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EU seeks to end digital copyright restrictions

European citizens should be able to access copyrighted digital content and streaming services while traveling, says the EU Commission. The proposals were criticized by European lobbies and lawmakers.

The EU Commission, the 28-nation bloc's executive body, on Wednesday unveiled plans to provide easier access to copyrighted digital content and online streaming services for citizens while traveling.

"Today's proposals will give more rights to consumers online and allow them to enjoy products and services from other EU countries in full confidence," said Ansip.

The move is seen as a refreshing start to updating EU copyright laws that often prevent digital subscribers from accessing content to streaming services, such as Netflix and Spotify when they are not in the country they purchased the service in.

For example, under the EU Commission's proposals, subscribers in Germany would be able to access their Netflix accounts while vacationing in Spain, Italy or the UK.

Currently, such services are often blocked within the EU when accessed outside the service's country, accompanied with the statement: "The content you are trying to access is not available in your country due to copyright issues."

"People who legally buy content - films, books, football matches, TV series - must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe," noted Andrus Ansip, the commission's vice president for the digital single market initiative.

The commission expects to implement the proposals by 2017 after they are approved by the EU Parliament and member states.

Cross-border problems?

However, the proposals did not escape criticism from lobby representatives and European politicians.

German activist and Greens Party Member of European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda said that the proposals do not go far enough in tackling "geoblocking," or the blocking of access to digital content based on location, usually determined through an Internet users' IP address.

"Overall, the copyright reform proposals are a far cry from the commitment by Commission president (Jean-Claude) Juncker to 'break down national silos' in copyright and ignore many demands made by the EU Parliament," Reda said on Wednesday.

Benoit Ginisty of the International Federation of Film Producers Association, an industry lobby based in Brussels, noted that the proposals will likely undermine barriers meant to protect the cultural industry at a national level.

"In the digital economy, licensing distribution rights by territory remains fundamental to the financing, production and distribution of content not just in the EU, but worldwide," Ginisty said.

The EU Commission said it will propose an additional 14 proposals in its bid to create an EU-wide digital single market.

"The proposal…is just an appetizer, the main course will come in 2016," said EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

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ls/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)