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EU mulls massive digital reforms: end to geoblocking, cash back for buggy videogames

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Funky Papa

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So the EU kind of fucked up that thing about Net Neutrality, but may be working on something good with a massive overhaul of its copyright and content rules that seems to be very much pro consumer.

The title is kind of simplistic given the scope of the new rules, but honestly, I couldn't figure out something better that wouldn't go over the allotted character count. There's so much stuff here I'm just going to put some choice quotes instead of writing the huge essay it probably deserves.

Commission proposes modern digital contract rules to simplify and promote access to digital content and online sales across the EU

What does this means? For starters, better consumer protection, including the possiblity of getting your cash back if you purchased a game that is just plain broken.

Consumers will benefit from a higher level of consumer protection, a wider choice of products at more competitive prices:


  • Reversal of the burden of proof:For instance, if an Italian consumer discovers today that a product he/she purchased online more than 6 months ago is defective and asks the seller to repair or replace it, he/she may be asked to prove that this defect existed at the time of delivery. Under the proposed new rules, throughout the two-year guarantee period, the consumer will be able to ask for a remedy without having to prove that the defect existed at the time of delivery.

  • Clear and specific rights for digital content: For instance, a consumer who downloads a game which is then not working properly may currently receive as compensation only a discount on downloading other games in the future. With the proposed directive, consumers will be able to request such problems to be fixed and, if this is not feasible or not done properly, to obtain a price reduction or terminate the contract and be fully reimbursed.

But also a common legal frame for all the digital merchants in the EU. As someone working in that particular area, I can only say FUCKING FINALLY. Consumers and some small business operating in the EU are going to love this.

Businesses will be able to supply digital content and sell goods online to consumers throughout the EU, based on the same set of contract rules:


  • Legal certainty and a business-friendly environment: Today businesses need to spend time and money to adapt to contract law rules in Member States they sell to. Under the proposed rules, businesses will no longer need to deal with this fragmentation: they will be able to supply digital content or sell goods to consumers in all Member States based on the same set of key contract law rules.
  • Cost savings for businesses: Businesses now face an additional one-off cost of €9,000 to adapt to the national contract law of each new Member State they wish to sell to. With the new EU-wide rules, a business could save up to €243,000 if it wishes to sell to all 27 other EU countries.

And now for the real treat: Commission takes first steps to broaden access to online content and outlines its vision to modernise EU copyright rules

A modern and more European copyright framework
The Commission's action plan is built on four complementary pillars of equal importance. It also sets out a long-term vision for copyright in the EU (see factsheet on the communication and detailed Q&A).

1. Widening access to content across the EU

Today's rules on the content portability represent a first step towards improving access to cultural works. For example: a French user of the online service MyTF1 for films and series is not able to rent a new film while on business trip to the UK. A Dutch subscriber to Netflix travelling to Germany is only able to watch films offered by Netflix to German consumers. If he visits Poland, he is not able to watch films on Netflix as Netflix is not available in Poland. This will change. When travelling across the EU, users will have access to their music, films and games as if they were at home (see factsheet on the new rules).

More will be proposed in spring next year. Our aims are to allow a better circulation of content, offer more choice to Europeans, to strengthen cultural diversity and provide more opportunities for the creative sector. The Commission intends to improve the cross-border distribution of television and radio programmes online (via the review of the Satellite and Cable Directive) and to facilitate the granting of licences for cross-border access to content. The Commission will also help give new life to works which are no longer commercialised.

The Commission will further use its Creative Europe programme to help European cinema to reach a broader audience. The action plan foresees the development of innovative tools, such as a "European aggregator" of online search portals and "licencing hubs" to foster the distribution of films which are only available in a few Member States.

2. Exceptions to copyright rules for an innovative and inclusive society

The Commission intends to work on key EU exceptions to copyright. Exceptions allow for copyright-protected works to be used, in defined circumstances, without prior authorisation from the rights holders. The Commission will revise EU rules to make it easier for researchers to use "text and data mining" technologies to analyse large sets of data. Education is another priority. For example, teachers who give online courses should be subject to better and clearer rules, that work across Europe. Also, the Commission wants to help people with disabilities to access more works (this is the aim of the Marrakesh Treaty). The Commission will finally assess the need to reduce the legal uncertainty for internet users who upload their photos of buildings and public art works permanently located in public places (current exception for panorama).


3. Creating a fairer marketplace

The Commission will assess if the online use of copyright-protected works, resulting from the investment of creators and creative industries, is properly authorised and remunerated through licences. In other words, we will assess whether the benefits of the online use of those works is fairly shared. In this context, the Commission will look at the role of news aggregation services. The Commission's approach will be proportionate: there is no intention to "tax" hyperlinks; i.e. users will not be asked to pay for copyright when they simply share a hyperlink to content protected by copyright. The Commission will also analyse whether solutions are needed at EU level to increase legal certainty, transparency and balance in the system that governs the remuneration of authors and performersin the EU, taking EU and national competences into account. The results of the ongoing public consultation on platforms and online intermediaries will contribute to this general reflection.

4. Fighting piracy

Wider availability of content will help to fight piracy, given that 22% of Europeans believe that illegal downloads are acceptable if there is no legal alternative available in their country. The Commission will go beyond this by making sure that copyright is properly enforced across the EU as part of its comprehensive approach to improve enforcement of all types of intellectual property rights. In 2016, we will work on a European framework to "follow-the-money" and cut the financial flows to businesses which make money out of piracy. This will involve all relevant partners (rights holders, advertising and payment service providers, consumers associations, etc.) with the aim to reach agreements by spring 2016. The Commission intends to improve EU rules on the enforcement of intellectual property rights and, as a first step, has launched today a public consultation on the evaluation and modernisation of the existing legal framework. The Commission will also look at how to make the removal of illegal content by online intermediaries more efficient.

The good: The overhaul of the copyright rules may finally put an end to intereuropean geoblocking.

The not so good: New rules regarding piracy and licensing are probably going to be subject to massive lobbying by media groups and right holders. That particular stage is going to become a veritable battlefield.

As Dascu kindly pointed, this will need to go through the Parliament and Council, so a lot of stuff could change. Expect hundreds of articles claiming that the new rules are awesome or just plain suck, only to be shown as wrong or outdated over time. I'd suggest to keep an eye on things such as the EU's position on news aggregators, which is bound to be clarified.

Will you legislate on the use of copyright-protected content by news aggregation services?

The Commission will consider whether any action specific to news aggregators is needed, including intervening on the definition of rights. Some legal solutions have been attempted in certain Member States – the Commission is monitoring their impacts on the markets.

Does the Commission intend to tax hyperlinks?

The Commission has no plan to tax hyperlinks. We have no intention to ask people to pay for copyright when they simply share a hyperlink to content protected by copyright. Europeans share and post hyperlinks every day and they should remain free to do so.
The Commission will look at the activities of different types of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content. This is a different issue.

News aggregators, for example, are not only using hyperlinks but also extracts of articles and may gain revenue doing so.

Different solutions related to news aggregators, both legislative and market-led, are being tested at national level. We are closely looking into them and are analysing whether they deliver on their objectives.

Expect French, German and Spanish media groups (shout-out to the idiots @ Bild and AEDE) to go to war over this demanding a Google Tax. With some luck, the Google News cartuffle over Spain will temper their madness.

The BBC has been quick to respond to the new proposals:

BBC statement in response to European Commission plans for online content and EU copyright rules

Date: 09.12.2015 Last updated: 09.12.2015 at 11.23
Category: Online and interactive; Corporate; BBC iPlayer

The BBC has today released the following statement in response to the European Commission's press notice, 'Commission takes first steps to broaden access to online content and outlines its vision to modernise EU copyright rules'.

We are interested in being able to allow UK licence-fee payers to access BBC iPlayer while they are on holiday in the EU, and welcome the European Commission proposing regulation to help make this possible. There are complex technical issues to resolve and aspects of the Commission’s proposal need clarification. Being able to offer BBC iPlayer also depends on the UK Government implementing legislation to modernise the licence fee to include VOD as well as linear viewing, something the Government has committed to do next year. That will mean users of BBC iPlayer could be verified as UK licence fee payers while they are on holiday in the EU.

Meanwhile, some outlets are already making an ass of themselves: EU outlines copyright laws that could hit tech firms

Technology companies from Netflix and Spotify to Google and Yahoo could be affected by wide-ranging copyright legislation proposed by the European Union's executive arm on Wednesday.

Under the laws, consumers traveling in the European Union (EU) would be allowed to access digital services such as streaming music or films, anywhere within the 28-member bloc. Currently, copyright restrictions mean a German user of Netflix who travels to the U.K. for example, will only be able to access the content that the video streaming service offers in Britain.

The proposals will be outlined in greater depth next year and form part of a push by European Commission for the so-called Digital Single Market, where citizens and businesses can access online services regardless of where they live..

The horror.

Any doubts? Don't forget to check the Commission's handy Q&A section.

Huge thanks to Dascu for his PM.
 

Dascu

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Thanks for making the thread.

Also, this is creeping me out a bit.

 

Condom

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Thanks for outlining this all, sounds good thus far. Hope they don't let lobby groups affect the final laws too much.
 

Dascu

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If this means I can buy Sky Sports' subscription in Finland then hell yes.

No, not yet at least.

Current proposal is to accommodate access to subscription services while abroad. E.g. British person watching BBC iPlayer while being in Italy on vacation for a week.

It would not let you, as Italian citizen and resident, watch BBC iPlayer. But the Commission has announced it wants to look into this situation as well.

Exclusive photograph of the European Council reading your post:

http://i.imgur.com/hsa9OZB.jpg[img][/QUOTE]
European Council is not the same as the Council of the European Union (shorthand: the Council). European Council does not really have any particular say on this topic. The Council will be one of the negotiating parties together with Commission and Parliament. /pedantic
 

Joni

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Those would be amazing reforms and a great start for a unified digital Europe, and proof why we need such a large organisation combining our small countries.
 

pa22word

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So how does this work with banned products?

Since germany are such prudes about violence, if you drive across the border to france, park in a lot next to a coffee shop, buy dead rising on steam, then drive back over are you in the clear? Or are you still technically breaking the law?

American here, but just curious.
 

Funky Papa

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Jun 7, 2004
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European Council is not the same as the Council of the European Union (shorthand: the Council). European Council does not really have any particular say on this topic. The Council will be one of the negotiating parties together with Commission and Parliament. /pedantic

OH.

That's great news as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate the correction.
 

HK-47

Oh, bitch bitch bitch.
Oct 24, 2007
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Cash back for buggy games? Do they want to kill all the eastern european developers?
 

-shadow-

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So basically Ubisoft is about to go bankrupt?


In ask seriousness though. This is great news. Now let's hope it just keeps going forward!
 
Jun 9, 2014
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Surely that Netflix change would be terrible?

Right now you can use a vpn and get access to content from anywhere in the world, being locked to your home country would really, really suck.
 
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I dunno, that two year money back deal seems pretty easy to abuse. Unless I am somehow reading it wrong? And besides, who the hell doesn't check something they bought online for defects in the first 6 months, let alone two years.
 

mclem

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Wider availability of content will help to fight piracy, given that 22% of Europeans believe that illegal downloads are acceptable if there is no legal alternative available in their country.

That, I think it's fair to say, gets it. There's definitely an underlying attitude of "If you won't sell it to me, I'll find ways of getting it on my terms" behind at least some piracy, and making it easier to purchase should go some way towards curbing that.

So how does this work with banned products?

Since germany are such prudes about violence, if you drive across the border to france, park in a lot next to a coffee shop, buy dead rising on steam, then drive back over are you in the clear? Or are you still technically breaking the law?

American here, but just curious.

I think - IANAL, or indeed even a German - the law is against selling banned products, not owning them. So if it's purchased legally in another country, that's fine.

Surely that Netflix change would be terrible?

Right now you can use a vpn and get access to content from anywhere in the world, being locked to your home country would really, really suck.
Isn't it due to the nationality of the account in each case? I thought you could only access US Netflix with a US Netflix account?

I dunno, that two year money back deal seems pretty easy to abuse. Unless I am somehow reading it wrong? And besides, who the hell doesn't check something they bought online for defects in the first 6 months, let alone two years.
(Glances nervously at Steam library)
 

Irminsul

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I think - IANAL, or indeed even a German - the law is against selling banned products, not owning them. So if it's purchased legally in another country, that's fine.
For some media, it actually is illegal to own it, but most of that would probably not be on Steam anyway. But yes, usually it's just selling that's banned, or even more common, advertisement for these products (but that de facto means it won't be sold at most places).
 

CadetMahoney

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EU amazes me sometimes since corporate fascism is basically exported throughout the world, it feels like it has a monopoly.
 

Condom

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I dunno, that two year money back deal seems pretty easy to abuse. Unless I am somehow reading it wrong? And besides, who the hell doesn't check something they bought online for defects in the first 6 months, let alone two years.
Probably just something set as a negotiation tactic. Or maybe they are seeing this as a sortof digital guarantee.
 

mclem

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For some media, it actually is illegal to own it, but most of that would probably not be on Steam anyway. But yes, usually it's just selling that's banned, or even more common, advertisement for these products (but that de facto means it won't be sold at most places).

Does presence on a store shelf count as 'advertisement'? I'm thinking along the lines of recent legislation over here about plain, nondescript cigarette packaging
 

Aiii

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1. Widening access to content across the EU

Today's rules on the content portability represent a first step towards improving access to cultural works. For example: a French user of the online service MyTF1 for films and series is not able to rent a new film while on business trip to the UK. A Dutch subscriber to Netflix travelling to Germany is only able to watch films offered by Netflix to German consumers. If he visits Poland, he is not able to watch films on Netflix as Netflix is not available in Poland. This will change. When travelling across the EU, users will have access to their music, films and games as if they were at home (see factsheet on the new rules).
So hang on, EU is trying to introduce a law where Netflix HAS TO tie my account to the Netherlands and can no longer offer me another country's content, where as I can currently freely switch between regions and get different contents?

Thank you EU, for once again trying to fuck up a good thing.
 

Undead

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I don't understand how the buggy game thing can possibly be a good thing.

Might just be the pessimist in me but if this passes then all I can see happening is a return to the days of Europe getting games weeks or months later than the US so they can fix the bugs before releasing here.
 

witchedwiz

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i deal with eu on a whole different thematics (market regulators cooperation) and what can I say..
I was in the whole thing since day 2, (as in, after the initial busienss draft) and saw (built) the whole system for the specific eu agency, adding small blocks every month, until the whole product became a reality..
Frankly after this experience consider me a believer..
I think that eu commission (via delegated eu agency in each field) can indeed make a drastic difference..
When ACER was "a new infant" it was a mess.. regulation sparse, no clear focal point//process..
now it's a difficult process, the regulation is strict, but everything is in plain view for market regulators to access and assess..
I thought that business people were usually slackers always blaming the technical department, instead call me a convert: I am used to work long hours, never accepting something "in the middle of the field", but I had the pleasure to work with MANY people of this agency that were playing my same game the same way.


I think that if a similar approach is taken to other "grey area" themes of law enforcement in the eu-zone, it will only be for the better..
Frankly I think that the "blunder" on the net neutrality was really pitiful, but this round of concepts seems solid :)
 

GeoGonzo

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Isn't it due to the nationality of the account in each case? I thought you could only access US Netflix with a US Netflix account?
Nope. I live in Spain and have a (recently launched here) spanish Netflix account, but I'm currently in USA and I'm seeing tons of new shows/movies. I'd imagine it'd be the same using a VPN.
 

Sulik2

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I don't understand how the buggy game thing can possibly be a good thing.

Might just be the pessimist in me but if this passes then all I can see happening is a return to the days of Europe getting games weeks or months later than the US so they can fix the bugs before releasing here.

Good. Game companies need to start being forced to stop releasing broken products and facing no consequences for it. If they have to delay a global launch to actually fix their games I am all for it.
 

witchedwiz

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So hang on, EU is trying to introduce a law where Netflix HAS TO tie my account to the Netherlands and can no longer offer me another country's content, where as I can currently freely switch between regions and get different contents?

Thank you EU, for once again trying to fuck up a good thing.

Consider it conversely from the other side of thing..
From a purely contractual point of view, if they offer you (let you access through netflix...) content from the france which in france is for netflix to share while conversely in your country this show is "gated" behind a different service provider... I think that would spell legal problem for netflix..
The only reason that this is not (yet) a problem, is that it's too much of an hassle, and most people ultimately see as cumbersome connecting to another country vpn to access that country's netflix catalogue...
Imho clearly...
 

Undead

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Good. Game companies need to start being forced to stop releasing broken products and facing no consequences for it. If they have to delay a global launch to actually fix their games I am all for it.

They still have no consequences really, they just stagger launch, release in the US, patch, patch again then release in Europe.
They would take that into account and adjust accordingly, the only thing that would be of consequence for releasing buggy games is if the US also followed this and banned it stopping the devs getting ANYTHING for a buggy game but until that happened it's just a normal cycle of release broken game, profit, fix, more profit
 

Dascu

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OH.

That's great news as far as I'm concerned. I appreciate the correction.
No, no. Merkel and consorts are still in the Council of the EU. And they will very much be lobbied, you can be sure on that. But it's not the same institution as the European Council. There is not a 100% overlap in participants and they have different duties. Technicality.

Surely that Netflix change would be terrible?

Right now you can use a vpn and get access to content from anywhere in the world, being locked to your home country would really, really suck.
So hang on, EU is trying to introduce a law where Netflix HAS TO tie my account to the Netherlands and can no longer offer me another country's content, where as I can currently freely switch between regions and get different contents?

Thank you EU, for once again trying to fuck up a good thing.
You are *already* locked to your country of residence. It's illegal to use VPNs to access content. This proposal would legalize some of these uses, turning it into a win for consumers. If you are legally signed up for various Netflix or whatever accounts, then you will continue to be able to do so. Plus now you won't need to use a VPN if you want to access one of those accounts while abroad.

I dunno, that two year money back deal seems pretty easy to abuse. Unless I am somehow reading it wrong? And besides, who the hell doesn't check something they bought online for defects in the first 6 months, let alone two years.
Actually, digital content has an *indefinite* guarantee period (applicable for content released after entry into force of the law, so only in a year or two). You will be able to call out Ubisoft for bugs ten years after AssCreed Bumblefuck is released.

But all games have bugs.
In practice, companies will have to prepare bug fixes in a reasonable time frame or give you some cash back. The entire fund if the game is unplayable. Law suits may be involved to see how much of a bug warrants money back. Court decisions will be relevant, and also some contractual arrangements.
 

Dascu

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No laws exist that disallow you the use of any technique that masks your country of origin through IP-lookups.

Seriously, there is not a single law that prevents this.
Pretty sure it would be against contractual subscription agreement with the service. Maybe not always, and often it's not enforced. The point of this new rule is that you won't need to use VPNs anymore. It's a net improvement.
 

Aiii

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Jan 5, 2012
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Pretty sure it would be against contractual subscription agreement with the service. Maybe not always, and often it's not enforced. The point of this new rule is that you won't need to use VPNs anymore. It's a net improvement.

We were talking about law, not Netflix's TOS.
 

Tacitus_

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Doesn't look like the sky is falling. I hate it when people start drumming up campaigns on leaks and rumors.

I don't understand how the buggy game thing can possibly be a good thing.

Might just be the pessimist in me but if this passes then all I can see happening is a return to the days of Europe getting games weeks or months later than the US so they can fix the bugs before releasing here.

I presume it will only apply to so bugged games that they are broken. And I don't mean the gaming side definition of broken where you have framedrops in an area, but something like the Batman port on PC (and yes, I recognize the irony of me posting this)
 

Engell

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Pretty sure it would be against contractual subscription agreement with the service. Maybe not always, and often it's not enforced. The point of this new rule is that you won't need to use VPNs anymore. It's a net improvement.

It is also against the contractual agreement with the company that they licensed the movies from in the first place.
 

zou

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Pretty sure it would be against contractual subscription agreement with the service. Maybe not always, and often it's not enforced. The point of this new rule is that you won't need to use VPNs anymore. It's a net improvement.

it's not, people use one account to access content from all over the world. this proposal would geo-lock an account regardless of actual location. this doesn't lift geo restrictions, it hardens them. it means a user from Germany would never see anything but content licensed for the German market.
 

Dascu

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it's not, people use one account to access content from all over the world. this proposal would geo-lock an account regardless of actual location. this doesn't lift geo restrictions, it hardens them. it means a user from Germany would never see anything but content licensed for the German market.

Please show me the relevant article in the Regulation that says this.
 

zou

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Please show me the relevant article in the Regulation that says this.

For example: a French user of the online service MyTF1 for films and series is not able to rent a new film while on business trip to the UK. A Dutch subscriber to Netflix travelling to Germany is only able to watch films offered by Netflix to German consumers. If he visits Poland, he is not able to watch films on Netflix as Netflix is not available in Poland. This will change. When travelling across the EU, users will have access to their music, films and games as if they were at home (see factsheet on the new rules).

What do you think this means?"
 

Dascu

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What do you think this means?"

You are misinterpreting the issue. The actual text of the Regulation says that the Dutch provider of Netflix cannot block access when outside of the Netherlands (art. 3). It does not say subscribers would only have access to their home country content.

Article 3
Obligation to enable cross-border portability of online content services
(1) The provider of an online content service shall enable a subscriber who is temporarily present in a Member State to access and use the online content service.
(2) The obligation set out in paragraph 1 shall not extend to any quality requirements applicable to the delivery of an online content service that the provider is subject to when providing this service in the Member State of residence, unless otherwise expressly agreed by the provider.
(3) The provider of an online content service shall inform the subscriber of the quality of delivery of the online content service provided in accordance with paragraph 1.
 

zou

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You are misinterpreting the issue. The actual text of the Regulation says that the Dutch provider of Netflix cannot block access when outside of the Netherlands (art. 3). It does not say subscribers would only have access to their home country content.

and what do you think is more likely? Netflix letting you select the country when traveling or just showing you the local content as required by the proposal?
 

Dascu

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and what do you think is more likely? Netflix letting you select the country when traveling or just showing you the local content as required by the proposal?

Depends on Netflix. EU proposal itself is not limiting consumer rights, only increasing options.

Just for you, I've brought it to Parliament attention:
 
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Remembering Oettinger as the prime minister of Baden-Württemberg ... i still can't believe how someone, who (back then very likely) never turned on a PC on his own, is now in charge of digital affairs for the whole EU ... "Hey, i have a good idea! How about we put an absolutely unsuitable, old dude in charge of one of the most modern fields of today? It even means he's out of the german politics for good!" - "Brilliant."

I'll wait and see, if there is the slightest loophole, i expect our german dummies like Bild/Axel Springer to jump on it like Telekom did in regards to net-neutrality. I'm sure GEMA will fully support them, too!
 

Madchad

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"Legal certainty and a business-friendly environment: Today businesses need to spend time and money to adapt to contract law rules in Member States they sell to. Under the proposed rules, businesses will no longer need to deal with this fragmentation: they will be able to supply digital content or sell goods to consumers in all Member States based on the same set of key contract law rules."

Does this mean we will all get German censored versions of the game ?
 
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