Europe agrees on cross-border portability of online subscriptions

Europe agrees on cross-border portability of online subscriptions

The European Parliament, Council and the Commission have reached an agreement to allow EU citizens to use online subscriptions, including for e-books as well as services like Amazon Prime and Netflix, on holidays and business trips outside their home countries.

The new rules, by removing barriers to cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market, will allow consumers who have subscribed or bought online content services at home to also access these "the same way they access them at home" when temporarily present in another country within the EU. Service providers will verify the subscribers' country of residence to avoid abuses of the new rules.

The agreement is the first related to the modernisation on EU copyright rules as proposed by the Commission in the Digital Single Market strategy. The proposal was first put forth in December 2015.

The wording of the new regulation is expected to be firmed up in March or April. Once adopted, the rules will then become applicable in all EU Member States by beginning of 2018, as the regulation grants providers and rights holders a 9-month period to prepare for the application of the new rules.

Andrus Ansip, vice-president in charge of the Digital Single Market, said the measure would bring "concrete benefits" to Europeans and was "a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market". He added, "Agreements are now needed on our other proposals to modernise EU copyright rules and ensure a wider access to creative content across borders. I count on the European Parliament and Member States to make it happen".

Gordon Wise, president of the Association of Authors Agents, told The Bookseller the development was "not a surprise", having been in the pipeline for years, with "extensive feedback" having been provided to make sure authors aren't damaged. He indicated further that the practical impact would be minimal because, "where the licence to the publisher is on a Europe-wide basis it doesn't particularly change anything". 

He said: "The big concern has been for people who divide up European markets... but the way we chunk up the market tends to be by language obviously so we do exclusive licences within each territory - but the exclusive licence tends to be for all of Europe anyway so effectively we're within that".

"What happens as we go forward I don't know, with Brexit," he added.