EU adopts rules to allow OTT roaming

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
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Watching online films and TV while abroad

  • access to online subscription content while in another EU-country
  • checks on permanent residence of the user to avoid copyright breaches
  • safeguards for users’ data protection and privacy

EU citizens with subscriptions for online films and TV will soon be able to access their content while temporarily in another EU country.

Citizens visiting another EU country are often prevented from accessing online content such as films, TV series, music, games, or sporting events, which they have paid for in their home country.

The new rules, approved by the European Parliament on Thursday — and previously agreed with Council negotiators in February 2017 — will remove restrictions so that EU citizens can use online services such as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Deezer while in another EU country for holidays, studies or business.

EU citizens will soon be able to access their online TV and movie subscriptions while travelling across EU borders ©AP Images/European Union-EP

The new rules were adopted by 586 votes to 34, with 8 abstentions.

Residence check and data protection

Online content service providers may take “effective and reasonable” measures to verify that the subscriber has not permanently moved to another EU country as required copyright licenses may differ between countries. A list of permissible methods for verification purposes includes identity cards, payment details, public tax information, postal address details or IP address checks. Service providers must ensure that any processing of personal data is proportionate and must introduce safeguards, especially for IP address checks.

The new rules will only apply to online fee-based services but providers of free services can also make their content portable EU-wide provided they comply with the requirements relating to residency checks.

“European citizens have been waiting for these new rules, which represent a step towards a common digital market. The news rules increase mobility and successfully offer portability to users of European online content, without affecting copyright”, said the rapporteur Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, FR).

Next steps

The draft law still needs to be formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers. Member states will have nine months from the date of entry into force of the regulation to bring the new rules into force.


According to a Commission survey, in 2016, 64% of Europeans used the internet to play or download games, images, films or music. Many of them expect to do so while they travel in the EU. Their numbers are expected to grow as Europeans will pay less to access the internet on their mobile devices in other EU member states from 15 June 2017, when mobile roaming charges end in the EU.