Have you ever tried to access something online, only to be met with the message ‘sorry, this content is not available in your country’? This is a technology known as geo-blocking and it restricts individuals’ online activity. Based on your geographical location, geo-blocking can stop you from accessing certain websites, making online purchases or downloading content. For example, at the time of posting, you cannot stream programmes via BBC iPlayer if you are outside of the UK.
If you are a legal professional working in an international firm this is particularly problematic. You may send links to thought leadership via email and on social media, but geo-blocking can restrict who is able to access this content depending on where they are.
New geo-blocking restrictions
Due to a number of issues with this technology (such as 63% of websites evaluated by the European Commission not allowing consumers to make online purchases from another EU country), Regulation 2018/302 was created on 28th February 2018. The main aim of this Regulation was to stop ‘unjustified’ geo-blocking, in order to increase online cross-border sales within the EU.
However, despite the many benefits this regulation has for sellers and consumers, digital copyrighted content is not yet covered by the same rules. This means consumers of music downloads, online media and eBooks will still be impacted by geo-blocking. It can also have an effect on accessing other online resources, such as PDFs and articles.
The impact on legal professionals
As many legal professionals have international networks, geo-blocking can prevent them from being able to share industry updates and news articles online; both with colleagues and clients. This could have a negative effect on the global impact of a firm, both in terms of creating communication barriers and being inconsistent with international contacts.
Solutions to geo-blocking restrictions
Although there are still a number of limitations to the partial control of geo-blocking, other technologies are being developed which offer ways around the restrictions. Some tools work by allowing authors to create articles and eBooks, apply Creative Commons licences and earn money for their work. Authors can choose to make their work available all over the world, bypassing any geo-blocking devices.
There is also further hope of change, as the Regulation will be reassessed in March 2020 with the intention of applying the same regulations to all digital content. This means online content will not be restricted to anyone within the EU. How the UK rules will work in this area post-Brexit remains to be seen.
Being aware of the rules and regulations surrounding geo-blocking is vital for all legal teams who are using online technology within the EU. LAC Group’s knowledge management services can help legal teams create strategies which overcome issues such as geo-blocking restrictions. Please contact me if you would like any more information, or if you have any questions.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn: Geo-blocking’s impact on digital content access