Recently introduced EU regulations that allow EU citizens to take their digital content with them for a limited period could come to an end should the UK leave the European Union with a disorderly ‘No Deal’ new government papers suggest.
‘Project Fear’ as it is known has been blaming Brexit for everything from planes being grounded to shortages of life saving-drugs. If you’re in the ‘remain’ camp then you’re predicting Armageddon, a return to war-time rationing and the swift spiral of the UK into destruction.
If you’re in the more optimistic ‘Brexit’ or ‘Leave means leave’ camp then you’re looking to the positives.
However, regardless of which side you sit on the fence, there are some home truths and the portability of digital content is likely to be one.
What are portability regulations?
Portability laws came into force in early 2018 and allow temporary travellers to access their home digital services in any EU country.
Want to watch UK Netflix in France for example? no problem. Or how about Sky Go? You can do just that.
Before April 2018 these services were either blocked or in the case of Netflix you would be served the local version of the site for the country you’re in.
Prior to this hundreds of thousands of users had been making use of VPN services which allow them to fool streaming services into thinking they’re still in the UK when they’re off on their jollies around the EU countries of Europe.
If the UK leaves the EU with a ‘No Deal’ or quite possibly even if it leaves with a deal either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ then this will cease to be the case and digital restrictions will return.
Official documents dealing the impact of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit claim, “This means online content service providers will not be required or able to offer cross-border access to UK consumers under the EU Regulation”.
Services that are affected
Services that will be affected are any subscription-based ones that previously employed geo-restrictions.
Most commonly this would be streaming services like Netflix or Sky Go, music services like Spotify and iTunes and gaming services such as Steam and Origin.
It’s worth noting that many of these services were already not blocked prior to the regulations. Steam, for example, sells products based on region such as ‘Europe’, ‘North America’ etc. This meant you could play your Steam games across the whole of Europe and not just the EU even before the new regulations came in to play.
Services that don’t require a subscription like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub or All 4 are down to the individual organisation to decide.
Wait, it’s not all doom and gloom
Until the ink is finally dry on any outcome of Brexit negotiations things will carry on as normal but as the deadline approaches it’s worth considering your options.
Prior to portability laws, anyone travelling to the EU could use a VPN from a provider such as ExpressVPN. This would allow them to access any of their UK services. It also goes one step further than current portability laws because a VPN will allow access to services such as BBC iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer and any other services which are not subscription based fall outside of the regulations. Many local TV content providers have opted not to allow cross-border streaming which leaves plenty of services still unavailable unless using a VPN.
Regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations it would seem bizarre if the UK left the EU but remained able to access EU portability rules.
Frequent travellers should, therefore, assume that portability rules will cease and return to a pre-April 2018 standing.
This has no effect on British citizens travelling outside the EU to the remaining 86% of the world that is not within the EU. VPN services such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish will still as always be required to stream your home content.