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Insight

UK Government responds on extension of “country of origin principle” and geoblocking

James Seadon
20/01/2016
We have previously reported on the EU’s Digital Single Market copyright proposals, including possible suggestions for the cross-border distribution of content via reform of the Satellite and Cable Directive. The Government has now published its responses to two of the EU’s Consultations.

We have previously reported on the EU’s Digital Single Market copyright proposals, including possible suggestions for the cross-border distribution of content via reform of the Satellite and Cable Directive (see here and here).

The Government has now published its responses to two of the EU’s Consultations.

Response to the EU Consultation on the Review of the EU Satellite and Cable Directive

The Government has welcomed this consultation. It notes that the “country of origin” principle has worked well in the cable industry and has facilitated copyright clearance for the simultaneous cable retransmission of programmes broadcast from other Members States. The EU is therefore right to ask whether the same copyright licensing rule could simplify licensing in other areas of content delivery and bring more content onto the market. However, the Government thinks that it is important that service providers should be able to tailor content to specific markets and audiences across the EU and that copyright licence fees should continue to reflect fairly the audience that is being serviced. Some broadcasters have commented that they benefit from operating under the copyright system of the jurisdiction in which they are based and might have difficulties in identifying the holders of underlying rights in broadcast content when broadcasting in a new EU territory. Overall, the Government does not think that “country of origin” should be a “back-door” mechanism to unfairly reduce copyright licence fees. Licence fees should continue to take into account the actual and potential size of the audience, including the language version. Broadcasters should not be forced to buy a whole-EU licence as many services will be targeted towards a specific audience.

Finally, if the EU does decide to extend the principle, it will be necessary to define “country of origin”, which might prove difficult in the online environment.

Response to the EU consultation on tackling unjustified geoblocking
The Government does not believe that consumers should be prevented from seeing prices offered to consumers in other Member States. Businesses should not be able to use nationality or location alone to justify price discrimination or to prevent consumers from making an online purchase or accessing a specific webpage. However, businesses should not be prevented from targeting websites at a particular national audience and should not have to advertise or charge one single price across the whole of the EU. In the government’s view, price discrimination can be beneficial to consumers in some cases. The government does not support an obligation on businesses (in particular SMEs) to ship to any location in the EU. The government believes that, as the obstacles to the functioning of the Single Market are taken down, businesses will find it in their interest to operate across the EU without any need for legislation.

It should be remembered that copyright material is not in the scope of this consultation because it is being considered elsewhere in the DSM strategy. One might expect there to be a fair bit more to say if copyright were in scope (not least because of the complex existing framework of national rights and territorial licensing that underpins consumer transactions).

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