Geo-blocking: Unjustified barrier to the digital single market or legitimate commercial practice?

A series of barriers needs to be tackled to successfully achieve a digital single market, which poses various regulatory and cultural challenges. Following the discussions on copyright and the e-commerce sector inquiry launched by the European Commission, a Digital Forum seminar, organised on July 9th and chaired by Colin Blackman (CEPS), focused on territoriality issues regarding copyright in the audiovisual sector. While exposing the tensions between copyright rules, commercial practices and EU competition principles, Felice Simonelli (CEPS) gave an overview of the main features of the EU audiovisual sector and the role that geo-blocking plays therein. So-called ‘geo-blocking’ refers to commercial practices that prevent online customers from accessing and purchasing content from a website based in another member state, or that automatically re-route requests to a local website. The panellists, Agustin Reyna (BEUC), Stephen Turner (EDiMA), Nicola Frank (EBU) and Anna Herold (European Commission, Cabinet of Commissioner Oettinger) exchanged views on existing geo-blocking practices. They also explored the implications of a regulatory intervention meant to unlock digital offers and enable a larger dissemination of content across the EU, thus anticipating its possible effects on businesses and consumers.