Any Hope for a European Digital Market?

Can you imagine buying a laptop from your local Walmart and then while on holiday in France being told you can’t use it because it was not bought there.  It would be ridiculous, yet this is the situation we are finding ourselves in more and more because of outdated licensing laws and profit maximising media companies.    The digital market is often being portrayed as a brave new world for global economies yet it’s growing despite some last century laws.

This situation with the laptop sounds extreme yet it’s the sort of thing that happens every day for millions of people with regards to digital goods and services.  The prime culprit is of course the media companies who expect us to follow their ridiculous 20th century copyright laws.  The web is awash with digital goods and subscription services which only work in the country you bought them in, how stupid is that.

I live in the UK and every year pay a not insubstantial amount of money in a mandatory license fee to fund the BBC.  I have no problem with that as in my experience the BBC is one of the best broadcasters in the world, it’s easily worth the money.   It is also an innovator, being one of the first to stream all it’s TV live across the web and also for some weeks after through the BBC iPlayer.  It’s wonderful, yet if you travel outside the borders of the UK then it all stops working.

It doesn’t matter that I’m a license fee payer, it’s my location that’s important.  It’s incredible that I even have to ask the question does BBC iPlayer in Ireland work? You’d think so,  but read here, you’ll find it doesn’t without some intervention.   It’s not restricted to a particular company or country, in fact pretty much every single media company of any size follows this model.  None of the fantastic US media sites work outside the US, use Pandora to listen to music – not if you travel outside the US borders you won’t.

There is a little hope, the European Union have identified that this situation is restrictive and unfair and are pushing to try and create the world’s first single digital market.  The idea being that if you pay for some subscription service or movie download in one European country, it will still work when you travel to another.  The internet doesn’t really have geographical borders so it seems crazy we’re trying to implement them.

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