Leaked EU document suggests backtracking on Netflix geoblocking removal

13 May 2016

With news that the EU is to introduce an anti-geoblocking law to allow viewing of region-specific Netflix et al content everywhere, a leaked document has revealed this may have been scaled back dramatically.

Current Netflix subscribers, and subscribers to any other location-specific content applications like the RTÉ Player, are only allowed watch their region’s content once their IP address shows that they are actually based there, or if they are using a virtual private network (VPN) to mask it.

Yet, while customers have been complaining for some time that the content they paid for that is being restricted to them when travelling abroad is unfair, it’s only in the past year that governmental organisations are agreeing with them.

The first inkling that the times were a-changing was seen in December last year when the European Commission (EC) revealed it was to begin looking into creating a Digital Single Market that would significantly reduce the power of geoblocking within the EU.

Under what was known about the proposal, a person who has access to Netflix’s Irish catalogue would be able to access the same catalogue anywhere else in the EU, but only for an as-yet unspecified “limited amount of time”.

According to Reuters, member states endorsed the proposal today (13 May) with its likely approval by ministers set for 26 May, with the EC hoping to have this proposal enter law by next year, with it then being enacted across all 28 member states.

Perhaps too good to be true

Or at least that was what was thought until Politico (via Torrentfreak) earlier today (9 May) released what appears to be a leaked copy of the document that would pass the Digital Single Market into law, which shows that audio-visual (AV) content – and an awful lot more – will still be geoblocked.

Found on page 11 of the document, it says that the exemption extends to “non-economic services of general interest, transport services, audio-visual services, gambling activities, healthcare services and certain social services are excluded from the scope of this regulation”.


EU ruling

The extracts purporting to show that content like Netflix will not be included in lifting of geo-blocking.


Seven pages later, the document explains further that AV content “including services the main feature of which is the provision of access to broadcasts of sports events and which are provided on the basis of exclusive territorial licences, are, therefore, excluded from the scope of this regulation.”

This considerable turnaround is likely the result of intense pressure from copyright holders fighting to keep rights to their defined territories, which as a whole sees this as being key to its financing of films and TV shows.

So, essentially, dear reader, any hopes of playing your Irish Netflix or Sky Go account while on a business trip or your holidays is a no-go, if this leaked document is 100pc legitimate.

EU flag image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic