Pads on Tour – EC plans single market for online content

Proposed new EC Regulation would provide for wider access to online copyright content and streaming services for people who travel to other EU member states.

The headline reform that will no doubt be welcomed by consumers who travel regularly is the plan to ensure the accessibility of online content services such as BBC iPlayer or Netflix anywhere within the internal market. At present when consumers travel to other European nations, the subscription services loaded onto their portable devices are often not fully accessible – either not working at all or only allowing access to content pre-downloaded at home. The Commission proposes a change to this with a new Regulation that enables users who have acquired content in their home country to access it while they are temporarily in another member state.

The content providers themselves are less likely to be enamoured with the proposals, which will necessitate alterations to their subscription contract and enable the savviest consumers to shop around the EU for the best deal. The definition of “temporary” also needs to be confirmed, as the reforms beg the question as to whether, for instance, a British person who spends 4 months of the year in their Spanish holiday home is able to stream content via their British subscription for such an       extended period of time. If so, where previously a consumer signed up to the UK and Spanish versions of online content, they may decide to abandon one of the versions in the knowledge that the remaining service is fully transferable, meaning a loss of revenue for the service provider.

This single market focus is also present in the other proposals, which include the harmonisation of copyright exceptions. Exceptions allow for copyrighted works to be used, in defined circumstances, without prior authorisation from the copyright owner. A common exception covered by the laws of some jurisdictions is the adaptation of copyright work for certain disabilities, such as a book being produced in braille. Indeed, the first step the EC wishes to take is to create an EU wide exception for the creation and dissemination of special formats of print material for people with print disabilities. From here it is envisaged that the scope and consistency of copyright exceptions will be extended into other areas such as using copyright material as an illustrative tool for teaching purposes.

The communication goes onto set out plans to modernise and clarify the current EU copyright rules, coupled with an amended legal framework for enforcing intellectual property rights which will clarify the mechanisms for cross border investigations into infringements and the application of measures such as injunctions and damages awards.

The ambitious long term aim is to establish a complete harmonisation of copyright law within the EU, though it is openly recognised that this would require far more substantial changes than those currently proposed along with the establishment of a centralised tribunal system. Whether the current proposals signal a real shift in that direction remains to be seen – some political analysts see it as no more an attempt to woo the British electorate as to the benefits of remaining in the EU ahead of the ‘in/out’ referendum. After all, who doesn’t want to catch up on the Apprentice after a long day at the beach?

If you have any questions about the issues raised in the article above, or require assistance with intellectual property or any other Commercial matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or on 0800 689 0831.

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