Portability of digital content services: EU Presidency-Parliament agreement

On 7 February the Maltese presidency reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives to remove barriers to cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market.

The agreement, which still needs to be confirmed by both the Council and the European Parliament, will allow consumers who have subscribed or bought online content services in their home country to access it when temporarily present in another country within the EU.

“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.”

Chris Cardona, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business of Malta.

Travelling with subscriptions to online services

The increased use of portable devices, such as tablets and smartphones, facilitates access to the use of online content services regardless of the consumers’ location.

There is rapidly growing demand on the part of consumers for access to content and innovative online services, not only in their own country but also when they are away from home. As a result, barriers that hamper access and use of online content services within the single market will be eliminated.

The new regulation is a part of digital single market initiatives to create a truly internal market for digital content and services. The Commission presented the original proposal in December 2015.

Scope of application

The new regulation will apply to online content services which are provided against payment of money. Free to air services, such as public broadcasters, will be able to benefit from the regulation provided that they verify the country of residence of their subscribers.

Current obstacles to cross-border portability of online content services stem from the fact that the rights for the transmission of content protected by copyright and/or related rights, such as audio-visual works as well as rights for premium sporting events, are often licensed on a territorial basis.

Country of residence

The new measures will ensure equal access from abroad to content legally acquired or subscribed to in the country of residence when temporarily present in another Member State such as for holidays, business trips or limited student stays.

To avoid abuses, service providers will verify the subscribers’ country of residence. The verifications will be carried out in compliance with the EU data protection rules.

Entry into force

Following the formal approval of the regulation by the Council and the Parliament, the new system will start to apply  nine months after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal.