EU countries struck a deal on a draft bill that would allow subscribers to use digital media like Netflix when they travel to other member states. A handful of countries put up a fight.
National governments agreed yesterday (26 May) on a compromise bill that will let people use digital media that they access legally at home when they travel to another EU country. The agreement comes one day after the European Commission proposed another new audiovisual rule that will require video on-demand platforms like Netflix to carry at least 20% European media in their catalogues.
The Commission announced the so-called portability bill last December, as the first legislative proposal in its flagship digital single market plans.
A couple of countries, including France, Spain, Italy and Greece, pushed back against the bill and asked for a clear limit to the length of time people could remain in another country and still legally access media they’ve paid for.
Those countries lost out: under the newly minted compromise deal, consumers can stay in another country for a “limited period of time”, but the national governments didn’t name the number of days.
The bill now heads to the Parliament, where MEPs are already thrashing through the details. French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE) was named rapporteur in the Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee earlier this year, creating an upset among some lobbyists who feared he would follow the French government’s call to put a limit on how long consumers can access digital media outside the country they live in.
Last year, Cavada created a stir with controversial amendments to the European Parliament’s copyright report.
Parliament sources told euractiv.com that Cavada will suggest a definition of how long people can stay abroad that is different from the Commission and Council’s proposals altogether.
In his draft version of the bill, Cavada won’t set out any time limitation, but will instead ask companies to make sure their subscribers return to the country they live in at least three or four times a year.
Companies affected by the law, which include Netflix and broadcasters that provide online streams, will need to comply with “serious” measures to verify where subscribers live, according to the French MEP’s bill.
Cavada will publish his draft in July ahead of a JURI Committee vote planned for October, Parliament sources said.
The executive’s original proposal said the law would apply to anyone “temporarily present” in an EU country where they are not a resident.
Andrus Ansip, the Juncker Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, is against limits that some member states demanded, and said that specifying a maximum number of days consumers could spend abroad would be a “red line” that he couldn’t accept.
Some broadcasters say tight rules that limit the number of days subscribers can access media when they’re abroad could be a headache for them to comply with. But Cavada’s proposal of checking subscribers’ residence a few times a year might not work at all, industry sources say—unless companies verify residence all the time.
Consumer groups are worried that companies may be required to verify subscribers’ residence in a way that is too invasive or complicated.
“It would be absurd to ask people for their bank account, or to check if their name is on an electoral roll, to verify a person’s identity when they log in from abroad,” said Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation.