this summer.

‘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’

It comes just two years after the EU unveiled its ambitious Digital Single Market plan to remove borders from e-commerce and digital services.

Thanks to a new agreement reached by negotiators of the European Parliament, the move is the first agreement related to the modernisation of EU copyright rules. As a result, Europeans will soon be able to fully use their online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games or music services when travelling within the EU.

In 2016, 64pc of Europeans used the internet to play or download games, images, films or music – mostly via mobile devices.

Digital content goes portable in Europe

Half of people aged 15-39 believe content portability when travelling is important, and this new regulation means they will be able to access content abroad in the same way they access it at home.

Online content service providers such as Netflix, MYTF1 and Spotify will verify the subscriber’s country of residence by using means such as payment details, the existence of an internet contract or checking the IP address.

All providers who offer paid online content services will have to follow the new rules, according to the EU.

The online services provided without payment, such as public TV or radio broadcasting, will be given the option to provide portability to their subscribers.

For example, an Irish consumer may be able to access RTÉ Player services while on a business trip to Italy.

“Today’s agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans,” said the vice-president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip.

“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.

“Agreements are now needed on other proposals to modernise EU copyright rules and ensure a wider access to creative content across borders.”

While consumers will be delighted at the EU decision, the same cannot be said for Hollywood or the European content industry.

The Digital Single Market has been opposed by Europe’s movie and TV industry, which views it as a threat to its territory-by-territory licensing of films and TV shows.

The industry is worried about the potential for people to buy content stored in other countries’ digital platforms. Hollywood, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America, has also expressed concern.

Currently, most video game, movie and music streaming services are blocked by geo-fencing.

The proposed new rules will need to be approved by the EU Council and the European Parliament and once passed, they will come into effect in 2018.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years