December 14, 2015
Geoblocking is “like buying chocolate in Berlin and blocking to eat it in Paris”, as the Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip was recently quoted. Europe still encounters many borders, but these are not only physical – there are many digital borders still to tear down.
How many times has the message “This content is not available in your country” popped up in your screens? This is a common situation for Erasmus+ students, who cannot access the news from their home countries on the Internet. In some cases, even the on-line university libraries cannot be accessed from other countries, making it harder for students writing their research abroad. These are only a few of the consequences of geoblocking, which (ironically enough) is one of the thickest walls to tear down in a digital Europe. This is why one of the key points of Mr Juncker’s Commission is to erase these borders and ensure a truly integrated Digital Single Market.
The first step was just taken the 9th of December, with the European Commission proposal’s on Portability that will allow European citizens to access digital on-line content in other Member States rather than their own. In other words, all the films, e-books, games and other digital content that you bought in your home country would be accessible in other Member States starting in 2017.
AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum gave its opinion on the Commission’s proposal at the European Parliament, taking part at the panel discussion ‘Portability: opportunities for cultural diversity?’. The event was hosted by MEPs Julia Reda (European Pirate Party) and Jill Evans (European Free Alliance), aimed at analysing the proposal’s content from the perspective of intercultural exchange and diversity. According to Aleksandra Kluczka, President of AEGEE-Europe, geoblocking is strongly affecting mobility students, volunteers and interns all over Europe. In fact, is it estimated that 5 million Europeans are affected by limited-access portability on a daily basis – mostly travellers and people living abroad for a limited period of time. Moreover, portability “can be a small step forward to a structured on-line public sphere”, and ending geoblocking will enable intercultural understanding on a European level.
Geoblocking does not only affect expats and Erasmus+ students, but also linguistic minorities – this is what happens in the Finnish region of Åland, where part of the Swedish-speaking minority lives and cannot access Swedish media channels on-line: “Linguistic minorities are permanently blocked, as we are in the wrong side of the border”, said Julia Lindholm, from the Finnish Permanent representation to the EU at the panel discussion. Davyth Hicks from Eurolang added that “a guaranteed access to media in the Member State’s neighbouring countries is needed”, as stated in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – which most Member States have signed but not comply.
The panel concluded with the words of Agustín Reyna, from BEUC: “it is a small step, but the Commission is already committed to do something”. Citizens in Europe wonder why geoblocking even happens in the first place, and proves how the European Union is affecting them in such a practical way. More Europe is needed in terms of copyright. According to the European Commission, the proposal on portability is just an appetizer – let’s hope for the main course to come soon!
AEGEE (Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l’Europe) is one of Europe’s biggest interdisciplinary student organisations. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines. Founded in 1985 in Paris, today AEGEE has grown to a Network of 13000 friends, present in 200 cities in 40 countries all over Europe.
Operating without a national level, AEGEE strives for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe, which is socially, economically and politically integrated, and values the participation of young people in its construction and development.
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