‘This content is not available in your country’ – a damn annoying message, especially when you’re paying for it. But a new EU regulation means you can now access Netflix, Amazon Prime and other services from any country in Europe, marking an end to boring evenings in hotels watching BBC World News.
The European Commission’s ‘digital single market strategy’, which last year claimed victory over mobile roaming charges, has now lead to it passing the ‘portability regulation’, which will allow users around the EU to use region locked services more freely while travelling abroad.
Under currently active rules, what content is available in a certain territory is based on the specific local rights that a provider has secured. The new rules allow for what Phil Sherrell, head of international media, entertainment and sport for international law firm Bird and Bird, calls “copyright fiction”, allowing the normal rules to be bent temporarily while a user is travelling.
The regulation was originally passed in June 2017, but the nine-month period given to rights holders and service providers to prepare is about to expire, and thereby making the rules enforceable.
From today, content providers, whether their products are videos, music, games, live sport or e-books, will use their subscribers’ details to validate their home country, and let them access all the usual content and services available in that location all around the Union. This is mandatory for all paid services, who are also not permitted to charge extra for the new portability.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean you get extra content from other countries when you use the services back at home, just parity of experience around the EU. Another caveat to the regulation is that services which are offered for free, such as the online offerings of public service broadcasters like the BBC, are not obliged to follow the regulation. These providers instead may opt-in to the rules should they want to compete with their fee charging rivals.
Brexit of course may mean UK users only benefit from the legislation for a year or so, but that’s as yet unconfirmed. For now though, we can enjoy the simple pleasure of going abroad and, instead of sampling some of the local sights, enjoy the crucial freedom of watching, listening, playing or reading the same things that we could get at home.