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EU takes first step towards removing geoblocking of online content

09 Feb 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

It took longer than anticipated but starting from 2018 streaming providers such as Netflix, Viaplay, Sky, and Spotify will no longer be allowed to use “geo-blocking” mechanisms to block access for subscribers that are traveling in other EU countries.

First step towards a single market

This is only the first step in a plan to create a “Digital Single Market” in EU. It only applies to when you are traveling away from your home country. However, it is an important milestone.

Representatives from the EU member states, the European Parliament, and the EU Commission have agreed to force providers of online content to stop the practice of geoblocking. This practice prevents you from accessing content that have paid for through a subscription service while traveling in other EU countries.

"People who have subscribed to their sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe."
- “Today's agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans. People who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, Vice President i EU Commission. ”Agreements are now needed on our other proposals to modernise E.U. copyright rules and ensure a wider access to creative content across borders. I count on the European Parliament and Member States to make it happen.”

If you for example reside in the France you will, in the future, have access to Canal+ wherever you go inside the EU.

- ”For instance, when a French consumer subscribes to Canal+ film and series online services, the user will be able to access films and series available in France when he or she goes on holidays to Croatia or for a business trip to Denmark,” the EU Commission said.

The next step will be to open up the digital market, allowing for example a person residing in France to subscribe to any service available in any EU country. However, this step is facing tough resistance from the TV and movie industry that have long enjoyed a divided digital market in Europe where it has been possible to sell rights on a country-by-country basis.

The new rules come just one week after EU voted to end roaming data charges for mobile devices.


Must implement changes before 2018

The EU Commission makes it clear that ”all providers who offer paid online content services will have to follow the new rules”. Services provided without payment such as public service ”will have the possibility to decide to also provide portability to their subscribers.”

The new rules apply across industries such as video, music, sports, games, ebooks, and other types of online digital media.

- “These can be video-on-demand platforms (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Mubi, Chili TV), online TV services (Viasat's Viaplay, Sky's Now TV, Voyo), music streaming services (Spotify, Deezer, Google Music) or game online marketplaces (Steam, Origin).”
The EU Commission says that the new ”portability” rules will require that streaming providers verify the subscriber’s country of residence.

- “The online content service providers like Netflix, MyTF1 or Spotify will verify the subscriber's country of residence by using means such as payment details, the existence of an internet contract or by checking the IP address.”

The rules will apply in all EU Member States by the beginning of 2018. All content providers will have to implement the required mechanisms and stop the practice of geoblocking within the next 9 months.

- Source: EU Commission

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