EU Parliament underwhelmed by Commission's digital portability proposals

Ansip and Oettinger come under fire from MEPs from all sides over new digital single market proposals on portability and copyright.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

09 Dec 2015

Following its announcement of the end of roaming charges a few months ago, the European Commission has presented a new set of digital single market proposals, this time on copyright and accessing online content.

The Commission wants to introduce new rules on the portability of content, so that if a person purchases online content in one member state – be it film, music or other - then that content will be accessible irrespective of the country the consumer visits.

For example, a British person subscribed to British Netflix cannot currently access the service from outside the UK. However, once these new rules come into play, this will all change.


Commission Vice-President for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, explained; "We want people to be able to carry their subscribed music, TV or sports wherever they go - as we did with roaming. This is another step bringing Europe closer to a borderless digital society and economy."

European digital economy and society Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, added that the new measures, "reflect the lifestyle of more and more Europeans," with many of them frequently travelling between EU member states.

The Commission also wants to work on EU exceptions to copyright rules, particularly for education and for text and data mining. This will make it easier for researchers to comb through large quantities of data.

It will also look at how to ensure artists are properly remunerated for any work they sell online. Ansip said the goal was to, "make it easier for people to find and also watch their favourite films, while simultaneously making sure artists are fairly paid for their work."

Oettinger also highlighted that tackling online piracy would be another priority for the Commission; "As citizens, we want to download and see and hear everything available, preferably free of charge. But for researchers, musicians or writers, their whole professional basis is removed if piracy becomes the norm."

He therefore announced that: "We will put forward proposals on licensing and fair payments, in order to ensure money goes into the hands of those who are the beginning of the creative chain. This needs to reach rights holders, creative contributors, editors and so forth."

These proposals are expected sometime in 2016, and will need to be discussed with Parliament and Council before they can become law. Copyright, however, is something MEPs have been working on for a number of months. A report on harmonising certain aspects of copyright, authored by Greens/EFA Vice-Chair Julia Reda, was passed before the summer break.

Reda was left unimpressed by the Commission's proposals, saying; "The proposed new rules on the portability of digital content only address a narrow spectrum of the problems faced by users. The proposals will clearly benefit those who have subscriptions to providers like Sky or Netflix and want to use them while abroad."

"However, geoblocking is a problem that has the greatest adverse effect on those, such as linguistic minorities or immigrants, who need access to services not offered in their countries of residence. These proposals would maintain their inability to access culture and knowledge in their own language or from their countries of origin. We will look to rectify this in the legislative process."

EPP group spokesperson on Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee, Andreas Schwab, was of the same opinion. He said; "The digital single market should be much more about the end of unjustified geoblocking. If we want a digital single market to survive, we need to make it possible to use digital content across borders."

Meanwhile, ECR deputy Vicky Ford - Chair of Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee - stressed that; "It is important to make sure these measures do not inadvertently undermine the ability for our content creators and broadcasters to sell their rights across Europe."

"Revenue from these sales ensures that our content is watched across the world; therefore it is important to keep the changes proportionate. The Commission's proposals lack clarity in some areas and there is a huge amount of devil in the detail."

Read the most recent articles written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli - MEPs vote against beginning negotiations on updating EU copyright laws

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