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Streaming across borders

Using content services on travels in the EU

Since 1. April 2018, a new regulation of the EU regarding "cross-border portability of online content services" is in force. It enables consumers to use their subscriptions for movies, music or sport streaming services abroad like at home.

Up until now, consumers were unable to use their streaming services. They had limited or no access to the content. Therefore, they had to download the movies etc. before their departure in order to be able to watch it during their travels.

Such barriers should be removed.

Portability

The EU describes the new rules with the term "portability". Customers of fee-based streaming services like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime or Sky Go will profit from it. The regulation states that the subscriptions should be available to the same extent in every EU member state as they are in the consumer's home country - without any additional costs.

Previously, this wasn't possible due to territorial licences. The provider's contracts with the rights holders (e.g. the movie producers or musicians) of the content had geographical limitations. Therefore, they could only offer their works in certain countries.

The regulation found a solution to this problem by considering the provision of and access to the content during travels as "having taken place solely in the home country of the subscriber".

Same service as at home

On the other hand, customers don't gain additional access to the national content available in their holiday destination.

Example: The Viennese consumer Kurt travels to Paris for business purposes. During his stay, he wants to watch the newest episode of his favorite series on Netflix. This is possible without problems on his personal tablet, which he normally uses at home for the same purpose. A colleague tells him about this French series that he currently watches on Netflix. When Kurt searches for it on his account, he is unable to find it. The series is not available for Austrian customers as Netflix only offers it in France.

The subscription has the same extent like in the home country of the consumer. That does not only apply to the content, but also to the possible amount of devices and users as well as the range of functions.

Temporary use

The regulation only applies to temporary stays in other EU member states. If you go on holiday or on a business trip, you can use your online content services to their full extent. However, if you travel to third countries (outside of the EU) or permanently move to another member state, the new rules do not apply.

The providers are allowed to check the country of residence of their subscribers. Data protection is important to the EU. The regulation is therefore stating comprehensive rules on how this information can be obtained. All data has to be deleted immediately after the evaluation and can't be forwarded to third parties.

As the regulation also applies to already existing contracts, subscribers may be asked by their providers to state their country of residence.

Free services

The new portability is only obligatory for fee-based online content services. Providers of free services can decide whether they want to give this option to their customers. If they do, they have to comply to all rules stated by the regulation. They have to check the country of residence of their subscribers and inform them as well as the rights holders of the provided content about the new service.

Broadcasters, like TV or radio stations, with online services can also decide to offer portability. The EU Commission proposed new rules regarding the cross-border accessibility of such media streaming services in 2016. No final decision regarding this matter was made yet.

The full text of the regulation is published at this link. On the website of the EU Commission, a press release summarises the new rules.

Find out more about streaming and the European digital single market on our website.

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