Eurocrats deserve to watch domestic telly EU-wide, say Eurocrats

But no QoS mandate for ISPs. What was the point again?

Content producers will be ordered to allow Eurocrats to watch football when they’re staying in Brussels, Eurocrats announced today. It falls short of the hints that the EU Commission would introduce a new pan-European copyright code – which got some slacktivists so excited a year ago.

The European Commission’s once ambitious vision to create a “Digital Single Market” via sweeping “modernisation” of copyright turned out to be a few bits of tinkering, the commission itself confirmed today.

That’s probably just as well for tens of thousands of British techies and engineers employed in the booming UK audiovisual production sector. As MP Pete Wishart told The Register: “After American content, it’s UK content that Europeans consume the most.”

The UK’s historic TV strengths have been complemented by a tax-perk-aided boom in Hollywood productions shot and completed in the UK.

Yet the robotic Commish driving the reforms, Estonian technocrat Andreas Ansip, had complained that he couldn’t watch Estonian football while in Brussels – and maybe soon, he’ll get his wish.

Even though the EU’s own research shows nobody apart from Eurocrats really care, portability was the sole item elaborated upon today.

Only eight per cent of 26,000 Europeans polled had actually tried to access cross-border media content, and just half of those who did try managed to do so legally, just fine.

(We brought you a leaked draft of the proposals about a month ago – and now it’s officially out.)

The commission had originally excited slacktivist groups by hinting that it would introduce a new copyright code. But the tweaking explained today only deals with portability.

Ansip had originally wanted to outlaw territorial restrictions on media licensing deals within the EU, which is the cornerstone of much film and TV financing. Since the beneficiaries would be large US outfits (who have the scale and/or the lowest-common-denominator content suitable for pan-European deals), this was scaled back in earlier drafts.

Now we find that:

In order to ensure the cross-border portability of online content services it is necessary to require that online service providers enable their subscribers to use the service in the Member State of their temporary presence by providing them 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 as those offered in their Member State of residence. This obligation is mandatory and therefore the parties may not exclude it, derogate from it or vary its effect.

And who tends to be a “temporary resident” because of their job? People who work for the European Commission, strangely enough. The definition of “temporary resident” isn’t defined; it’s simply “a presence of a subscriber in a Member State other the Member State’s residence”.

The proposal acknowledges that the order “could result in high costs” for ISPs “and so ultimately for subscribers”… so there’s no QoS as part of the mandate.

Bird and Bird media lawyer Phil Sherrell pointed out that the BBC would still need to introduce an authentication system for holidaymakers – to ensure expats didn't freeload on the back of UK-resident licence fee payers who hopped across La Manche.

"The BBC currently has no authentication system for iPlayer access... A system will have to be created to distinguish UK citizens abroad who are seeking to access their home state’s content from other EU citizens (for whom the content would remain blocked unless the provider had acquired pan-EU rights).

Both rights owners and content providers will also need to review their licence agreements carefully and consider whether amendments are required if the proposal is implemented."

Tech SME group the Apps Alliance said more red tape would make their members job harder:

"Some elements of the proposal do not seem to be ‘bug-free’ and lack familiarity with the complex business models that govern apps... If carried out, the proposed changes to contract rules for digital content will create huge legal liabilities for developers, stifling innovation and potentially damaging Europe’s app economy because developers will not be willing to take on such liabilities."

The commission did vow to support licensing hubs – to encourage the market to solve problems.

Various other items on the DSM agenda will be forthcoming – but just not yet. Amongst them are fighting piracy by chasing the money trail of advertisers on pirate sites, a data mining copyright exception (which Google wants), and whether giant plantations such as YouTube and Facebook equitably remunerate the artists who produce the material for their fabulous wealth. However, there'll be no new copyright code, which would require ripping up 28 idiosyncratic copyright rules in each member state, and setting up a pan-European court to boot. The EU Commission reserved the right to ponder about it in the future. But after all the hot air, if it isn't happening in this commission, it won't be happening for a very long time.

Just as we told you. ®


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