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

Andrus Ansip [European Commission]

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip has rejected a proposal from some member states to limit the number of days that Europeans can access digital content like Netflix when they travel in other EU countries.

Speaking to journalists on Friday (15 April) Ansip said that it is “not fair and would make the solution more expensive” to restrict the amount of time that customers can use digital content that they’ve purchased legally.

“This is one of my worries,” he said, arguing that it would not make sense to impose a time limit since there are so many Europeans travelling abroad, including for work reasons.

Ansip and EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger proposed new measures last December that fired up the audiovisual industry.

Under the draft bill, Europeans could still access digital content they purchase in one country when they cross into another country – as long as they’re only traveling for a short period of time.

Member states, including Spain, Italy and Portugal, are pushing for a clear time limit on the number of days when the new so-called portability measures would apply.

A draft compromise version of the bill from the Dutch Council presidency, dated this Wednesday (13 April) and obtained by, included added details on how companies should verify a person’s location to determine that they are only temporarily travelling.

Ansip expressed concerns about limiting the amount of time that the portability rules would apply, since that would require tracking consumers’ habits.

He said that kind of data collection would violate fundamental rights.

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

But Ansip conceded he is ready to discuss some points in his proposal that could still be clarified, such as the meaning of ‘country of residence’.

“I am ready to do that but to set a concrete number of days is unnecessary,” he insisted.

Companies in the entertainment industry have pushed for clearer rules outlining how long a person can stay outside their country of residence under the rules.

Grégoire Polad, director general of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe, told EURACTIV that allowing portability under the Commission’s proposal shouldn’t lead to a “gateway to cross-border access”.

“Proper verification will make or break portability for service providers,” Polad said.

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.

Meanwhile, Ansip also revealed his approach for his highly anticipated proposal on online platforms, which he’s expected to present in June.

Ansip told journalists the Commission will not propose an across-the-board regulation of platforms, but will instead favour a problem-driven approach. Some tech companies fear the Commission’s actions on platforms could unfairly target American firms like Google and Apple.

Ansip argued that there is no “one-size-fits-all solution” to deal with the diverse range of platforms, which includes search engines like Google and content providers like Youtube or Spotify.

He ruled out any new tax on these tech giants to level the playing field with other services.

Instead, he explained that the Commission will make rules “more clear” for what content can be legally used by some platforms.

“I don’t think service providers are guilty,” Ansip said.

Tech industry groups celebrated Ansip’s statements on platforms.

Jakob Kucharczyk, director of CCIA Europe, said Ansip “deserves praise for understanding the breadth of platform business models”. CCIA is an industry group whose members include several big American tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Italy set to pull ahead of Brussels on online platform regulation

A vote next week in the Italian Parliament could create Europe’s first regulation on online platforms. The MP who proposed the bill is meeting officials in Brussels this week while the European Commission considers drafting its own legislation.

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

President Juncker's strategy for a single European market is as follows: to build confidence between stakeholders, to bulldoze obstacles, to guarantee connectivity and access to digital technology across the EU, to build a digital economy, to promote e-society and invest in research in technology and information. Andrus Ansip, the Vice-President of the Digital Single Market, is leading this initiative.

The European Commission presented its 16-point digital single market strategy in May 2015. Commissioner Günther Oettinger announced in April that the Commission will propose more copyright legislation in September or October 2016.

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