Putting an end to the so-called geo-blocking has been a priority for the European Commission, as it is trying to create a single market for digital services in the 28 member countries. In terms of music streaming services till now, however, there were always different prices for individual markets in the Europen Union.
The European Parliament is preparing a law that will ideally not allow different attitudes towards consumers in individual countries anymore. MEPs voted earlier this year to ban online service providers from addressing consumers differently depending on where they live, and expanded a bill in which to include the music streaming services, such as Spotify and iTunes. The vote simply means that the European Parliament can start negotiations with EU member states to reach a common understanding for a proposal that can later potentially become a law. The proposal also concerns e-commerce websites such as Amazon and eBay, who also sell physical copies of musical pieces and prohibits for the services provided at certain locations by them to automatically redirect customers to websites for that particular country without their consent.
In the field of music industry, it was agreed to include copyrighted content into the law. This will eventually mean, should the law pass, that streaming music services such as the above mentioned will not be able to prevent a Bulgarian consumer, for example, from buying a cheaper subscription in say Spain. However, a common opinion in the music industry suggests that extending the prohibition of geo-tagging to copyrighted content can also have the opposite effect, in terms of rising prices in places where the fees for these services were lower.
According to the new proposal, consumers will be able to buy goods online, even if the retailer does not deliver to their country. Merchants will not be forced to deliver their goods everywhere, so an Italian who buys a music festival ticket from a German website will have to arrange the delivery or take the product themselves. In addition, this could mean that consumers will be able to take advantage of better rates for music festivals when buying tickets from other countries before they are redirected to the local version of the website.
It is too early to say if this will be more beneficial than what was done so far, but it is definitely a long expected, and I believe, positive step towards the right path that we need to follow. After all, the removal of the barriers for authors’ entry to the European market, as well as the creation of conditions for easy and convenient access to legal digital content for users, are in the interest of all the parties involved. The main difficulty so far, as with any revision of copyright, is in the balance: to ensure a stimulating environment for artists and, at the same time, a broad access to content for consumers.