European Union institutions moved a step closer yesterday (7 February) to letting consumers access their online subscriptions for services like Netflix or Sky when they travel across the bloc.
The agreement between the European Parliament and Malta, which acts on behalf of all 28 EU states in its role as the bloc’s current holder of the rotating presidency, is another step in an EU drive to knock down barriers in the single market of 500 million people.
It is the first step towards modernising copyright rules in the EU, proposed by the Commission under its Digital Single Market strategy (DSM). Malta has also pledged to prioritise digitalisation during its six months at the helm of the EU presidency.
Maltese Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona 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.”
Letting people take their online subscriptions abroad comes after the bloc has already decided to abolish roaming charges for using mobile phones when travelling within the EU, set to come into force on 15 June.
The agreement must still be formally approved, though that is seen as a formality. It is aimed at people temporarily in another EU country for holidays, business trips or studies.
European Parliament rapporteur on the proposal Jean-Marie Cavada (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats) said that it “signifies very important progress in the context of the Single Market”, while Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, in charge of the DSM, tweeted that cross-border portability is “simple, natural”.
The new measures will apply only to online fee-based services. Free-of-charge services will be exempt and it with remain up to the provider to decide if they will be made available across the EU.
While meant to benefit consumers, the decision has been contested by rights-holders, who say the principle of territoriality is crucial to their financing rules.