Cross-border content portability and Brexit

Last updated 6 March 2019

Cross-border content portability is the issue of being able to access online content that you have purchased or have the rights to view as you move across European borders. Often this content is blocked due to copyright or licensing rules.

Relevant policy:

Proposal on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market (.pdf)

The draft proposal achieved preliminary approval in February 2017.

Cross-border content portability is part of the Digital Single Market strategy.

Progress and developments:

In July 2016 the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons woke up early to the paradox of retaining cross-border rights within a system one has left.

In February 2017 the Committee asked Government to clarify the following issues:

Following the Prime Minister’s speech indicating that the UK envisages a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement as the basis of future services trade between the UK and the EU, we request further clarification on a number of Brexit-related points:

  • Given that the Government cannot ensure that content services are portable through domestic legislation, will the Government seek the inclusion of portability arrangements in a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (or other bilateral arrangement) with the EU?
  • After the UK leaves the EU—assuming it does not secure portability provisions in any agreement with the EU—under what circumstances and how would the offerings provided by British content creators and service providers continue to be affected by the Regulation?
  • We note the Minister’s assessment that when the UK leaves the EU rights holders and service providers could “adopt commercial practices that allow for portability, even where it is not provided for in legislation”, however we also observe that, to date, consumers have overwhelmingly not been offered portable services because of the difficulty of navigating the complexities of cross-border copyright licensing, and that the provisions in the Regulation designed to circumvent these difficulties will cease to apply to UK businesses post-Brexit.8 Has the Government, during its stakeholder consultations concerning Brexit, asked any UK-based content creators or service providers how practical it will be for them to continue to deliver portable content in the absence of the Regulation and whether they intend to do so? If so, what were their views?

Based on the answers received from Government, the Committee cleared the issue from scrutiny on 29 March.

Finally, May 2018 saw the absolutely pathetic spectacle of a bunch of Brexit-voting elderlies in the House of Lords whingeing about the end of data portability meaning losing the “ability to take your television programmes abroad digitally when, for example, you go on holiday in the Mediterranean, so that you are able to watch ‘Coronation Street’, ‘EastEnders’ or whatever is your particular delight.” The digital sector is losing the particular delights of freedom of movement, freedom of employment, and the freedom to build an industry, but god forbid some spoilt brat pensioners miss a few episodes of Corrie from Majorca.

Last updated 24 September 2018