Content Goes Borderless in the EU

Digital Single Market Strategy to Go into Effect in 2018

In an effort to create a large, fluid market across the EU, the European Commission has been a long-time proponent of a Digital Single Market approach to govern Europe’s telecommunications and e-commerce markets. This strategy aims to open up digital opportunities for people and business and enhance Europe’s position as a world leader in the digital economy.

Last week, the European Parliament approved new rules concerning content portability, which allow EU citizens to access their streaming movie and TV subscriptions while visiting other EU countries. This will remove restrictions so that people can use video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, streaming audio services like Spotify and Deezer, e-book services, sporting events and other TV broadcasts they have paid to access in their home country when visiting another EU member state.

Vice president for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, said the decision is “an important step in breaking down barriers” in the single market.

These cross-border content regulations are related to another effort for the Digital Single Market: a ban on mobile roaming charges for EU citizens travelling within the EU, which will go into effect on 15 June 2017. We expect this change to spur even greater use of online content services, and as a result boost consumer demand for access to such material while in another EU country.

According to a survey by the commission, 64 percent of EU citizens use the Internet to play or download games, images, films or music. This number is expected to increase meaning more growth in content bits flowing across country borders.

The ruling will help promote access to legally acquired content and cut back on the use of technical workarounds such as virtual private networks to bypass territorial restrictions on content. To avoid breaking copyright covenants, which are often assigned to content services by each individual country, rights holders could require content services to take “effective and reasonable” measures to verify that a subscriber has not permanently moved to another EU country.

The European Commission has a vision of turning the EU into a single digital marketplace for content and services, but this will now be tested as operators and content owners have a growing level of exposure to borderless regulations. Their strategies will have to adjust accordingly.