Society

EU: Netflix To Allow Viewing Other Countries' Libraries

| by Kit Bryer

Only a year after Netflix began its crackdown on virtual private networks, the EU has reached an agreement on legislation that will force Netflix and other paid streaming service providers to allow European users access to their home country's media libraries while traveling throughout Europe.

The legislation will still allow service providers to take "reasonable and proportionate measures" to verify a user's home country, according to the press release from the European Parliament. Those methods can include verification of payment details, tax information, postal addresses and even IP address checks. 

The decision came on the heels of Netflix's widespread effort to prevent subscribers from using VPNs. In January 2016, Netflix announced its plan to begin blocking IP addresses associated with VPNs.

Netflix and other streaming services don't allow access from within every country, and the libraries of streaming content can vary wildly between countries in which services are available. VPNs allow users to stream content from any country, no matter where they are, eliminating a major travel hassle and allowing users in restricted countries to access the services.

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VPNs aren't illegal by themselves or when used for legal purposes. Security companies encourage internet users to install them on their devices to protect their own privacy.

The question is whether or not streaming geo-restricted content is a crime. According to Australian tech blog Techly, there is no legal consensus yet. Legal analysts argue about whether or not technological protections actually cover blocking access based on geographical location.

Netflix generally makes deals with production companies or other rights holders by country, according to Investopedia. Different countries come with different costs, and sometimes Netflix isn't able to secure the rights for a particular country.

Those rights holders expect their content to be streamed only by residents of the countries they have agreed to allow. If that content becomes available in other countries for which Netflix has not purchased the rights, the rights holders lose money. 

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The new EU legislation is an attempt to solve these problems between users and services by appeasing the needs of the rights holders, the service providers, and European citizens all at once.

The legislation still has to be approved by the Legal Affairs Committee, Parliament as a whole and the European Council before it can be enforced, and it will only be enforced for paid services. Free services like YouTube will still be free to geographically restrict access to content in whatever manner they choose.

Sources: European Parliament, Techly, Investopedia / Photo credit: Matthew Keys via Flickr

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