Banning the use of unjustified geo-blocking impedes Europe’s creative and cultural sectors
The European Parliament’s report on geo-blocking goes against the European Commission’s Impact Assessment and the Council’s General Approach, going against Europe’s cultural eco-system. Initially, copyright-protected content such as books, music, videogames and audiovisual works were explicitly excluded from the public consultation.
Creativity Works! supports this approach: the potential benefits of the Regulation in our sectors are far from proven, and the likely negative effects have not been explored at all. For copyright-protected content, banning geo-blocking practices risks causing a reduction in the diversity of legal offerings in many creative sectors and a detrimental effect on financing and distribution that will lead to a reduction of European works – the opposite of what we all want to achieve.
Increased prices: A European video game studio develops a game and retails it for €60 in digital format only. However, in Poland, where consumers have a lower average wages, a €60 equivalent price would be too expensive for the consumer. As a result, Polish consumers benefit from a favourable price adapted to their purchasing power.
Economic circumstances, in particular, vary greatly between Member States because of different tax policies, monthly minimum wages (less than €300 in some EU Member States) as confirmed by the latest figures published by Eurostat in February 2017.
European audiences today could be reduced by as much as 48%.
Reduction of cultural diversity and European works: There will be in fact fewer incentives for financing. For example, estimates show that the audiovisual content available to European audiences today could be reduced by as much as 48%. Let’s look also at music. If a label is releasing a new album by a band, it will be promoted differently in each territory. For example, they might want to give fans the opportunity to stream the complete album one week before its release, in order to form an opinion, even before the purchase decision. This stream might be “hosted” in the UK by The Guardian, in France by Liberation and in Germany by RollingStone.de. These partners help the label and the artists achieve much more efficient promotion and marketing campaigns. And these media partnerships rely on geo-blocking to give them a certain level of exclusivity, without which they might not cooperate with the label and the artists. Ending geo-blocking would put an end to an important and meaningful marketing tool for labels and artists.
Threat to cultural diversity: Such inclusions risk undermining the EU’s long history of measures to promote cultural diversity. National distributors and broadcasters will not have the same financial abilities to curate the content to the needs of the local market. Less widely spoken languages would be particularly affected. Let’s look at e-books, a field where territoriality is linked to linguistic areas1. Consumer demand for this nascent market is low, especially outside common linguistic areas. If booksellers are forced to offer e-books across borders, they will be required to invest in expensive technology upgrades and cybersecurity (i.e. to process payments cross-border). With low e-book demand, many European booksellers would not be able to make the required investments. Fewer retailers’ means less cultural offers as major Internet platforms on the e-book market are likely to focus on bestselling titles, rather than local authors that enrich our European culture.