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EU to force Netflix to let you watch from abroad


New Digital Single Market plans to prevent sites from blocking foreign visitors

The European Union is proposing to knock down the international borders on the internet that prevent citizens of one EU country from accessing internet services available in another. The EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy appears to take aim at services such as Netflix, which prevent residents from some EU countries from accessing its video-on-demand service.

The EU says it wants to see all EU citizens given better access to digital services by creating a pan-European copyright framework. This, it claims, will put an end to the situation where websites such as Netflix are only available in selected EU countries. It will also allow consumers to continue accessing those services as they travel around the EU, without having to rely on workarounds such as VPNs.

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“Barriers to cross-border access to copyright-protected content services and their portability are still common, particularly for audiovisual programmes,” the EU’s paper states. “As regards portability, when consumers cross an internal EU border they are often prevented, on grounds of copyright, from using the content services (e.g. video services) which they have acquired in their home country.”

“In addition, when trying to access or purchase online copyright-protected content from another Member State, consumers are sometimes told that it is unavailable or cannot be accessed from their own country.”

The EU says Europe “needs a more harmonised copyright regime which provides incentives to create and invest while allowing transmission and consumption of content across borders, building on our rich cultural diversity.” The EU wil make legislative proposals before the end of the year that will “allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU”.

Flat charges

The EU is also proposing to abolish the practice of geo-blocking – preventing customers from certain countries from buying products from a website, or charging them higher rates for the same products. “In other cases, where the sale is not denied, geo-localising practices are used, as a result of which different prices are automatically applied on the basis of geographic location,” the EU paper states. “For example when online car rental customers in one Member State pay more for the identical car rental in a given destination than online customers in another Member State.”

The EU proposes to ban websites from discriminating in such a fashion, unless they can show justification for charging one country’s residents more than those of another. “Sometimes these restrictions on supply and ensuing price differentiation can be justified, for instance where the seller needs to comply with specific legal obligations,” the EU states. “However, in many cases online geo-blocking is not justified. These unjustified practices should be expressly prohibited so that EU consumers and businesses can take full advantage of the single market in terms of choice and lower prices.”


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