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Netflix, geo-blocking and the EU Commission

Written by Sam O'Toole on 22 January 2016

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Netflix, the video streaming service, has announced that it is cracking down on the use of virtual private networks. Virtual private networks are used to access content only available in other territories.

Content varies between territories due to licensing deals between Netflix and the proprietor of the intellectual property. These proprietors have been frustrated that people are able to illegally view their intellectual property on Netflix by way of a virtual private network.  It has been suggested that Netflix may face difficulties when attempting to restrict the content as there are so many virtual private networks in use.

Last week, Netflix opened its services to 130 new counties. However, due to U.S. law it is prevented from operating in North Korea, Syria and Crimea. Netflix also faces difficulties in China, where a local partnership exercises the government controls over licensing online content, it effectively requites a special permit.

The UK has opened a consultation on the Netflix territorial style blocking system also known as geo-blocking. Last March saw the adoption of a new Digital Single Market Strategy aiming to improve customer access to digital services and goods. The Commission unveiled plans to outlaw geo-blocking and restrictions across the EU member states.  

“discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons

This is the Commissions description of geo-blocking, who wants users to be allowed to access content all across Europe.

So whilst Netflix effort to protect copyright holders is legal now, it might not be legal in further series of the geo-blocking saga. 

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