New EU rules will remove ‘geoblocking’ so customers can use online subscription services, like Netflix, abroad


The European Union is laying out plans to enforce new laws that breakdown geographical barriers for online subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple Music. When the new regulations come into effect in early 2018, online services must provide a service to its customers regardless of their current location, as long as they stay within the EU.

For example, This means that a person from the UK (pre-Brexit) could buy a Netflix subscription in their resident country, and then go abroad to Spain for holiday. Netflix would then have to allow the customer to use their same subscription in Spain with access to the same content that they get in the UK …

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The rules are targeted at online video and music services, many of which currently region-lock their services to the user’s home country, usually via IP address tracking. The new policy would allow customers to keep using their subscription anywhere in the European Union. It gives customers more flexible about when and where they can use music and video subscription services.

It does not mean that Netflix would have to offer the same library of content across all EU countries, just that if a customer signs up in one country, that same library can be accessed from any other member country. Today, Netflix offers users access to the library they are country located in and will block access to customers attempting to use VPNs to access the content library from their country of origin.

“Today’s agreement will bring concrete benefits to Europeans. People who have subscribed to their favourite series, music and sports events at home will be able to enjoy them when they travel in Europe. This is a new important step in breaking down barriers in the Digital Single Market,” said Brussels’ digital vice-president Andrus Ansip.

There are still some kinks to be worked out before the rules are finalized, naturally. For instance, it is not clear how a multi-user Netflix account would comply with the ‘country of origin’ rules. It is currently undecided if users of the account would see content for their own resident region, or that of the account holder’s. (The UK example is also complicated by the looming Brexit factor.)

Netflix is the leading example, as somewhat of a market leader in the online media subscription space, but this should apply to any content subscription service for music, video or even online gaming. The EU wants to bring the rules into effect from early next year.

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Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.