Last 25th March digital commissioner Andrus Ansip announced that he wanted to end geo-blocking as soon as possible now his fellow commissioner Gunther Oettinger, whose portfolio is called digital economy & society, said that he is in no rush to abolish the practice of restricting online content based on someone’s location.
“We should not throw away the baby with the bath water”
Oettinger said in an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published Monday (30 March).
“I want to examine what an opening would mean for the film industry”
the German commissioner noted, adding that
“we should protect our cultural diversity”.
The interview comes after Ansip said in a press conference Wednesday (25 March) he wants to end geo-blocking.
Though commission spokesperson Ms. Mina Andreeva said that she would not read “any contradictions in this” and that tackling geo-blocking was only agreed on a general level, it is not the first time that the two commissioners express different views on the same topic.
For example, last 24th March Ansip said that strong Net Neutrality rules are needed, referring to the principle that all data must be treated equally by internet providers and intermediaries. However, a few weeks earlier Oettinger called net neutrality a “Taliban-like issue”.
Geo-Blocking (Geographically Blocked), is a term used in computing which refers to the practice of preventing users from viewing Web sites and downloading applications and media based on location. Used by countries to block foreign material as well as by movie and TV studios to restrict viewing to specific regions, geo-blocking is accomplished by excluding targeted Internet addresses.
Geo-blocking is a technical tool that can be used for both good and bad.
Sometimes companies use geo-blocking to abide by the law, for example when a gambling website uses it to make sure its services are unavailable in countries where online gambling is illegal. In cases like those, geo-blocking is considered to be an acceptable practice.
However, sometimes this tool is used by online shoppers to a specific local website that sells the same product at more expansive prices, in order to prevent customers from purchasing the same product at better prices. This kind of practice is illegal under the EU law.
Another type of geo-blocking occurs when media companies prevent consumers from watching online content like movies or tv series in a country where the company has not acquired licenses.
The commission agreed to delete “unjustified geo-blocking”.
But to do that, there is the need first to define when geo-blocking is justified, and when it is not,: This debate will only begin now.
The commission is due to publish its digital single market strategy on 6 May. Then it will hold a public consultation on geo-blocking.