New EU rules on portability of online content services move closer

Consumers to be able to access paid-for services when abroad

Planned new EU laws aimed at making online content more accessible to those that subscribe to it are closer to being finalised after a deal struck on the new rules earlier this month was endorsed by representatives of national governments across the EU.

At the beginning of February, the Maltese presidency of the Council of Ministers, on behalf of EU member state governments, together with European Parliament officials, confirmed they had "reached a provisional agreement" on new rules for cross-border portability of online content services.

That deal has now been endorsed by Coreper (Comité des représentants permanents), a committee made up of ambassadors for each of the EU member states that make up the Council of Ministers, the Council confirmed last week.

The new rules still require to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament before they can enter into force.

At the moment, online consumers are often blocked from accessing services they have already paid for when they go on holiday or on business to another EU country, sometimes as a result of licensing restrictions. These restrictions on access to content, on a geographic basis, are sometimes referred to as the practice of "geo-blocking".

Under the new rules that have been provisionally agreed on, online service providers that charge consumers in the EU to access content such as music, TV shows, films and games will be required to ensure those consumers can access that content when they are temporarily present in another EU country. Content service providers will not be able to charge extra to provide for the portability of their services under the new framework.

Service providers will be able to verify the subscribers' country of residence using identification authentication methods listed in the new legislation to ensure that the rules are not being abused. However, rights holders will "have the possibility of authorising the use of their content without the obligation to verify the subscriber's residence", the Council said in its latest statement.

The new rules are expected to come into force in 2018.

Copyright © 2016, is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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