The UK government has launched a public consultation on the EU's proposals to ban Netflix-style geo-blocking. The government says it wants its citizens to be able to access legally purchased content wherever they travel in the European Union and
is now seeking input from copyright owners, ISPs and consumers.
During the past several days the issue of content geo-blocking has become a global hot potato after Netflix announced renewed efforts to thwart users who attempt to bypass its content-locking mechanisms. Starting immediately, subscribers
who attempt to access the Netflix service with a VPN or proxy in order to gain access to libraries in other regions will face additional roadblocks. The measures have been widely criticized by both VPN companies and consumers .
But while this kind of effort to protect copyright holders and licensing agreements is probably legal now, over in Europe a conflicting scenario is playing out via the European Commission. Following the adoption last March of a new Digital
Single Market Strategy which aims to improve consumer access to digital services and goods, the Commission
presented plans to abolish geo-blocking and filtering restrictions across EU member states.
Describing geo-blocking as a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons the Commission said that users should be allowed to access digital content services like Netflix all across Europe, no matter where they are.
In response to the Commission's proposals the UK government has just launched a public consultation, aiming to gauge the public's response to the idea of a geo-blocking ban in advance of any final decision by the EU. The Intellectual Property
Office (IPO) announced:
The European Commission has recently published draft legislation that is intended to ensure that all digital services are portable within the European Union.
This would mean that a person who lives in the UK, and who subscribes to a digital content service there, would be able to be confident they can continue to access that service when they are elsewhere in the EU, provided they have the right
level of internet connection.
The UK government itself is strongly in favor of the EU's proposals and believes that both consumers and content providers will benefit from legislative change.
The government says that in advance of negotiations on the text between EU Members States it is seeking views from both businesses and consumers on the costs and benefits of the proposals, alongside suggestions of how the language of the
legislation could be improved. The IPO says:
In particular, we are seeking views from service providers, rights holder organizations, and consumers, in order to better understand how the proposals will affect them,
For those utilizing VPNs, proxies and unblocking tools to access geo-restricted content on Netflix, the party may soon be over. According to an announcement by the company's Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture, people using such
services will face new roadblocks in the coming weeks.
While increasing numbers of people are becoming tuned in to the joys of Netflix, growing numbers of subscribers are discovering a whole new world of content beyond what the service offers them as standard.
Netflix serves healthy libraries of content to many regions, but users in countries such as the United States get access to far more content than those located elsewhere. Likewise, not all European countries are served equally, with citizens of
Italy falling short on content offered in the UK, for example.
As a result more and more customers of Netflix are bypassing restrictions designed to limit subscribers to content designated to their home countries. This is usually achieved by using a generic VPN or proxy service but some companies offer
dedicated products to unlock Netflix on a global basis.
Even though Netflix admits it takes measures to try and limit the use of its service in this manner, the situation has traditionally seemed of minor interest to the company. However, in recent months Netflix has addressed the issue several times
in the media and today has given the clearest sign yet that a crackdown is imminent.
In a post to Netflix's blog today, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture David Fullagar said that while the company would continue to break down borders in order to offer content to the broadest possible audience, measures will be taken
to ensure that content licensing agreements are respected.
That means that circumvention devices -- VPNs, proxies and similar tools -- will fall further under the company's spotlight.
Some members use proxies or 'unblockers' to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do, Fullagar says.
This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are.
The news will come as a blow to those enjoying the best possible Netflix experience, especially those in countries where the local library is limited compared to that of the United States, for example.
Note: While VPNs were not mentioned in the announcement, Netflix confirmed to TorrentFreak that these services will be targeted as well.