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EU Media The Internet

Europe Vows To Get Rid of Geo-Blocking 114

AmiMoJo writes: The European Commission has adopted a new set of initiatives for digital technologies that aims to improve access to online services for everyday users. Among other things, Europe vows to end geo-blocking, which it describes as "a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons," and lift other unwarranted copyright restrictions. Consumers will have the right to access content they purchased at home in other European countries. "I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe," Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says.
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Europe Vows To Get Rid of Geo-Blocking

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    How will this work with respect to blocking content based on IP, due to local laws that make such content illegal only in certain areas (such as Nazi stuff in Germany)?

    • How will this work with respect to blocking content based on IP, due to local laws that make such content illegal only in certain areas (such as Nazi stuff in Germany)?

      Don't you know, the courts now think they have global jurisdiction.

    • by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:46PM (#49630659)

      This stuff is perfectly legal to own in the blocked areas. The content owners just want to make sure someone viewing their content in Germany must pay the German price for it, instead of say the French price. Even if the customer is French, already bought the content in France, and is visiting Germany temporarily.

      The Nazi stuff, on the other hand, is not legal in Germany.

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        TFS talks about geo-blocking, not blocking IPs based on content.

      • by thsths ( 31372 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:00PM (#49630803)

        > This stuff is perfectly legal to own in the blocked areas. The content owners just want to make sure someone viewing their content in Germany must pay the German price for it, instead of say the French price.

        Yes, there are two parts to it. The article says that content once bought should be available in the whole of the EU. So far, if you are on holiday in France, you can't use your existing streaming account, Kindle downloads or MP3s. Clearly that is wrong, because nobody would buy content again just for a holiday (apart from the fact that you would need a credit card registered at a local address).

        The problem of separate markets is a different one. It is also on the European agenda, but the issue will be much more contentious. But that is not a geoblocking issue.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It is a geo-blocking issue. There will need to be a ban on contracts that restrict content to certain countries. Licencing will have to be for the whole EU or nothing.

          • "Licencing will have to be for the whole EU or nothing"

            This runs smack into the issue that sales tax (VAT) varies in every country and must be paid by the supplier at the prevailing rate for the customer's country AND the supplier must VAT-register in each country (which is a horrendous bureaucratic nightmare)

            Many smaller suppliers locked down sales to specific countries to avoid the headaches.

      • This type of thing can have good and bad sides though. Somebody in Germany or the UK likely has a lot more money to spend than somebody in Greece. With Geo-blocking, you can charge people in Greece a price they can afford, and you can charge the people in Germany a price they can afford. If you aren't allowed to discriminate based on where the customer is, the only options are to charge Greek prices to everyone, or have the item at a price where Greeks couldn't afford the item. If they price it at a price

        • Of course it will stop companies making more money that is why they do it. And they are much more likely to sell the content closer to the lower price because each copy costs 0 to produce.

          The question is, is it far to charge a higher price to someone just because they can afford it? How would you like it if you went into mcdonalds, and they said nice rollex, and charged you $100 per burger. Or maybe because you are white, they charged you more. What is the difference?

          No one has a right to profit and practic

          • How would you like it if you went into mcdonalds, and they said nice rollex, and charged you $100 per burger.

            Around here even burger flippers are educated enough to spot it as a fake, so they'd charge you the normal price.

          • > How would you like it if you went into mcdonalds, and they said nice rollex, and charged you $100 per burger.

            How would you like it if you went into a McD's in Lille and paid 50% more than 20 miles away across the border in Brussels? (which is what happens at the moment)

            American posters don't get how fragmented the EU market is and life is much simpler for interstate vendors as the consumer is required to declare and pay sales tax for "exported" items.

            It shouldn't be this way, but it is.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          In a pure free market, you don't charge based on what people can pay. You charge cost plus. That's the same in Germany as Greece for something provided in Italy. It's the monopoly-thinking that gets "market-based" pricing. And yes, the market is different in different places. The more "pure" the capitalism, the more you move to cost plus, where geography is irrelevant. Since they can't ban every local monopoly, they address the cross-border effects of a local monopoly. If someone in Italy bribes and c
          • In a pure free market, you don't charge based on what people can pay. You charge cost plus.

            So if I put the Mona Lisa up for auction, what do I set the reserve at? In fact, why bother with the auction, if you know what the price should be?

            I think you're confusing a free market with a perfectly competitive one.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

              So if I put the Mona Lisa up for auction, what do I set the reserve at?

              In a perfectly competitive market (I don't care which term you use, you understood what I meant, and I think they are used differently in different places/industries), you do what you do anywhere, set it at market price. If "market price" isn't cost plus, then you don't have a perfectly competitive market. Which is true for unique items. A commodity item, like a computer mouse, is cost plus. A monopoly (the only mona lisa, the only taxi medallion in an area, a telecom monopoly), cost plus wouldn't apply

          • > In a pure free market, you don't charge based on what people can pay.

            Nor do you use cost-plus, that's a characteristic of a monopsomy-dominated market (where the customer dictates prices to several suppliers).

            99.9% of consumer and business goods sales (not services) are based on "what the market will bear"

            Which is not what the customer CAN pay, it's what the customer WILL pay.

            One example:
            Phone covers bought in china for US$0.75 each selling for UKP15 (about $30) in Victoria Railway Station. The same co

      • Ending the separation of the market by country is exactly what getting rid of geoblocking is about.

        This said, it will be an "internal" EU affair as far as I understand it. There will still be geoblocking for content that crosses the outer EU borders.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      This is a story about specific form of content blocking: geoblocking for commercial reasons. What you are asking about is a completely different kind of blocking: blocking because of legal reasons. Therefore it's safe to say that this will not impact it in any shape or form.

    • My worry is that this will be another lever for Germany to try to push its insane levels of censorship on the rest of Europe. They've tried before - they had a good push at making German games censorship (in some respects as bad as and in some respects worse than the Australian version) mandatory using the bully-pulpit of their last EU presidency, though thankfully the clock ran out on that particular attempt.

      Juncker holds his position thanks to German influence... he has debts to pay.

      In theory, I'm in favo

  • Yeah that will work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:33PM (#49630535)
    Yeah this will have about as much impact as the banning of involuntary cookies had...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Do you want to store cookies? Answer no and they store a cookie that says you don't want cookies...

      • Answer "no" on a law-abiding website and it will ask you again every time you load a new page, because it has no way of knowing whether you already answered the question...

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      I see websites all the time now that say "This website uses cookies" and i wonder what dolt decided to ban them its a browser setting you can turn them off if your ok with not being able to stay logged in anywhere but requiring webites to tell you they use cookies is silly i can check chrome and see that for this page i have 7 cookies from /. and 11 from other places i think i can safely conclude that /. might possibly use cookies

  • Put up free public anonymous proxy servers.

  • Youtube in Germany (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:46PM (#49630657)

    Will this include having Germany unblock Youtube?

    Currently, ANYTHING on Youtube involving music is blocked because GEMA (the German equivalent of RIAA) can't reach an agreement with Google. The end result is that all those videos out there where people play a bit of background music are effectively banned from being seen in Germany.

    For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]

    An interesting excerpt for those too lazy to click on links:

    A study sponsored by the video hosting website MyVideo estimated that 61.5% of the 1000 most viewed YouTube clips are blocked in Germany. This is significantly higher than, for example, in the United States (0.9%) or in Switzerland (>1%).[7]

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Since the end user does not pay for Youtube video, probably not.
    • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:47PM (#49631269)

      It would either be "We block it everywhere in Europe" or "We block it nowhere". Remember that it wasn't Gernany who woke up one day and said" Let's block some video's. It was brought to court and the courts decided that this is what the law required.

      So this would mean a change of law.

      More interesting would be to see how this will affect (neo-)nazi content in Germany that they see as yelling fire in a movie-theater.
      (And this is not aboutif that is right or wrong.)

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It won't affect content that is illegal in one county. It only affects licencing agreements that limit content or prices to one county.

        For example, Apple were criticised for having different prices in different country's iTunes stores. In the common market we are supposed to be able to buy from any EU country, but Apple geo-blocks to prevent that.

        Even with that restriction removed, Apple would still have to block sales of material that is illegal in some counties, such as games with Nazi imagery in Germany.

        • "In the common market we are supposed to be able to buy from any EU country"

          I've run into a large number of vendors who claim to have "exclusive distribution rights for XYZ country" and threaten legal action when I tell them I'm purchasing from elsewhere in the EU for substantially less than what they want to charge.

          None of them have ever followed through once I've pointed out that "exclusive supply agreements" amount to illegal restraint of trade across the single market, although one attempted to bluster

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's indeed answered. Point 6 specifically mentions "harmonisation efforts" which is EU speak for overruling away national legislation. It also speaks about "looking at online intermediaries" which is isn't going to be a favorable look. There's also a new antitrust competition inquiry which may very well encompass GEMA.

      The EU as an organisation really, really dislikes players who interfere with the EU internal market. The internal market is the most liked part of the EU; unrestricted migration and the eur

    • "Currently, ANYTHING on Youtube involving music is blocked because GEMA (the German equivalent of RIAA) can't reach an agreement with Google. "

      This is no different to the issues involving newspapers.

      Google is perfectly entitled to say "OK, whatever. We're not covering this market as they did with newspapers. The difference is that GEMA don't care that it substantially impacts their bottom line in a negative sense because they're ideologically driven and isolated from the economic realities of the member com

  • Before I believe anything being done like that by the EU (and Juncker, of all of them), I want to see this being cast into a EU regulation and then I want to see them breathing down every country's neck to turn it into laws. Just like they do with all the anti-consumer laws they invent.

    And then I might ponder thinking about just what loophole they left open and what agenda this should actually serve.

    • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @01:08PM (#49630875) Journal

      The loophole is right there in the article;

      Among other things the Commission plans “to end unjustified geo-blocking,” which it describes as “a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons.”

      We only have to wait to find out what kind of geo-blocking is classed as "justified", but I'd bet on most of the kinds that really cause problems for people.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Of you read the full quote it's clear he means that geo-blocking is unjustified, not that some of it might be justifiable.

        The principal in the Common Market is that goods and services flow freely between member states. Trying to subvert that is not acceptable.

  • This will never work (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:48PM (#49630671)

    Two big reasons geo-blocking exists: to take advantage of currency arbitrage and mandatory copyright licensing. GEMA managed to get Youtube videos with any music in them banned in Germany simply by requiring a ridiculous amount of money in per-viewing fees.

    • The whole point of this is that they are planning to mandate that per-country licensing is illegal in the EU. The same way that the EU is a single market when it comes to physical goods, it will be a single market for copyright as well.

      • So they're going to settle on the most restrictive member nation's copyright rules?

        Or require every nation but one to change their copyright laws? Yeah, that'll be interesting.

  • by QuantumReality ( 3756741 ) on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:50PM (#49630697)
    Example Netflix, have different movies and tv series across countries in EU, because of the agreements with content owners. So for example i can't watch content from Netflix in EU country A because i live i country B. From now on i will be able to get all the content in EU.
    • Except in reality, this likely means that you will only get access to the subset of content that has been negotiated in ALL EU member countries individually.
      Example, French Movie Studio has released their film in France, the theater run is up, and revenues are dropping off, so they license it to Netflix France to get more eyeballs/money. They were planning on releasing it in Italy once it built up some more word-of-mouth, so it's not licensed to Netflix Italy. Now, with no geo-blocking, is it more likely
      • I think French Movie Studio will likely license their movie to Netflix Europe (having separate licenses per country will make no more sense) once the theater run is up. And Netflix Europe will "lend" it everywhere in Europe.

        After all, at this point it is a choice between getting no more revenue or some revenue.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        Typically EU rules in cases like these have harmonized the common market by making it illegal to attempt to block these sales on commercial grounds. For example someone ordering the product from another common market member country cannot be blocked for commercial reasons from making the purchase on grounds of "this is a different country and therefore different market for which we want different rules (i.e. price) enforced".

        You may obviously charge different sum for delivery in case of physical items with

      • Except in reality, this likely means that you will only get access to the subset of content that has been negotiated in ALL EU member countries individually.

        Then anything not negotiated for the entire EU market will disappear from the EU view of the service. The publisher will get zero hits and thus zero royalties. If the publisher wants to continue collecting royalties from the service, it will have to negotiate with the service for the rest of the EU market.

      • Now, with no geo-blocking, is it more likely that Netflix gets to show it in Italy, or that it DOESN'T get to show it in France?

        Both.

        In the short term, Netflix doesn't have a license for Italy, cannot distribute content to both countries as required by law, and so stops.

        But from then on, all licenses are negotiated as EU-wide licenses. Every. Single. One. Because there's literally no point in negotiating a license for "Just France". So in the medium term (not even the long term, because Netflix has to

  • the BBC for their Olympics coverage (and other stuff). Proxying in works but is not kosher. On the BBC I feel I am watching sport, not entertainment. Not so with NBC, etc.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      You don't think that the Olympics should be celebrated with the Theme to the Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.?
  • God damnit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2015 @12:55PM (#49630747)

    Well, we're screwed.

    If the EU bans geoblocking, media corporations will push for unified copyright law in the EU as well - after all, it only makes sense, right? You can't force them to abide by every country's individual law, that's just unreasonable...

    Now, I'm from the Czech Republic. Our copyright law has a lot of problems, but generally it's better than in the "west" - we don't have insane shit like the "three strikes" shit in France where you get literally kicked out of the entire internet for being *accused* three times of "piracy", no court, little or no recourse... this doesn't happen here, because we're a small and relatively poor market so it's not worth it to bribe our lawmakers.

    With geoblocking forbidden and unified anti-piracy laws pushed on the entire EU, we'll get the combination of the absolute worst, most anti-consumer "anti-piracy" measures from all corners of the world. The corporations will only need to pay off a few politicians in Brussels, instead of having to do it separately in each country, and we'll all suffer as a consequence.

    I'll gladly give up the ability to watch some shitty shows etc. on the Internet if it means I can continue to live in a comparatively free country. I mean, with the current local legislature, if I *do* want to watch a show that's inaccessible here, I can just legally pirate it... but soon I won't be able to. All that will be left to protect my freedom will be the local police's incompetence and indifference.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      That has already been done in the copyright directive that was pushed through the European Parliament and implemented into law in all member countries many years ago.

  • The European Union is firstly and above other things a common market - we, Europeans of the Union, agreed to that before any other type of unification (other types -e.g. monetary- which not all members of the union accept yet, and may never accept). While EU is very problematic for many reasons (not only economical... as many would think i mean because i am a Greek!), its common market concept is the least problematic (and the least negative in the eyes of its citizens). Geo-blocking inside EU is against th
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You're not Greek by any chance, are you? Don't know what made me think that.
      • You're not Greek by any chance, are you? Don't know what made me think that.

        I already wrote that i am a Greek, you are slipping...

        Next time use your "/." account, you don't want people to think that you are a coward!

    • There are practical considerations though. Currently if you release a film you can get a german distributor a french distributor a british distributor and a spanish distributor. Each country's distributor is responsible for marketing as well as selling the product. So who would get the royalties in this instance? While the EU is a common market if you go to France a BMW will not cost the same as it costs in Germany.

      My prediction is that this will go nowhere. It sounds great in theory to say that

      • Yes, you are right, my prediction (even if i support the idea) is also that this will go nowhere. Excluding the income differences important for marketing, in the case of your film example the language barriers that must be bridged with a cost, with the car example it is like demanding countries like mine (Greece) to abolish the (so important for the state's revenue) special tax imposed on every car sale.

        It would be like you expecting every supermarket in Europe to sell milk for the same price! "It's all milk! I should be able to buy milk for 2 Euros in Germany or 2 Euros in Greece!"

        This "milk thing" is one of the most used argument in Greece (maybe in the opposite way of what you may

      • A BMW sells for a different price in California than Michigan. You can go to Michigan and pay a different price and transport it yourself, or just buy it locally. This is done all the time in the USA. Different states having different prices. What is so special about Europe dealing with it?

        This isnt a big deal. You then have to pay again to reregister it in your jurisdiction.

      • There's no *inherent* problem - the EU could (and, IMO, should) simply forbid licensing on a per-nation basis. So either you deal with a distributor that can cover all of the EU, or you give each of the distributors the rights for all of the EU and let them compete.

        Whether this is likely to happen is another question.

        (Ideally, international law would prohibit per-nation licensing worldwide, but that's even less likely.)

  • Dear EU,

    Please fix your shiny new VAT laws that require people to fill out 70+ tax returns to sell across Europe first. Then maybe you can lecture the internet on how to build single markets.

  • So, that means all the UK stuff that I can't watch here will become available then?
  • Why won't the Europeans make it illegal to have region coding for DVD's and BluRay and computer games? This is just a PR stunt by the EU to pretend to people they are relevant to their lives

    • Are there different region codes within the EU? At first glance, at least, it looks like code 2 covers all of Europe, including the UK.

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