EU-wide access to paid-for streaming is coming

Irish consumers will soon be able to access their online streaming subscriptions, such as Netflix and Sky Sports while travelling across the whole of the European Union.

Up until now, “geo-blocking” or copyright rules prevented users of streaming services from accessing certain content while outside their own jurisdiction.

Yesterday the European Parliament voted to bring an end to “geo-blocking” — meaning people can travel throughout the EU and use their online subscriptions as if they were at home.

While the EU Council of Ministers still needs to approve the new law, it should come into effect early next year.

“When the decision is published in the Official Journal of the European Union, which takes place about four to six weeks after the vote, the law usually comes into effect about nine months afterwards, so in the first quarter of 2018,” Johannes Kleis, of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) said.

“With this EU law an Irish consumer in 2018, when this law becomes effective, will be able to have the same access to their Netflix or Spotify subscription while travelling as if they were at home,” Mr Kleis told the Irish Examiner.

The new rule was first proposed by the European Commission in 2015. Mr Kleis said it has been a “speedy process” as the Commission is seeking to “build a single digital market.”

Monique Goyens, who is the director general of the BEUC, said European consumers will find travelling through the EU more pleasant as a result of the new rules.

“European consumers will find travelling to other EU countries for holidays, work or studies more pleasant if they are able to use their on-line video and music subscriptions.

“It does not make sense to people that their paid-for on-demand services only work in the country they live in,” Ms Goyens said.

A spokeswoman for Netflix said that while their customers can access the catalogue of the jurisdiction they are in, the new law will allow them to essentially take their Irish library with them.

“When travelling, Netflix members already have access to the catalogue of the country they are in, globally.

“In the future, Irish Netflix members will have access to Irish Netflix content when travelling within the EU,” the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said the vote in the Parliament yesterday was the right step to take.

“Many Irish consumers subscribe to online streaming sites.

“For example, Netflix has around 200,000 Irish customers, and Spotify charges up to €9.99 per month for access to their premium content so it is important that consumers have uniform EU standards when it comes to these services,” Ms Clune said.

“In fact, many consumers use these sites most frequently when travelling or abroad for studying, so ensuring they will be able to use them in another member state is the right step to take,” she added.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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