Cross-border access to online TV and radio content: new directive adopted by European Council

April 15, 2019

The European Council has adopted a directive which will facilitate the licensing of copyright-protected material contained in such programmes so that they can be made available throughout the EU.

Users increasingly expect to have access to television and radio programmes at a time and place of their choice. As a result, broadcasting organisations offer, in addition to their traditional broadcasts of television and radio programmes, online services ancillary to their broadcast. Such services consist of parallel transmissions over the Internet and the opportunity to view or listen to a programme later than at the time of the original broadcast.

To make these services available across borders, broadcasting organisations need to clear the rights to works and other protected subject matter contained in their broadcasts for all relevant territories. The directive will facilitate this rights clearance by allowing broadcasting organisations to clear all relevant rights in the member state of their principal establishment.

The directive covers all radio programmes, TV news and current affairs programmes as well as TV programmes which are fully-financed own productions of the broadcasting organisations. Existing contracts will remain unaffected for a period of four years from the entry into force of the directive. The European Commission will assess the need for extending this coverage to additional types of TV programmes six years after the entry into force of the directive.

In addition, the directive facilitates the clearance of rights where a radio or TV programme broadcast in one member state is retransmitted simultaneously, unaltered and unabridged in another member state.

It covers retransmissions carried out via cable, satellite, digital terrestrial, closed circuit IP-based or mobile networks. It also covers retransmissions carried through the open internet provided that they take place in a managed environment, that is, they are subject to some kind of digital identification.

For the types of retransmissions covered by the directive, the rights to works and other subject matter contained in the broadcast will have to be cleared through a collective management society. 

The directive clarifies the legal status of the so-called direct injection technique, that is, when a broadcaster transmits its programme-carrying signals to signal distributors in such a way that these signals are not accessible to the public during that transmission. In such a case, only a single act of communication to the public is deemed to occur. This means that both the broadcaster and the signal distributor will have to clear the underlying rights.

Next steps

Following the signature and publication of the directive in the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into their national law.