Is Geo-Blocking a Real Cause for Concern in Europe?
23 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2015
From the perspective of the ‘Digital Single Market’ geo-blocking widely frustrates the increasingly high expectations of European citizens to access culture, services and entertainment on a EU-wide basis. Geo-blocking also makes hugely demanded content such as films and TV series inaccessible in a legitimate way, with a consequential rise in appeal of online piracy. This article identifies the barriers raised by such technical restrictions and explains why the licensing of copyright works on a country-by-country basis may still be justified, on objective grounds. It also argues that the current emphasis on geo-blocking solely in relation to copyright is misleading since copyright is not the only reason why the exploitation of creative works (in particular films) is still rigidly territorial in Europe. On the one hand, the need to adapt and make content accessible to Europe’s culturally and linguistically diverse audiences may justify a separate exploitation on a territorial basis. On the other hand, factors such as a persisting digital divide, a different availability of bandwidth across the EU and a significant difference in the purchasing power of European consumers have a partitioning effect of the Single Market. This article takes the view that a progressive reduction of geo-blocking measures and an effective Europeanization of markets for digital content would urgently require a clarification of the conditions under which territorial restrictions may still be considered as a necessary tool to preserve cultural diversity and the remuneration of opportunities (e.g. advertising) associated with a particular territory. In all other cases EU policy makers should feel free to let the logic of the Digital Single Market progressively prevail.
Keywords: Geo-blocking; Copyright; Territoriality; Digital Single Market; Remuneration
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