The new regulation on cross-border content portability was first published in the EU Official Journal on 30 June 2017 with a subsequent amendment to the Regulation published on 28 July 2017 changing the date of its application. Under the Regulation EU citizens will be able to make full use of their paid online content services (across film, sport, television, music, e-books and gaming) wherever they are in the EU. This follows an informal agreement reached in respect of the Regulation on 7 February 2017 between the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission, subsequent formal approval by the European Parliament on 18 May 2017 and the Council of the EU adopting the new Regulation on 8 June 2017.

Service providers will have until 1 April 2018 to comply with the rules. In particular, by 2 June 2018, the provider of a paid online content service will have to verify the Member State of residence of those subscribers who concluded contracts for the provision of online content service before that date.

These rules form part of a wider initiative introduced by the European Commission in 2015 aimed at breaking down the barriers to the so-called Digital Single Market where individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities irrespective of their nationality or place of residence. The rules will require online content service providers to enable their users to access content wherever they are in the EU based on verification of each user's country of residence. The regime will only apply to paid online content (providers of free services will continue to have discretion as to whether to make their services portable or not).

Whilst the Regulation is of obvious benefit to consumers, allowing them to enjoy their favourite series, sports events and music whether they are at home or travelling within the EU, the measures have met criticism from a variety of industry stakeholders from producers and broadcasters through to pay TV and OTT providers. Their main concern is that the new rules will have a detrimental effect on traditional territorial licensing models which enable rights-owners to sell rights on a territory-specific basis as opposed to making their content available throughout entire regions.

The likely impact of the new Regulation remains to be seen but one could argue that it represents a step forward in the alignment of EU regulation with digital technology developments.

For further details please refer to our recent article here.

The Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market can be accessed here.