Geo-blocking regional blockades is a thorn in the side of Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in the European Commission. In a speech this week he explained why these roadblocks should be abolished.
“Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well,” Ansip said.
“This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe has to offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating,” he added.
The Commissioner is targeting an issue that lies at the core of the movie and TV industries, who license content per location. Ansip specifically mentions BBC’s iPlayer, but other services including YouTube, Amazon and Netflix have the same restrictions.
The geoblocking restrictions are demanded by content creators, who want to sell the streaming rights on a regional basis. To enforce these licenses, users from outside of the designated countries are blocked.
The Commissioner believes that this is an outdated concept which he likens to discrimination. If people want to pay for content, they should be able to, regardless of where they live.
“In the offline world, this would be called discrimination. In the online world, it happens every day,” Ansip noted. “I want to pay – but I am not allowed to. I lose out, they lose out.”
“How can this be a good thing? We put up with the situation because there is not much alternative. Now it is time to do something about it,” he added.
The artificial restrictions are not a market issue according to the Commissioner, but a matter of rights. These rights should be enjoyed equally and not just by the happy few who happen to live in a ‘licensed’ country.
“There should be no exceptions. Everyone should be treated the same. This is a key principle that underpins everything we want to achieve,” Ansip said.
The EU is currently discussing how copyright legislation in Europe should be overhauled and the Vice-President for the Digital Single Market hopes that measures against geoblocking will be part of the new rules.