European consumers will be able to access the same content they have subscribed to in their home country anywhere in the European Union starting from April 1, when the bloc’s new digital subscription portability rules go into effect.
This means that Europeans who buy or subscribe to online platforms that provide films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books and games in their country of residence will no longer be denied service while travelling or staying temporarily in another EU member state.
For providers of such services, the new rules ensure that they will be able to offer cross-border portability of online content to their subscribers without having to acquire licences for other territories where the subscribers stay temporarily, the European Commission said in a statement on March 27.
The new rules do not set limits on the length of stay abroad. “The new rules do not set any limits for the use of the portability feature, as long as the user resides in another member state. Service providers should inform their subscribers of the exact conditions of their portability offers,” the EC statement said.
Service providers will have several available options to verify a user’s country of residence. Additionally, the rules only apply to paid service providers, but companies that offer free online content services can choose to opt in, at which point they would be subject to the same rules as their commercial peers.
In cases of cross-border service providers, such as Netflix, they would have to offer their subscribers the same content as in the country of residence throughout the EU. It would be up to the provider to decide whether to offer any content available in the country that the subscriber is temporarily in.
Currently, the geographic location limitations put in place by services such at Netflix means the subscriber is only given access to the local content, not the one from their home country – that is to say, a Bulgarian subscriber in Spain can watch content from the Spanish catalog, but not the Bulgarian one.
The new regulation is not restricted to films and music – online sports streaming services are also subject to the new digital portability rules, the EC said.
The new rules also come with no added cost, as service providers will not be allowed to impose additional charges for cross-border portability.