back to article 'Contractual barriers' behind geo-blocking could breach EU rules

Consumers are partly prevented from accessing online services and content across the EU by "contractual barriers" put in place by businesses, the European Commission has said. Where contractual provisions are behind so-called "geo-blocking" then those agreements might breach EU competition rules, the Commission said in …

  1. Cronus

    Nice bit of Monday clickbait there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Skys Monopoly?

      So will this enable legal, easy access to English Football and other sports from Foreign sources??

      Could get very interesting.............

  2. Alexander J. Martin

    Man, the EU has got no chill.

    1. Vimes

      It's not just video that an issue. Try buying an e-book from Amazon's French store for example: very often you'll be blocked there too, and although I've only seen it so far with books only available in the US I would not be surprised in the least to see this apply to audio books too.

      It seems impossible for example to buy an audio book recording that was recorded at least 5 years ago for the US market for a book written over 30 years ago just because I happen to be in the UK. Don't believe me? Try seeing if Asimov's Foundation's Edge, Foundation & Earth, Prelude to Foundation or Forward the Foundation are available in the UK and then check Audible's US catalogue (funnily enough these days Audible also belongs to Amazon too).

      Even if you don't agree with it, at least those making and selling the TV programs do have exclusive deals with certain national operators that they need to support in order to get people to pay for them. What though could possibly justify blocking audio books and e-book sales? Especially when it involves older novels that have been around for literally decades?

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        I live in France...

        eBooks and MP3s can only come from This is annoying in the case of MP3s as for some of the more obscure artists, the selection on is completely different.

        Takes the piss, when I can buy a CD or printed book from just about anywhere...

        1. Barry Mahon

          Re: I live in France...


      2. calmeilles

        The negotiation of publishing rights has yet to catch up with the EU's internal market.

        Typically US/US English Language books will have three rights sales. North America, United Kingdom ( sometimes including Aus and NZ) and the rest of the world (with translations being another set of contracts). The details vary for other languages and origins but the principal is much the same, French being typically divided into France, N. America and ROW.

        When you had the rights for one region case law said that it was okay to sell into any market to an individual but it was a transgression of another holder's rights to market a book in areas other than your own.

        In practice this meant that a bookshop could order you a copy of an out-region work but could not shelve such copies for general sale.

        Amazon's US and UK operations — on the advice of lawyers — has tried to replicate this model to stave off being sued by publishers who might claim their rights were being infringed and the same was done as other national markets were opened.

        Unfortunately within the EU this is antithetical to the EU's borderless trade laws.

        In my view it's long past time that the Commission shook both the retailers and the publishers out of their traditional practices and mandated EU-wide retailing which would in turn encourage similar scope in publishing deals.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well I for one can't wait.

    Geo blocking is just so much bullsh*t.

    Particularly for media, per-country differentiation, especially in the EU is just so much middle ages thinking.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Sky and the EPL might disagree with you

      It is in their £££ interests to stop UK consumers from getting their EPL footie from Greece rather than from Sky at vastly inflated prices.

      Will the EU Commission have the gonads to tell Sky etc to charge one flat rate all over the EU.

      Mind you it won't apply here because we will probably vote to leave in June. Then who is gonna stop Sky from hiking their prices even more eh?

      Not that it will affect me because I won't pay even a bent penny to any company owned/part owned by Rupert M.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sky and the EPL might disagree with you

        The EU are quite happy to ignore Murdoch's wishes, unlike the UK government (of whichever stripe).

        Oh look, the Murdoch media is backing British exit from the EU.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sky and the EPL might disagree with you

        I think Sky have already worked this one out ... they lost a case against a bar owner who had bought a Greek sattelite decoder + subscription and court ruled that Sky could not prevent her from buying this service from another EU country ... however Sky were able to establish that while she could buy and use the equipment she did not have the riights to allow anyone to see material that Sky held the copyright for without their permission ... and as they could ensure that their logos etc appeared on screen at regular intervals (e.g. before/after every action replay, on the score display, "coming soon" nags etc) then she was effectivley unable to use it in the bar.

    2. gv

      Never mind on an EU basis, geo-blocking for digital distribution is an anachronism that needs to go the way of the steamship. If I can read the contents of a US website, why can't I stream HULU and watch US ad breaks every 5 minutes for a 30-minute sitcom?

      1. Def Silver badge

        If I can read the contents of a US website, why can't I stream HULU and watch US ad breaks every 5 minutes for a 30-minute sitcom?

        Presumably because the ad-slingers don't want to give money to the networks for adverts that simply don't apply to foreign viewers.

        I completely agree with your sentiment, but from a business perspective it just doesn't make sense.

        What you should be asking is: "Why don't the TV networks localise the ads in the same way YouTube does?" To which the answer is most probably along the lines of: "We make more money from selling broadcast rights to local TV stations."

        Ultimately though this has to be the way forward: Remove geo-blocking for all streaming content and localise adverts. In theory you could then actually stop providing TV services through a dedicated cable and simply set up a properly designed website where the whole world can consume your content. (Although if I'm being totally honest here, I can't stand watching TV with ad-breaks every few minutes in Europe and the number of breaks in the US is insane.)

        Outside of digital media, I can understand why UK companies, for example, would choose to block customers from other EU countries purchasing digital goods, and that is that the VAT rules are completely fucked up these days. In the UK, I can sell products VAT free until my UK sales reach the current VAT threshold (somewhere around £70-80,000 iirc). However, I have to charge VAT on the first penny of income I make from an EU (non-UK) customer and then spend accountancy fees registering and paying that VAT to the appropriate EU nation. It's completely retarded. Fortunately I'm in the lucky position that nobody seems to want to buy my products. :D

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Divide and Conquer

      I think region locking DVDs, Games, BD & Geo blocking digital content funds piracy.

      The books issue is two fold.

      1) A hundred years ago, USA simply ignored copyright on English Language books. The USA and UK publishers more or less "divvy" up the world.

      2) A book publisher doesn't usually have audio rights, no more than they have film or TV rights. Nor for worldwide unless not in English (see 1). A publisher of Audio needs to acquire these separately from author.

      There is a separate issue that often the Publisher acquires books rights for life of copyright. It ought to be no more than 25 years and then revert to author (copyright would STILL exist and be unchanged from POV of public).

      Copyright life is also now too long. Death of Author + 25 years is generous. The current death + 75 is simply a licence for people like Disney or Record companies to make money, as they will have acquired rights with a minimal up front and small royalty on sales (or in case of cinema, maybe profits which are mysteriously non-existent).

      Always negotiate a percentage of retail sale, never "profit", accountants are too clever.

      1. Kepler

        Re: Divide and Conquer

        "Always negotiate a percentage of retail sale, never "profit", accountants are too clever."

        A memorable story arc of the American television series Wiseguy drove home this point for audiences a bit over 25 years ago.

        'Wiseguy' Tackles Music Industry Corruption

        Numerous real-life music big-shots with guest roles in the 7-episode arc included Mick Fleetwood, who had a brief but comical appearance as an eccentric retired mogul playing air hockey in the rec room of his mansion, and Tim Curry, who delivered a truly stunning performance* as the record-company Poobah who was using his accountants to do the stealing.

        Viewers have been treated to more and more excellent television in recent years; Wiseguy was one of the shows that started raising the bar, followed shortly by the likes of Twin Peaks and The X-Files.


        * Easily one of the two best nervous breakdown portrayals I've seen on TV, or anywhere. Donning a leather jacket and singing Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" to his own reflection in a mirror.

        Tim Curry singing Be-Bop-A-Lula — Wiseguy (1989)

        All of which drove home the point that the record company exec was really just a frustrated would-be artist, theretofore thriving as a parasite off the labors of others braver and/or more talented than he.

        The other great nervous breakdown scene, of course, was that of Lara Means in the Millennium Season Two finale ("The Time Is Now"). Set to the music of Patti Smith's dark, rocking "Land: Horses, Land of A Thousand Dances, La Mer (De)".

        A copy of the video used to be available on YouTube — a video of the actual full scene, complete with added monkey shrieks (this makes perfect sense if you were following the story up to that point, including the 2 or 3 episodes leading up to it), the gunshots when Lara — hallucinating — emptied her Walther P99, her terrified scream as she was losing her mind, etc. Over 10 minutes, from one commercial break to the next, without a single word of dialogue!

        Unfortunately, it seems no longer to be there. So Patti Smith by herself will have to do:

        Patti Smith - Land: Horses, Land of A Thousand Dances, La Mer (De)

        Hmm. Maybe I spoke too soon?

        Millennium 2x23 The Time Is Now part 2

        This "video" is wrong in a whole bunch of ways. Shots are greatly slowed-down, and out of sequence. But the audio is there, and exactly right.

        Bizarrely, the video keeps going for nearly an hour (well, about 50 minutes**) after the audio portion ends, showing — still in slow-motion — various scene segments that were supposed to accompany the audio. Weird.

        But more than enough to bring back memories for anyone who saw the original scene.


        ** At first I thought it was so long — just over an hour — because someone had posted the entire episode. But that would only have been about 42 minutes, of course.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I'm not selling abroad vs. my suppliers don't let me sell abroad

    Six of one vs. half a dozen of the other. Any company can argue they don't have an international agreement with their suppliers because they didn't want to sell abroad anyway.

    And if suppliers just dig in and refuse to let a company sell their wares abroad, why should the company be punished for it?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I'm not selling abroad vs. my suppliers don't let me sell abroad

      Because the same comp[nay that claims it has the right to licence a work for different rates in 20 different Eu countries - then also demands that it can register for tax in one of them and operate in all the others.

      You don't offer flat deals across the Eu? Fine - but every Eu country gets to charge whatever import tarrifs it wants on your business.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I'm not selling abroad vs. my suppliers don't let me sell abroad

        Where's the logic in a flat deal? Business running costs and disposable income are different in the UK and Bulgaria.

  5. robidy Silver badge

    Could this mean the BBC licence fee becomes pan European? Could stop a lot of people voting for Brexit...

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)


      "Could this mean the BBC licence fee becomes pan European? Could stop a lot of people voting for Brexit..."

      Greeks and Bulgarians are desperate to pay the TV License apparently:

      "[Ansip] gave the BBC as an example. “Because of rights agreements you can only download or stream BBC iPlayer TV programmes while you are inside the UK. In the off-line world this would be called discrimination. In the online world it happens every day. I want to pay, but I am not allowed to. I lose out, they lose out. How can this be a good thing?”

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if anyone has ever considered taking legal action against geo-locking on the basis of the various racism laws that now exist. I'm not a lawyer and I've no idea if there would be any basis to do this.

    Anyone with more knowledge of the subject?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Geo-locking of video is usually on the basis of sub-licensing. Different companies can license the content for distribution in their individual regions, and the companies and regions can't (and for practical reasons usually don't) cross. Whoever can show or sell the video in Europe is usually different from the one that sells it in America and different from the one that sells it in Australia/Oceania, and so on.

  7. Kepler

    Hey, only WE get to do this!

    It's interesting to hear the EU trying to block geo-blocking, seeing as the EU is also in the business of requiring it.

    Chocolate Factory rolls out geolocation filter on search results

    What really pissed me off about this development is that now everyone, everywhere must be spied upon (even more) by Google so that European governments can restrict the liberty of Europeans. Geo-blocking generally just sucks, regardless of who's behind it.

    (Generally. Def made some good points up above about how it might occasionally make sense, and make life a good bit easier for companies in specific instances.)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about the fact that UK subscribers to Sky, cannot view the content when abroad?

  9. Raddleman

    TV Anywhere/TV Anytime with the Panasonic Media Center App

    Currently on

    Panasonic Watch and reserve TV programmes with a smartphone or tablet when away from home.

    TV Anywhere/TV Anytime with the Panasonic Media Center App

    Using the TV Anywhere/TV Anytime function on a Panasonic VIERA or recorder lets you watch live or recorded TV programmes on your smartphone or tablet while you're away from home. In addition to watching, you can also set timer recordings for TV programmes from outside the house. Simply install the Panasonic Media Center App in your smartphone or tablet for convenient, easy operation of the TV Anywhere/TV Anytime function, and watch the content you want anywhere you please -- indoors or out

    However if in UK or Ireland then this message applies

    Restrictions of streaming playback outside of the home for United Kingdom and Ireland

    Media Center has updated to Version 3.2.0.

    Due to certain broadcaster restrictions, some channels streaming playback outside of the home has been unavailable.

    Streaming playback at home is available.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to you.

    We would appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

    Murdoch strikes again??

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: TV Anywhere/TV Anytime with the Panasonic Media Center App

      It's almost as if they want to drive people to torrents

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