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30/09/2016

Consumers back Commission on protecting digital subscriptions abroad

Digital

Consumers back Commission on protecting digital subscriptions abroad

Consumer organisations are fighting with specific member states, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece, to limit access to subscriber content, such as films and music, when travelling abroad.

Member states’ permanent representatives (COREPER) will discuss a new compromise aimed at bridging the differences between the European Commission’s text today (13 May), in favour of full access to the content subscribers paid for when they are on holiday or a business trip, and a proposal to impose a maximum number of days for the portability of the online subscription.

Commission wants consumers to access digital content when they travel

The European Commission proposed a new regulation today (9 December) to allow residents of the EU to access legal digital content when they’re traveling outside the country they live in.

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The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) contacted all the EU countries’ permanent representations in Brussels to back the executive’s proposal.

In addition, consumer organisations in Italy, Spain and Greece sent a letter to their governments to counter their attempt to set a specific number of days to use the cross-border portability.

In the letter sent to Spain’s ministers of economy and education, and seen by EurActiv.com, the consumers say that this option “would not be appropriate” given that consumers travel abroad for different purposes.

Consumers also argued that the verification mechanism of the country of residence, another tricky point of the proposal, should be as simple and non-intrusive as possible.

In its proposal announced last December, the Commission said that consumers “temporarily present” abroad (meaning a country other than the member state of residence) should have the right to access the content they paid for.

EU officials told EurActiv that Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia want to narrow the scope of “temporarily present” by indicating that it should mean “for a short, transitory period of time”.

But some countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Greece would like to go a step further by introducing a maximum number of days to freely use online subscriptions to providers like Netflix.

Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, said last April that any limitation on the number of days would be a ‘red line’ for him.

Ansip fires back against member states' push to limit digital content portability

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip rejected some member states’ proposal to limit the number of days of that digital content like Netflix can be accessed when Europeans are traveling in other EU countries.

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“This is one of my worries,” he told a group of reporters. Moreover, he expressed his concern about the tracking mechanisms that operators and content providers would have to use to verify the users are only temporarily travelling.

“I don’t like it, people don’t like it either, so why do we have to talk about that?” he added.

On the opposite side of the specturm, a diplomat from one of the member states, in favour of capping the number of days, argued that a clear temporal limit, and robust verification mechanisms, are needed to avoid portability becoming a backdoor for cross-border access to original content from a member state under different copyright agreements.

If that happens, there would be a loss of the content value, the diplomat added, on condition of anonymity.

In spite of the different views on the definition of “temporarily present” and the mechanisms to verify the subscribers’ country of residence, sources from both camps were positive about the possibility of reaching an agreement on 26 May, when the Competitiveness Council will meet.

An EU source close to the negotiation explained that a compromise could be reached by adding the wording “for a limited period of time”.

Background

The modernisation of copyright law is one of the priorities of Jean-Claude Juncker's presidency of the European Commission.

The European Commission presented its 16-point digital single market strategy in May 2015. On 9 December, the executive proposed a new regulation to allow residents of the EU to access legal digital content when they’re traveling outside the country they live in.

Meanwhile, the Commission will unveil new proposals to update the EU copyright law from 2001.

The executive's action plan is built on four complementary pillars:

  • Widening online access to content across the EU, including in the light of the results of the review of the Satellite and Cable Directive;
  • Adapting exceptions to copyright rules to a digital and cross-border environment, focussing on exceptions which are key for the functioning of the digital single market and the pursuit of public policy objectives (such as those in the area of education, research - including text and data mining - and access to knowledge);
  • Creating a fair marketplace, including online intermediaries when they distribute copyright-protected content, such as news aggregating services.
  • Strengthening the enforcement system.

 

Timeline

  • 13 May: Meeting of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States (COREPER)
  • 26 May: Competitiveness Council

Further Reading