Online content portability rules in effect from 1 April

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Online content portability rules in effect from 1 April

New laws that will impact online content service providers and copyright holders are set to take effect from 1 April.27 Mar 2018

The EU's regulation on the cross-border portability of online content services is designed to broaden consumers' access to online content, such as films, music, video games and sports events, when travelling in Europe.

Under the new rules, online content service providers must ensure that they make their service available to paid subscribers "in the same manner as in the member state of residence" when those subscribers are "present in a member state other than the member state of residence for a limited period of time".

The regulation specifically provides that the obligation includes "providing access to the same content, on the same range and number of devices, for the same number of users and with the same range of functionalities". Online content service providers are prohibited from charging subscribers extra to facilitate their new access rights.

For the purposes of the regulation, the provision of online content, as well as the accessing and use of that content, will be deemed to have occurred in the EU country where subscribers are resident rather than in the country where they are temporarily present. The businesses subject to the new rules will be obliged to verify the EU country in which subscribers are resident using methods of verification set out under the regulation.

Earlier this month, the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) confirmed its approach towards enforcement of the new rules (8-page / 1.38MB PDF) after holding an earlier consultation exercise in which it explained the impact the rules could have on copyright holders.

At that time, the IPO also identified Netflix, Now TV and BT Sport as among the 'paid for subscription services' subject to the new rules, but said popular on-demand video services, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5 services, would not fall within the scope of the new regime.

In its latest paper, the IPO said that it plans to issue guidance to businesses on the application of the new Portability Regulation. It also confirmed that the UK government will update the law to account for the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

The IPO said: "The government acknowledges the concerns raised by respondents about how portability will function once the UK leaves the EU. We agree that the continued provision of portable content services by UK-based providers will rely on reciprocal arrangements with the EU. The government welcomes continued engagement with affected stakeholders and will ensure that UK legislation is amended as appropriate to reflect the UK’s future relationship with the EU."