In 2018, the European Union established a legislation banning the practice of unjustified geo-blocking. Indeed, this practice was going against the European Commission’s political ambitions to transform the European Union’s digital market from 28 national distinct markets to a single European market. Thus, enabling the free movement of people, services and capital as well as allowing businesses to access and engage in activities online regardless of their nationality or geographical location.

What is Geo-blocking?

Geo-blocking is the practice of limiting one’s access to certain services on the internet because of one’s physical location. This process is implemented usually by telecommunications companies, websites, and services within the entertainment industry, usually on the basis of intellectual property rights.


How does it work?

Every device that can connect to an internet network has a private IP address. This includes computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Bluetooth-enabled devices like speakers, printers, and smart TVs. Through this IP address, online services are able to identify the geographical location of a person and block their access to said service.


The Digital Single Market

On May 6th, 2015, the European Union announced the adoption of its Digital Single Market Strategy. The aim of this strategy was to give citizens and businesses better access to the digital world by eliminating virtual borders, strengthening digital connectivity and facilitate consumer’s access to cross-border online content. One of the main impediments to cross-border trade at the time was the practice of geo-blocking. Thus, in February 2018, the EU adopted the Geo-blocking regulation which prohibited the discriminatory practice of restricting access to certain goods and services on the soul basis of nationality or country of residence.


What does the regulation cover?

Under this new regulation, a trader is no longer allowed to apply, different trading conditions on the basis of a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. However, this regulation is not unlimited and only applies to 3 specific types of goods and services:

  1. New or used goods sold online and delivered in a European country such as clothes, electronic devices, furniture…
  2. Digital services not protected by copyright law such as data storage, web hosting, internet directories…
  3. Services provided in the country of the professional must be accessible under the same conditions as customers in that said country. This includes services such as hotel accommodations, sports events, car rentals, music festivals or amusement park ticketing

Other goods and services such as:

  • Gambling services
  • Transport services
  • Financial services
  • Copyrighted works such as music, video on demand, e-books, online games and audiovisual services

Can still restrict their access under the established practice of geo-blocking.


The new digital media portability rules

On the 1st of April 2018, the new digital media portability rules took effect. This new policy was put in place in order as a remedy to the short comings of the Geo-blocking regulation. Indeed, this policy required paid digital media services to offer roaming within the European Union. Thus, a customer is now able to access their country’s version of the digital service they pay for when travelling within the European Union. Despite copyright laws, customers within the EU are now able to access their music and video streaming platforms, digital books and games, the “replay” of private national channels and sporting events broadcasted by premium services outside of their country of origin.

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