Portability of digital services across the EU – New rules

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Portability of digital services across the EU - New rulesNew rules have been adopted today by the European Council to allow consumers who paid for online content services in their home country to access them when visiting another country within the EU.

The Maltese Presidency commented that, “Europeans travelling within the EU will no longer be cut off from online services such as films, sporting broadcasts, music, e-books or games they have paid for back home. Together with the ending of roaming charges, this is important progress in creating a digital single market which benefits everyone.”

It noted that the new regulation will improve competitiveness by encouraging innovation in online services and attracting more consumers. The provision of cross-border portability will not be subject to any additional charges.

“It is one of the objectives of the digital single market strategy to create a truly internal market for digital content and services.”

It will be applicable on all online content services which are provided against payment of money.

The Council explained that free to air services, such as those provided by certain public broadcasters, will have the option of benefiting from the regulation provided that they verify the country of residence of their subscribers.

Cross-border portability of online services currently have obstacles that arise from the fact that the rights for the transmission of content protected by copyright such as audio-visual works as well as rights for premium sporting events are often licensed on a territorial basis, the Commission said. “Online service providers may choose to serve specific markets only.”

It will also ensure equal access from abroad to content legally acquired or subscribed to in the member state of residence when on holidays, business trips or limited student stays. The Commission said that service providers will verify the subscribers’ member state of residence to avoid abuses. “The verifications will be carried out in compliance with EU data protection rules.”

It added that the service provider will be authorised “to cease the access to the online service when the subscriber cannot prove his/her member state of residence.”

According to the European Commission the means of verification “will be reasonable, proportionate and effective.”

“It will consist of using no more than two criteria from a list of verification means. These may include an identity card, a bank account or credit card; the address of installation of the device for the supply of services; the payment by the subscriber of a licence fee for other services; an official billing or postal address; etc.”

“Copyright holders will have the possibility of authorising the use of their content without the obligation to verify the subscriber’s residence,” the Commission said.

These new rules will start to apply in the first quarter of 2018 (nine months after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal).

The regulation was adopted at a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, without discussion, the Council noted.

“Today’s decision follows an agreement reached on 7 February 2017 between the Maltese Presidency and the European Parliament. The Parliament voted its first reading position on 18 May 2017.”

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