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Geo-blocking and copyright reform outlined in EU document leak

Ars Technica - Last month, Ars wrote about the European Commission's announcement of plans to tackle geo-blocking and copyright reform in the European Union. However, there were almost no details of what that move would mean in practice. PoliticoEU has obtained two documents that provide more information on the European Commission's intentions: the Digital Single Market strategy itself, along with a rather longer supporting document called "Digital Single Market: The Evidence." But if you were hoping for plenty of concrete proposals, you'll be disappointed: the leaked documents are good on the general direction but often lack the all-important specifics.

On geo-blocking, the strategy document says, "The Commission will initiate action to put an end to unjustified geo-blocking." As to what that means, the document explains,  "Geographically-based restrictions of supply and differentiations can sometimes be justified, for instance where the seller needs to comply with specific legal obligations or where costs associated with cross-border e-commerce (e.g. in terms of shipment) would be too high for certain types of companies."

That would seem to rule out geo-blocking based purely on territorial rights, something that the European copyright industries are keen to retain. However, another section of the Digital Single Market strategy document seems to speak of this kind of geo-blocking more positively: "These contractual practices reflect the central role of territorial exclusivity in the production and financing of audio-visual works (where large upfront investments are funded through the pre-sale of exclusive rights in certain territories)." But it then goes on to distinguish that situation from where "restrictions originate from contractual arrangements between right-holders and distributors (online service providers, broadcaster, etc.)"

Even the Commission's summary of its plans here leaves it unclear how the ban on geo-blocking will work. It says the new strategy aims to "facilitat[e] access to legally paid for cross-border services (e.g. allowing a resident of one Member State to access online content currently available only to residents of another Member State) while safeguarding the value of rights in the audio-visual sector." It's hard to see how those can be reconciled.