Insights European Parliament Committee calls for revision of the EU Geoblocking Regulation

Geoblocking is the e-commerce practice used by some traders in an EU Member State of blocking or limiting access to their websites or mobile phone apps by potential customers from other EU Member States, restricting the ability of those potential customers to make cross-border transactions. Reasons for geoblocking include concerns about differing legal or tax requirements in the customer’s country or territorial restrictions that have been imposed on the trader’s rights of distribution.

Under the 2018 EU Regulation on unjustified geoblocking, traders may not block or limit, whether by technological measures or otherwise, a customer’s access to websites or other online interfaces for reasons related to the customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment. Further, a trader may not apply different conditions of access (e.g. price), for reasons relating to the customer’s nationality, place of residence or establishment, where the customer seeks to buy goods (including offline sales), electronically supplied services (other than provision of access to and use of copyright-protected works, such as e-books, music, games and software) or other services. In addition, the Regulation specifically excludes audiovisual services from its scope. In finalising Regulation’s scope, EU legislators recognised that territorial exclusivity is widespread and key feature of the way in which audiovisual content is licensed by rightsholders for distribution.

The Commission is required to evaluate the Regulation every five years and, in particular, to assess its scope, including consideration of whether the Regulation should apply to electronically supplied services the main feature of which is the provision of access to copyright-protected works. In its short-term review in 2020, the Commission highlighted evidence that EU consumers only have access to a small proportion of the total content made available in the EU and the number of users trying to access cross-border content is growing rapidly.  At the same time, it acknowledged the potential impact that an extension of the Regulation would have on the dynamics of the audiovisual sector and that further assessment was needed. Regarding music, ebooks and video games, the Report concluded that bringing those within the Regulation’s scope would not bring substantial benefits to consumers as the catalogues offered for this type of content are relatively homogeneous across Member States (meaning that consumers have little interest in acquiring such content cross-border).

In a July 2023 Opinion, the CULT Committee of the European Parliament stated that evidence confirmed that extending the scope of the Regulation to copyright-protected content online would not bring substantial benefits to consumers in terms of choice and would have negative consequences in terms of cost and the pluralism of content offers.

The LIBE Committee of the Parliament has now published a non-legislative Opinion on the Regulation and calls on the Commission to propose legislation obliging commercial providers of digital media content operating in multiple Member States to allow EU citizens to purchase access to their content in the Member State of their choice. The Opinion acknowledges that territorial licensing ensures the sustainable financing of films and other audiovisual content and contributes to content diversity and cultural pluralism, as well as a wide range of business models. However, it also refers to citizens belonging to linguistic minorities, consumers who move permanently from one Member State to another and the lack of dubbing and subtitles of audiovisual works as reasons why there should be some exceptions to the territorial licensing model for content distribution.

The Commission is not required to review the Regulation until 2025.

For more information, click here.