On 9 December 2015, the European Commission has proposed new rules concerning content portability across the so-called Digital Single Market. Under the first set of proposals, which will need to be discussed with and endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, Europeans will be able to access online services they have subscribed to at home and content they have previously purchased or rented while (temporarily) travelling in other EU countries. The proposals will be outlined in greater depth next year.
At present, Europeans travelling to another Member State frequently cannot access content from online services they have subscribed to or acquired at home (i.e. the content is not ‘portable’). For example, a German user of Netflix who travels to the UK will only be able to access the content that the video streaming service offers in Britain. Thus, in the eyes of the Commission, “the range of online content available in one’s home country does not reflect the breadth of Europe’s cultural production and legal content offers online of European works are still far from realising their full potential.”
The Commission believes that various trends justify the need for the EU to act on content portability including the projected growth of online content services, notably legal subscription-based services, and the high interest in cross-border portability expressed by young Europeans. In order to allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, the Commission will consider legislative proposals for adoption in spring 2016 including:
- enhancing cross-border distribution of television and radio programmes online
- supporting right holders and distributors to reach agreement on licences that allow for cross-border access to content
- making it easier to digitize out-of-commerce works and make them available
The proposals have raised concerns among TV and film-makers and rights holders who fear that allowing pan-European access will undermine the ability to sell content in multiple markets. For example, according to The Guardian, representatives of the Premier League have raised concerns that „without a clear time period defining how long someone can be abroad and continue to access their services, consumers could look to buy subscriptions where they are cheapest in the European Union.“ The Commission seems to have taken these concerns into consideration stating that the new rules on content portability will need to be balanced with the readiness of markets to respond rapidly to legal and policy changes and the need to ensure viable financing models for those who are primarily responsible for content creation.