Pack your Netflix in your suitcase!

IPR Regulation and Policy EuroFIA FIA News

As part of its overall strategy to finalise the Digital Internal Market, the European Commission has released new measures to enhance content portability across the EU. Many online services such as those providing films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books or games are only accessible in the country of residence of a subscriber. This means that, when traveling temporarily for business or vacation to another EU member State, a European subscriber will be “locked out” or at best directed to the repertoire available in the country (s)he is momentarily in. Changing this is a sensitive move for the audiovisual sector in particular.

Audiovisual production is licensed and marketed on a strict territorial basis to enhance funding opportunities, maximise audience take-up and return upon investment. This is why, with few exceptions, films and other audiovisual content delivery services are licensed country by country and may only be accessed from within those boundaries rather than on a cross-border basis. Whilst the Commission appears increasingly aware of the need to preserve territoriality for film and audiovisual production, despite a pending antitrust case on the cross-border provision of pay-TV services, consumer frustration is claimed to be escalating, as access to subscribed or purchased content is denied from outside their home country.

The Commission has therefore drafted a new regulation, mandating online service providers to make subscriptions accessible to customers when outside their country of habitual residence. By way of example, a UK Netflix subscriber should continue to access his/her catalogue whilst on a holiday break in Spain, rather than being denied access or being rerouted to the film offer available to Spanish customers. The Commission is seeking to make legally acquired content fully portable by the time that roaming charges are scrapped in June 2017.

The proposal will now be subject to scrutiny and amendments by the European Parliament and the Council. The audiovisual industry is keen to make sure that the regulation does not turn into mandatory pan-European licensing and cross-border access, for this would be detrimental to investment and jobs. Despite a few necessary tweaks to make sure these new provisions are genuinely limited to cases of temporary displacement and by legitimate subscribers of online services, EuroFIA welcomes this initiative and acknowledges it as a fair response to legitimate consumer needs in Europe.

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