One Netflix for Europe…UK government consults on ending geo blocking as a way to carve up digital rights in Europe

Posted: 21 January, 2016 in EU, Internet
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information commissioners office logo The UK government has launched a public consultation on the EU’s proposals to ban Netflix-style geo-blocking. The government says it wants its citizens to be able to access legally purchased content wherever they travel in the European Union and is now seeking input from copyright owners, ISPs and consumers.

During the past several days the issue of content geo-blocking has become a global hot potato after Netflix announced renewed efforts to thwart users who attempt to bypass its content-locking mechanisms.  Starting immediately, subscribers who attempt to access the Netflix service with a VPN or proxy in order to gain access to libraries in other regions will face additional roadblocks. The measures have been widely criticized by both VPN companies and consumers .But while this kind of effort to protect copyright holders and licensing agreements is probably legal now, over in Europe a conflicting scenario is playing out via the European Commission.  Following the adoption last March of a new Digital Single Market Strategy which aims to improve consumer access to digital services and goods, the Commission presented plans to abolish geo-blocking and filtering restrictions across EU member states.

Describing geo-blocking as a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons the Commission said that users should be allowed to access digital content services like Netflix all across Europe, no matter where they are.

In response to the Commission’s proposals the UK government has just launched a public consultation, aiming to gauge the public’s response to the idea of a geo-blocking ban in advance of any final decision by the EU. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) announced:

The European Commission has recently published draft legislation that is intended to ensure that all digital services are portable within the European Union.

This would mean that a person who lives in the UK, and who subscribes to a digital content service there, would be able to be confident they can continue to access that service when they are elsewhere in the EU, provided they have the right level of internet connection.

The UK government itself is strongly in favor of the EU’s proposals and believes that both consumers and content providers will benefit from legislative change.

The government says that in advance of negotiations on the text between EU Members States it is seeking views from both businesses and consumers on the costs and benefits of the proposals, alongside suggestions of how the language of the legislation could be improved. The IPO says:

In particular, we are seeking views from service providers, rights holder organizations, and consumers, in order to better understand how the proposals will affect them,

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