Thursday 13 November 2014

Copyright: the Commission prepares for action

Yesterday, the Digital Single Market team of the shiny new European Commission held their first high level meeting.

The Vice-President of the Commission and leader of this particular initiative Sam the Eagle Andrus Ansip has shown us all how modern he is and blogged about the meeting

He had something to say about copyright, which is repeated here in full.  He identified as one of the six priority areas of work for his team: "removing restrictions (and preventing new ones) and particularly to stop blocking of online consumers based on their location or residence. This will be about reforming copyright rules and getting rid of unjustified curbs on transfer and access to digital assets. Is there anyone who would not want to get rid of geo-blocking, which goes against the core principles of Europe's single market?"

The answer to his question is a resounding yes.  To pick just one example, there are plenty of broadcasters, especially in smaller EU countries like Estonia, from which the Commissioner hails, who would like to buy the local rights to say, an English TV series, in order to air them with Estonian sub-titles, but could not possibly afford to buy those rights absent geo-blocking, because the price would have to reflect the fact that anyone who wanted to watch the programme anywhere in Europe would be free to do so, largely untroubled by the presence of the subtitles.  Accordingly, no geo-blocking would mean depriving those consumers entirely of the ability to see those programmes in their local language.  And what of the BBC licence payer, who would probably, on the whole, rather not end up funding the ability for those elsewhere in the EU who don't pay the licence fee to watch programming on the iPlayer?

That's not to say that geo-blocking is always done for good reasons, but hopefully, Veep Ansip's understanding of the economics of the copyright industries will become more sophisticated as he learns his way around the brief.


Anonymous said...

I would have thought there is quite an easy way to deal with this -- move to a fixed fee for free-to-air TV transmissions, plus a per-subscriber fee for internet views.

The political momentum in Brussels for an end to geoblocking is overwhelming.

(Not altogether surprising, given that pretty much the entire political body in Brussels, plus the staff, plus the lobbyists, plus all the other hangers-on and bottlewashers are all expatriate from one EU country or another).

This will happen. Solutions are possible.

Rather than being dead-beat campaigners against any change whatsoever, publishers' bodies would do themselves a favour by recognising the way the wind is now blowing, and coming up with solutions -- acting like stunned do-nothing immobile roadkill in the middle of the road is not a viable option.

PS: So why should I object to BBC iPlayer becoming available by subscription to anyone in Europe?

Marketa Trimble said...

A fascinating topic. Here are two articles on the topic of geoblocking and copyright: