back to article Labour policy review tells EU where to stuff its geo-blocking ban

If Europe’s new Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker thought he’d notch up an easy populist win last summer when he targeted copyright reform, he’s had a rude awakening. Instead, he’s walked into a firestorm. Critics argued that sidekick Commission VP Andrus Ansip’s favourite proposals on territoriality would “Americanise …

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    1. Uffish

      "should" ?

      As a Brit living in France I find it very irritating that I can't get all of the BBC's content for free over the internet, but I can't for the life of me understand why I should.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: "should" ?

        It's not about free

        It's about not being able to buy a UK TV licence in and then be able to stream the Boat Race live on my laptop because I happen to be in Belgium that day.

      2. James 51

        Re: "should" ?

        As a Brit who goes to France on holiday it is annoying that I've paid my license fee and paid for amazon prime and I can't access either. I could use a VPN but I haven't heard a single good reason why I can't access services I have paid for because I have temporarily moved location.

        BTW the BBC would not have to give it's services away for free. I already see ads on the website when I travel and the iplayer could have ads on the same basis or have a login that comes with the license.

      3. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: "should" ?

        Maybe the BBC could sell you a licence to watch their stuff. I've no idea if you would take them up on the offer, but some people certainly would pay it.

    2. Oninoshiko

      @1980s_coder

      I don't even get the opportunities they think they are losing.

      "OH NO! Too many people might BUY MY PRODUCT!"

      I don't think anyone is saying they have to make it mulit-lingual, just that if you sell it, you have to sell it to everyone on equal terms.

  2. Pete4000uk

    its not about the countries anymore...

    ...its all about the European state.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Labour’s policy experts also point out that Europe has studied geo-blocking before, found only “superficial” reasons for it, and strong reasons against it.'

    This seems to contradict the rest of the article, which argues in favour of geo-blocking. So which is it?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Probably because the headline is misleading - we'll fix it.

      What's called (propaganda-friendly term) "geoblocking" really means "freedom of licensing". The EU wants to stop this.

      Of course if you think Europe is one country with one language, it's logical. If you think Europe is lots of countries with even more languages, then the reform is coercive.

      1. James 51

        The single market is about the free movement of goods, services and people. Geo-blocking restricts services. There would still be ways to bring this in by the back door. I'd love to buy anime with Japanese, English and French dub and sub but as it is I would need to buy two DVDs/Blu-Rays because the dvd released in the UK doesn't have the French track and the French dvd doesn't have the Englash track. This is one reason why I liked HD-DVDs, they had lots of language tracks on them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The sentence I was referring to hasn't changed. It still says they found only superficial reasons for *having* geoblocking.

        1. JulieM
          Holmes

          Not much reason needed

          Geoblocking pretty much happened by itself in the beginning anyway, due to the limited power of broadcast transmitters, poor fidelity of early disc recording and playback equipment and the use of different wavebands -- and, with the advent of television, different line scanning and colour encoding standards -- in different countries. This simple accident of history gave an advantage to those who would stand to gain from certain limitations continuing to be enforced artificially if they were eventually to be overcome by technological improvements.

          Meanwhile, while a few were getting fat on artificial limitations, the rest of us have noticed how actually, no part of this is anything you could call remotely fair. The trouble is, the ones with all the money have still got the ability to mess it up royally for everyone else out of spite, if we reform the system.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Asymptotically approaching extreme newspeak now.!

        What's called (propaganda-friendly term) "geoblocking" really means "freedom of licensing".

        I think Orwell wrote a whole book about how coercive action can actually be relabeled as "freedom", "peace" and "choice" (well, he seems to have missed the last one but then again the marketdroids had not yet gone full retard back then)

        If you think Europe is lots of countries with even more languages, then the reform is coercive.

        How the hell does this make sense? OH NO, IMMA BEING FORCED TO SELL.

        Next up: If you think the UK is a lot of town with even more local traditions, then the reform is coercive.

      4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        DIRECTIVE 89/552/EEC - "TELEVISION WITHOUT FRONTIERS"

        "What's called (propaganda-friendly term) "geoblocking" really means "freedom of licensing". The EU wants to stop this."

        Or they're a bit confused.

        http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/audiovisual_and_media/l24101_en.htm

        "The Directive aims to ensure the free movement of broadcasting services within the internal market and at the same time to preserve certain public interest objectives, such as cultural diversity, the right of reply, consumer protection and the protection of minors. It is also intended to promote the distribution and production of European audiovisual programmes, for example by ensuring that they are given a majority position in television channels' programme schedules."

        Except when this contravenes rights owners rights to maximise rights owner's rights to ignore the internal market and try to maximise revenues per territory. It's one of those strange situations where too many rights might make a wrong. Or smaller EU members may need some protection from the EU's broadcasting giants to try and protect their own customer base. The get-out I guess for content/rights owners is the existing Directive states 'broadcasting services' rather than content.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile....

    ...those that don't care for the pro's of Geo-blocking will download the content for free and they all lose.

    They need to sort something out.

  6. Dr. Mouse

    I don't get it...

    Why would the removal of geo blocking hurt niche/local producers (which seems to be one of the arguments here). OK, they can't restrict which areas they sell their content to, but why does that hurt them?

    We live in a single market. This means goods and services should be able to be freely traded across borders. It should not just be an advantage to businesses, who can sell their products anywhere, but also to consumers, who should be able to buy from anywhere. If I want to subscribe to, say, a German satellite TV package, why shouldn't I be allowed? My grandfather is German, and he would love to be able to do that, so he could watch programmes in his native language.

    I am not being funny here, I honestly want to know why it is such a big deal. Nothing I have read has given me a decent answer, except that big businesses couldn't make a fortune any more selling the exclusive rights in individual areas.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: I don't get it...

      "Why would the removal of geo blocking hurt niche/local producers (which seems to be one of the arguments here). OK, they can't restrict which areas they sell their content to, but why does that hurt them?"

      Because they can't maximise the price of their goods. If you RTFA it's quite informative - follow the link to the Rivers study for the European Commission, it's quite a readable analysis of price discrimination.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't get it...

        Andrew

        so are you implying (or me inferring) the importing of goods or services between member EU states should be illegal ? Sorry but that goes against the whole point (and laws) of the single EU market. There have been plenty of smack-downs on this (especially big pharma) so companies cannot price gouge individual member states without being given the choice of buying the goods or services from another member state which is exactly what is being lobbied for here.

        And you expect us to have sympathy with that ?

      2. JulieM

        Re: I don't get it...

        Because they can't maximise the price of their goods.

        And this is the bit with which I have a problem. What gives them the right to "maximise the price of their goods", when that comes at the direct expense of others?

        Just because people have historically been able to segmentate markets due to the need for physical manufacturing and distribution processes, does not mean that they should be allowed to impose artificial limitations where natural ones do not apply. And with digital media content, you have effectively made an unlimited number of copies when you have made the first one. You can sell digital content abroad for the same overhead cost as selling it locally, and it makes no sense to allow artificial restraint of trade like this.

        P.S. Why not scrap VAT on copyrighted works, but tax the licensing fees earned instead? Then there is no need to be concerned with different rates of VAT in each country, and the tax still gets collected where the goods are sold from. It also incentivises collection, as you can be sure that authors will chase every penny due to them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's just like DVD region coding...

    ...it's there to maximise the profit of the content providers, not to improve the quality or diversity of the product.

    If there is specialised content produced for (say) the Polish market, what's the problem with releasing it throughout all of Europe, at the same price people in Poland would be prepared to take it?

    At worst, it will be ignored by the rest of Europe (which is the same as the current situation). At best, it will give them a wider audience (i.e. Poles living away from home), and improve the range of content available to these ex-pats and increase their engagement with their home culture.

    Are the content owners saying they want the freedom to release the same content at a *lower* price in other parts of Europe, while keeping prices hiked up for the local audience? Then that's just market abuse.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

      "...release the same content at a *lower* price in other parts of Europe, while keeping prices hiked up for the local audience? Then that's just market abuse."

      No, it isn't. It's bog standard price discrimination. If you sold stuff then you'd want to do this too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

        Why should something have a different price in Liege than in Aachen? The cost of production is the same as is, if its delivered by land from Belgium, the cost of delivery.

        I think what you are saying is that merchants shoukd be able to charge different prices in different countries and the consumers can't just druve across a border to buy the item where it is offered at a lower price....right?

        1. keith_w
          Devil

          Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

          Why shouldn't they have different prices in different markets? As much as the EU is common market, it actually isn't really. Different areas place different values on different things. Heck, this happens in countries, never mind the EU. If the market you are in values my product highly, then I can charge more for that product, if the area you are in doesn't, but I want to sell my product there, then I would lower the price until I reached a profitable price point at which sufficient product was sold. This is generally how supply and demand is supposed to work. Companies are in business to maximize profits, not to make consumers happy.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

            > As much as the EU is common market, it actually isn't really....Companies are in business to maximize profits,

            So you would have no problems with different countries in the Eu putting import tarrifs on your products or demanding that you HQ your company in their country before being allowed to sell there?

            If you want to take advantage of cheap labour in Poland, cheap VAT in Luxembourg and cheap tax in Eire - then you have to expect customers to demand that they can buy cheap wine from France and watch British TV in Germany,

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

            "Companies are in business to maximize profits, not to make consumers happy."

            Which is why we have laws in place to prevent them from pulling anticompetitive activities.

            Restraint of trade is one of those illegal activities. You need a special license (often in the form of a patent) to be able to do it legally.(*)

            1. Keven E.

              It's nothing like DVD region coding...

              As an artist, I get to choose whether or not to make customers happy, when to make them happy or not(kinda) how I personally feel is best and for what price and/or cost. At least my copyright lets me (think) I have full, legal "Restraint of trade" over that.

              Unfortunately, it also means racists, bigots, marketing areseholes of all kinds also have subtle amounts of that *control, and would like to (and do) use it for cultural *dampening. The proof is in the soggy pudding so generously designated as popular before it even hits the stage.

              Don't confuse the intention of "pop culture" with the work of *artists. Artists having full control over their production pisses off (to no end) those who live vicariously trough them....

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

        Then as a voter I should also want my government to extract the maximum price in tax and not allow them to sell stuff in my country while employing people abroad and paying tax abroad.

        After all restricting foreign trade is the whole point of the eu isn't it?

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

        " If you sold stuff then you'd want to do this too."

        I run into UK resellers of "stuff" on a daily basis who seem to think they have exclusive rights to sell to UK customers and get quite vocally upset(*) when told that I'm buying £x0,000 worth of kit from France or Germany because it's half the price and the vendor is offering better support options.

        It's quite convenient for "cultural stuff" that they still have this kind of legal protection but as others have said it's at odds with the single market - and the argument about school holidays is a bit of a straw man given the wide variability of those within the UK, let alone across the EU.

        (*) More than one has stated they're going to take legal action to prevent the sale. None have ever done so, presumably because their lawyers have told them they wouldn't get far in court trying to retrain trade in violation of single market rules.

    2. OldHarrovian

      Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

      So - if I'm a Polish company making a Polish product, I now have to arrange distribution, marketing, and advertising for my product across all the other territories in Europe? That sounds expensive!

      1. Vehlin

        Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

        No you don't have to market your product anywhere, however if you were a Polish streaming TV company you couldn't stop me logging onto your website, entering my card details and watching your stuff.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

          Not really, the objection is at the B2B level.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It's just like DVD region coding...

        "if I'm a Polish company making a Polish product, I now have to arrange distribution, marketing, and advertising for my product across all the other territories in Europe?"

        Nope. You just can't carve up the EU into "exclusive market areas"

  8. Jeff 11

    Some digital products will not sell to anyone in certain territories of Europe because the economics are so different, especially those that don't use the Euro. Try selling content to parts of eastern Europe at a converted GBP/EUR -> local currency price and you get almost zero uptake. Instead, content providers can make additional revenue by selling the same product on volume at a much lower normalised price. That's actually a lot more fair to foreign EU citizens than forcing everyone to pay a normalised charge everywhere, despite the fact that disposable incomes can be fractional between countries.

    This law is effectively an order to shut off those revenue streams and kill off jobs and business that rely on them.

    1. DropBear
      Childcatcher

      This law is effectively an order to shut off those revenue streams and kill off jobs and business that rely on them.

      You forgot to mention the children. Why won't someone just think of those poor children?!?

      1. Stork Silver badge

        ok, think of the children

        I live in Portugal and would like my kids to be able to watch Danish TV in order to keep their language current. Extortionately expensive (~€500/y I think) at present.

        "Think of the children"

        In reality, the younger would watch crappy cartoons and shows from Disney/CN, whatever in Danish and the older not watch much at all.

  9. heyrick Silver badge

    So pay will still be a viable option

    Try sourcing English language content in other European countries. You'll quickly run into problems like the available version is dubbed in the local language and the English original is simply not licensed (in case it competes or something? I don't know). It would be nice to purchase what I would like to without arbitrary blocking getting in the way...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. phil dude
        Boffin

        Re: So pay will still be a viable option

        As a bi-lingual in one European language and statistically fluent in another, dubbing is usually horrible when going from English to another language. Subtitles are even worse, but at least don't get in the way (can be covered on a computer/TV).

        English is more compact lexically than most other languages, and the vocabulary is not constrained by central authority, making translation a moving target.

        Interesting that the OECD is "How words come to be", suggest why English is so rich and hard to learn non-natively....

        As an aside, on a trip to Finland I asked why their English was so good (amazing if you know that Finnish is Urgo-Baltic in origin). The explanation was that as such a small country (5 mill), it was though that if they did not speak English too, there would be noone left to speak Finnish.

        An interesting trip that....

        P.

  10. auburnman

    Sounds like Worstall should chip in on this in his next Economics article, maybe do a teardown on how realistic the claims of each side are.

  11. Scuby
    Thumb Down

    It is increasingly frustrating

    I do still buy physical content (BluRay etc) that usually have a Digital Copy code for use in iTunes and/or with UltraViolet using Flixter/BlinkBox. It really pisses me off that I can't stream media that I am entitled to view when on my jolly hols on the continent. Sure I can download to my tablet before I leave, but that's not the point!

  12. DropBear
    FAIL

    Absolutely! I mean, just imagine if anyone - I mean ANYONE - could watch Top Gear wherever they please! What if they were immediately recognized even in Syria?!? ...oh wait...

  13. Christoph

    How does this affect micro-businesses?

    Tiny one-person on-line businesses have already been hammered by the new VAT regulations.

    Some of them have been forced to avoid having to comply with ridiculously onerous regulations by giving up all sales to the EU outside their own country.

    Are they now to be obliged to sell all over the EU, and therefore be subject to the new regulations? Most of them simply cannot do this - it's not difficult, it's flat-out impossible.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How does this affect micro-businesses?

      No you don't have to sell to anyone - you just can't limit the license to certain eu countries.

      In the same way that I can refuse to let anyone into my shop but I'm not allowed to charge more to people who are French.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: How does this affect micro-businesses?

        "No you don't have to sell to anyone - you just can't limit the license to certain eu countries."

        Same difference. It means that in the EU you'll have to er, sell to anyone.

        Even if I improve your shop analogy to say "I cannot charge French people more" it doesn't hold up, because by opening a shop you're obliged not to discriminate. Whereas price discrimination is absolutely essential in this market.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: How does this affect micro-businesses?

          "Whereas price discrimination is absolutely essential in this market."

          Uh yeah, right. That's a monopolist line. I've seen it used time and time again and it was the standard refrain used when opposing the pan-eu single market in most other areas.

          The reality is that the regionalisation laws are at least 20 years out of date and becoming less relevant with each passing year thanks to the Internet, DBS systems and massive population shifts within the EU.

  14. WOOOOO

    With the amount of DRM around I don't get how they would be "affected adversely if they became unable to geo-block their online transmissions" Not that I like DRM but are they really that stupid and short sighted? I log into Sky go to watch things, why shouldn't I be able to log in anywhere as long as I have a current subscription? It really does make one want to turn freetard just as a protest at the current business thinking.

  15. Peter2 Silver badge

    Meanwhile, in the real world...

    You'll simply be required to sign into an account to access anything on the BBC website. Everybody in the UK with a license will be mailed a username/pass, and people without an account will be invited to buy a license to access the content.

    This is of course totally compliant because it's not geo-blocking and nothing changes (apart from needing to enter a user/pass) but costs skyrocket due to the complexity of delivering such a system. The outsourcing company the project is outsourced to charges 5 billion for the job, and it is delivered 2 years late and considerably over budget due to the extreme difficulty of implementing such unknown technology. We're advised afterwards that "lessons have been learnt" as a result.

    1. Can't think of anything witty...
      Go

      Re: Meanwhile, in the real world...

      i was thinking that.

      But how about this instead.

      The BBC sells TV licences to anyone in Europe (or the world for that matter) who wants one. Pay the same fee as in the UK and get worldwide access to the content. You wouldn't need to sell a lot of licences to recoup the cost of managing it and i think that the market would be huge. Same for Sky.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Meanwhile, in the real world...

        That's a possibility; the BBC would, probably, have to pay a bit more for some imported material, which was now being watched across the continent. (Not least, because there might be less demand from, say, German broadcasters for a localised version now, thanks to many people there being happy to watch the English).

        There is a distinct possibility that some big ticket programmes may not be localised for other markets, or may not attract such large audiences in those markets, if people have already been able to view the UK/American (and I'm thinking this could often be the case with US imports, say Desperate Housewives) versions via British broadcasters, thanks to the lifting of restrictions.

        The BBC and Sky would perhaps be the least disadvantaged because both have some sort of mechanism for getting fees from people. ITV and Channel 4, for example don't, and would have to either give stuff away to people on the continent for no extra return (while likely paying extra for the content in the first place), or spend a lot of money on adding some sort of mechanism to allow for people to give them money.

        Meanwhile, what of the foreign broadcaster that was previously showing a blockbuster import, dubbed into the local language? There is a possibility that they might find that the audience shrinks once people can get the non-dubbed version elsewhere. How much it will shrink we don't know, but isn't it at least possible, and worth considering that a loss of potential ad revenue because of this could then affect the amount of money that the broadcaster has to create original material in their own language.

        And that's surely what the article was driving at - there could be unintended consequences in a variety of ways which would result in far less money being available for local material, while a wave of generic hollywood and euro-pap does far better.

        To a degree, of course, some of this has been handled in the UK already, albeit on a smaller scale. Look at S4C, which receives subsidy specifically to create programmes in the local language, and to a lesser degree BBC Alba.

        I'm not quiet sure how they handle this in Ireland - if TG4 has a subsidy specifically to support the language - but that may be the way that things end up being done, if people elsewhere in Europe are keen to retain the production of good quality material in their own language.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile, in the real world...

          far less money being available for local material, while a wave of generic hollywood and euro-pap does far better

          I have been alive long enough to have hear this argument being recycled for >30 years. Either taxpayer money is always found to "fulfill a pressing need for local cultural diversity" (aka. vote buying of the "creative types" because no-one is actually interested enough for the product to make economic sense) or else the market is totally not as bad as continually portrayed.

          1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Meanwhile, in the real world...

            "Either taxpayer money is always found to "fulfill a pressing need for local cultural diversity" (aka. vote buying of the "creative types" because no-one is actually interested enough for the product to make economic sense) or else the market is totally not as bad as continually portrayed."

            Well everyone likes a good whinge. There is a market for niche stuff today, I doubt if all of it would be viable if territoriality was abolished.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile, in the real world...

          "There is a possibility that they might find that the audience shrinks once people can get the non-dubbed version elsewhere."

          For places like Romania and Bulgaria, that's a dead certainty.

          Most locals I spoke to HATE the local dubs and would quite happily drop a petrol-filled burning tyre around the necks of the govt officials who mandated these are the only versions available (As does a large contingent of native-english speakers living in both countries - Bulgaria in particular is turning into a nexus of tech support for various countries)

          On the other hand, the local distributors might find that being able to sell non-dubbed versions means that sales will skyrocket.

  16. Peter Galbavy

    Protectionism hurts everyone in the long run. Capitalism works, ipso facto, but giving some sectors and actors (in the non-stage/film sense) special dispensation is a bad thing. This is much the same as blocking the import and sale of branded good in a common market. If it's a true single / common market then it should be just that.

    Politicians should rightly be focused on their electorate and not their lobbyists. Protect our choices, not the special-case profits of companies.

    1. Keven E.

      Organic politicing

      "Are the content owners saying they want the freedom to release the same content at a *lower* price in other parts of Europe..."

      No. They feel the value of the product increases when it is available only locally... of course, specifically immediately after "release". Part of the problem here (in this comment group) is everyone frames what they call "art" into/with access to a TV show/video. I know we are mostly *technicians, but, clearly, we all need to dig deeper into "art" and the cases/forms in which this effects the artists/authors/musicians. The actual IP.

      ****

      Capitalism doesn't work "ipso facto". That's rather disingenuous, or if not at least naive. There's no *vacuum for it.

      "Politicians should rightly be focused on their electorate and not their lobbyists. Protect our choices, not the special-case profits of companies."

      While I agree with this sentiment, that so called capitalism, in the forms that it currently exists, takes this statement and twists it by making the *actual electorate = "the special-case profits of companies". This is how libertarianists (one of many ways) have twisted themselves against their own best interests into supporting "the lowest common denominator".

    2. edge_e
      Flame

      Re:Capitalism works

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1220911/Record-billion-people-world-hungry-says-UN-parents-fight-children-just-meal-day.html

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2122831/The-deadline-Kofi-Annan-orders-Syria-announce-immediate-ceasefire.html

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeless_children_in_the_United_States

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27032642

      I could go on........

      1. Keven E.

        Re: Re:Capitalism works

        Nicely done edge_e.... hence my "vacuum" comment.

  17. Why Not?

    Certain satellite firms charge different amounts depending on the country a few years back a pub Landlady went to the European court because she was showing football from a Greek (or similar) subscription in her Pub which was 60% cheaper than UK prices.

    Geo locking seems to be against the aims of the EU, if freedom of movement is a red line so should this be.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      That particular case was quite complicated, because it touched on a lot of things.

      For instance, a prohibition on the import or use of foreign decoder cards was found to be against the regulations about freedom of supply of services.

      And, football matches, in themselves, aren't intellectual property, so don't fall under the ambit of copyright law in that way.

      But "surrounding media" might count as copyright - opening sequences, logos and so on. And the Premier League could restrict the distribution of those.

      There's a summary of the case from BBC news which mentions this. In the case of other material, say a film or a drama series, or a musical work, then under the current rules, it would appear that the owner can say "no," because it certainly is a disctinct creation that they are allowed to control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "football matches, in themselves, aren't intellectual property, so don't fall under the ambit of copyright law in that way."

        So what are these "broadcasting rights" that BT and Sky pay many millions for?

        Would I be entitled to take my smartphone into a football match and stream it?

  18. JulieM

    As usual, it isn't that simple.

    The problem is that too many people have benefitted for too long from a system that became unfair while they weren't looking. And now we can't just replace it instantly with a fair system, because that would end up suddenly doing even more damage.

    The question that needs to be asked is, how can we get from the present mess to a truly fair system in the swiftest and most painless manner?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EU's Digital future (Nightmare)

    So you are a small business - a designer of knitting tutorial videos. You earn less than £10,000 a year selling your videos on line. Your 16 year old grandson set up the website for you. You started selling your videos because after your disability living allowance was stopped because your Atoss assessment just happened to be on the one day that month that you did not have an epileptic episode. You decided to do something to help yourself.

    It was all going OK until the EU started to have ideas about a digital market and wanted a big slice of the VAT from Apple Amazon and eBay. The EU Passed a law on the 1st of January. That law said you must charge VAT in the EU at the rate prevalent in the customers country. You inquired about VATMOSS and it turned out to be hugely complicated. There were 28 countries and 81 VAT rates to take account of. You also need to send invoices in french and several other languages as a legal requirement. Unfortunately you don't speak any other languages and cannot afford an interpreter or an accountant for that matter. Just reading the VAT regulations brought on a seizure. The bit about a french tourist in Italy did not make sense to you at all . The writers of the new law seemed to think that you could use a web server to determine accurately which country someone was in or if they were on a ferry and if so which port the ferry had left from. You asked your grandson and he laughed and said no Gran you can't do that. You can do it a bit but not accurately not well enough to say for sure if the Tax man wants to know. And they need the order details and proof stored for 10 years do they? Hum well we could put the records in a box under the stairs. Might be damp though the landlord still has not fixed the roof. Will they be OK for ten years?.

    "Tell you what Gran" Said your Grandson "I can block other EU countries so you don't have to bother with it all". "Good idea" you replied "Thanks"

    Later that year the Hungarian Tax authorities instructed HMRC to pursue an investigation against a UK seller of Tutorial Video's for non-payment of VAT Due to Hungary a total of £10.37. It turned out that a Hungarian man was using a VPN to pretend to be in Luxembourg and save 10%, unfortunately the old woman had a seizure and died while trying to get her records from under the stars during the HMRC raid.

    Sounds far-fetched? its not. The EU are passing ill considered and poorly thought out legislation like Digital VAT2015 and opposing Geo-Blocking without understanding the nature of digital business. Remember the Cookie law? Its getting worse. Sadly we need some Geeks in Brussels. If a company wants to sell in the EU then fine. If they Don't or simply can't cope or can't afford to then that should be fine too.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: EU's Digital future (Nightmare)

      So you are for geo-blocking while bemoaning that fact it is not possible to geolocate accurately in case of digital goods? HOW!

      Don't tell me you were against "country of origin VAT applies" before being for it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EU's Digital future (Nightmare)

        No I am not "For" or "against" Geo-blocking What I am saying is that IP based Geoblocking is unreliable. But EU Ministers and less well informed sysadmins such as the 16 year old in my example seem to think that it is reliable. So reliable they are happy to base new Tax laws on its "Reliability" Furthermore the new EU Digital VAT rules really do require you to remit VAT for digital content downloaded aboard a ferry to the country of departure. How you determine that the customer is on a ferry escapes me. The Country of Origin VAT rule has the great advantage that your eCommerce server only needs to process one VAT rate which is relatively simple to program and hugely simpler to do than process 81. Prices for digital downloads have gone up to cover the cost involved and some companies external to the EU who are also supposed to pay VAT to the EU are simply saying that they no longer supply digital content to EU countries to avoid the cost and complexity of implementing the new rules. What I was really saying is that this new VAT legislation along with banning encryption, the useless cookie law, and now digital copyright are being formulated by ministers who need a much better understanding of the complexities of the digital market and we could really do with some Geeks in Government.

  20. cantankerous swineherd

    the finer points of media production don't concern me one bit. perhaps they should, but after years of profiteering (sorry, bog standard price discrimination) via region coding along with the fucking BBC sending spies round to my house who suddenly flash some 'id' and want to conduct a search for non existent TVs I'm afraid I'm sick of the whining.

    “If you remove geo-blocking from the BBC, then the BBC is obliged to give away its content to everyone at no charge.” this is total bullshit. the beeb can be funded from general taxation in its function of state propaganda dept or they can charge for their output like the evil Murdoch empire does. I don't give a fuck personally, in the unlikely event of there being something on the idiot box that I want to watch I'll buy the DVD thanks.

    must go now, it's time for my injection...

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