Out-Law News 1 min. read

Rules on the portability of online content finalised

Online content service providers will be obliged to ensure that consumers in the EU can access the material they subscribe to when they are "temporarily present" in another EU country, under new rules approved by EU law makers.

The Council of Ministers announced on Thursday that it had voted to adopt new rules on the cross-border portability of online content services (39-page / 316KB PDF). The rules are set to have effect from early 2018, it said.

"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," the Maltese presidency of the Council said in a statement. "Together with the ending of roaming charges, this is important progress in creating a digital single market which benefits everyone."

According to the regulation agreed on, online content service providers will need to ensure that they make their service available to paid subscribers "in the same manner as in the member state of residence" when those subscribers are "present in a member state other than the member state of residence for a limited period of time".

The regulation specifically provides that the obligation includes "providing access to the same content, on the same range and number of devices, for the same number of users and with the same range of functionalities". Online content service providers are prohibited from charging subscribers extra to facilitate their new access rights.

For the purposes of the regulation, the provision of online content, as well as the accessing and use of that content, will be deemed to have occurred in the EU country where subscribers are resident rather than in the country where they are temporarily present.

Service providers will have the option of verifying the subscribers' country of residence using identification authentication methods listed in the new legislation to ensure that the rules are not being abused. 

The new legislation will apply to contracts for the provision of online content services put in place prior to the new rules taking effect.

The European Parliament voted to approve the new regulation last month. The Council said the rules are set to apply sometime in early 2018. The exact date is dependent on when the new regulation is published in the EU's official journal.

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