EU Antitrust Probe Could Put an End to Geo-Blocking

The European Union (EU) has started an antitrust investigation into a number of Hollywood film studios and the UK satellite programming provider Sky. The European Commission (EC), which is investigating the companies on behalf of the EU, has the ultimate aim of abolishing geo-blocked film and television content, and has made its objections to geographical restrictions clear to six major studios, including Warner Bros., Disney, and Paramount.

TV and movie content is often region-locked and only available for a limited period due to complex and exploitative licensing agreements that favour the studios over the content provider, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video, a practice the EC intends to put an end to.

The EU has US studios Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros, plus SKY UK, in its crosshairs, sending a statement of objections to all seven before launching its antitrust probe.

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, says of the antitrust investigation, “European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channels of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU.”

“Our investigation shows that they cannot do this today, also because licensing agreements between the major film studios and Sky UK do not allow consumers in other EU countries to access Sky’s UK and Irish pay-TV services, via satellite or online,” she added.

The EC has outlined its intent “to end unjustified geo-blocking,” a practice it describes as “a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons.”

The gist of the EU’s ire is, if content is available in one European member state, it should be available to all other member states equally. The EU is a community of countries and, as such, one member should not have any rights or privileges that another does not or cannot enjoy. We’re all equal, or something. Bloody hippies.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Search Engine Land.

Jeremy Clarkson Finds Legal Loophole for New Car Show

Is this really to do with tech? Possibly, as this is a presenter who worked on a show that brought you a pickup truck attempting to drive through the English Channel, building your very own vehicle in the case of a Kit car and nearly freezing to death while navigating themselves to the magnetic north pole in an adapted Toyota.

If you haven’t heard, Jeremy Clarkson has left Top Gear after allegedly lamping a producer over a Prawn Sandwich. It was thought that Clarkson, May and Hammond have a clause in their contract which states that they will be unable to work for any other UK competitive channel until at least 2017. But there might be a workaround after lawyers found that it could be possible to broadcast a car style show in the US, before selling the rights to the program back to for example ITV or Channel 4.

It’s like Geo Blocking within web content, if you are inside a country which restricts access then you cannot view a program, but if you are somewhere else, then technically you are not inside the same place where it was banned. This may also be interesting in the future if program makers decide to sell their shows to Internet TV sites for example Netflix. If a company sells a show, for example to BBC 2, but then sells the same show to Netflix which is an American company, and then allowing viewers to watch said program in the same place where rights have already been sold to a broadcaster, this could be a headache for normal TV channels if they paid for an exclusive and it’s not.

As tech has shifted, so has the wider issue of TV itself, will there be a BBC or ITV in the future if digital content is ubiquitous?

Thank You The Independent for providing us with this information

Canadian Telecoms Boss Publicly Shames Daughter For Netflix VPN “Piracy”

The new President of Canadian telecoms company Bell Media has branded her daughter a “thief” and reprimanded her for watching US Netflix through a VPN. Mary Ann Turcke found out that her 15-year-old daughter was accessing the US Netflix, rather than make do with the inferior Canadian service, but Turcke rebuked the girl for “stealing” and put a stop to it, an audience at the Canadian Telecom Summit heard.

Turcke recalled her daughter asking her, “Mom, did you know that you can hack into U.S. Netflix and get so many more shows?” Rather than question a system that restricts content based on exclusive deals based on geographical lines, the Bell Media boss instead chose to overreact, telling the Toronto audience, “She is 15 and she was stealing. Suffice to say, there is no more VPNing.” Sounds like a fun household.

“It has to become socially unacceptable to admit to another human being that you are VPNing into U.S. Netflix,” she continued. “Like throwing garbage out of your car window, you just don’t do it. We have to get engaged and tell people they’re stealing.”

Watching Netflix via a VPN might contravene the streaming service’s terms and conditions, but it is not illegal – certainly not “stealing, as Turcke puts it – and points to a larger problem with geo-blocking and the availability of content. The fault lies with studio policy regarding their properties, studios that have indicated that they have little interest in tackling piracy.

These people want to pay for content; “Netflix pirates” have to subscribe to the service in order to bypass region locks, and instead of being celebrated they are chastised and treated like criminals. If all these “thieves” cared about was getting content by any means, they’d be downloading torrents for free. Watching Netflix through a VPN is unethical, at worst. Not a crime. But I’m sure Turcke’s daughter really appreciated being publicly shamed by her mother for the sake of a flimsy political point.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Computing.co.uk.

Geo-Blocking Could Become A Thing Of The Past

Geo-Blocking has been a hot topic in recent years, and even more so in recent years. The term is applied to the process by which certain digital media, most notably online videos are limited to certain countries based on where their IP says they are, but this may be set to change within Europe at least.

The EU commission is moving one step closer towards the idea of a unified digital market with recently purposed policies. Among the new policies are several sections that will not only put the end to geo-blocking within Europe but also will update copyright so that people can enjoy their music, films and digital games while abroad as if they were in their home country.

Typically in modern days companies, due to the laws of other countries, block watching or downloading certain things due to the local laws, most normally because the company the program belongs to doesn’t have permission to show the media in other countries, although this can also come down to the actual content being in breach of laws within the country in more extreme cases.

With the use of VPN’s (Virtual Private Network) on the rise, allowing people to pretend that they are in another country rather than the one they say they are from, more and more companies are either having to block VPN’s or find ways to share their products with the wider public. Netflix, one of the largest  media streaming services, has spoken out about this and instead of relying on VPN’s it has stated that it is seeking global deals allowing users from all around the world to watch their TV and Film’s in any country without any delays between releases.

Among the new plans are also steps for the EU to take piracy and illegal content online, while also looking at topics such as search engines behaviour and those of online companies to ensure fair use of the internet and remove any anticompetative natures that may have developed in recent years.

The final step in the EU policies purposed is new steps on topics such as e-health and the proposal of a “European Free Flow of Data Initiative”. With these steps in the next few years it could be possible to watch and download any of your digital media in any part of the EU without a delay between it being released in the UK or in Germany.

Thank you to the Inquirer and ZDNet for the information.

TV Companies to Sue VPN Providers “In Days”

Two New Zealand internet providers who refused to disable their VPN services are to be sued by television providers within days. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services, both ISPs that provide their customers with VPN functionality, will face legal action from media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox, and MediaWorks for continuing to allow users to bypass geo-restricted content.

SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox, and MediaWorks contacted the two ISPs – as well as a number of other New Zealand-based providers – earlier this month, threatening legal action unless they cease VPN services. Both ISPs refused to comply, though Unlimited Internet was one ISP that, when challenged, dropped its VPN service.

Using VPNs to access region-locked content – as many Australians were doing to access Netflix before the on-demand streaming giant expanded its service into their territory – has become a common practice which, despite being referred to as “VPN pirates”, is not illegal (yet).

Patrick Jordan-Smith, CEO of Bypass Network Services, responded to the initial threat by TV companies with a letter, calling them bullies and reminding them that no law was being broken.

Jordan-Smith wrote, “To receive without warning a grossly threatening legal letter like that from four of the largest companies in New Zealand is not something we are used to. It smacks of bullying to be honest, especially since your letter doesn’t actually say why you think we are breaching copyright.”

He continued, “[We provide our service] on our understanding that geo-unblocking to allow people to digitally import content purchased overseas is perfectly legal. If you say it is not, then we are going to need a lot more detail from you to understand why. Simply sending us a threatening letter, as frightening as that may be, does not get us there and is not a fair reason for us to shut down our whole business.”

The TV companies were unmoved by the letter, with Kevin Kendrick, Chief Executive of TVNZ, saying, “Our position has not changed and unless they remove the unlawful service we will begin court action in the next few days.”

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.