At the heart of the European Union lies the Single Market—the possibility for people to buy and sell goods and services anywhere in the EU. So it is ironic that the European sector least constrained by geography—the digital market—is also the least unified. To remedy that situation, the European Commission has announced its Digital Single Market Strategy, which addresses three main areas.
The first is “Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services” and includes two of the thorniest issues: geo-blocking and copyright. As the EU’s strategy notes, “too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification; or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices. Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market.”
There is strong resistance to removing geo-blocking, particularly from copyright companies that have traditionally sold rights on a national basis and which therefore want geo-blocking to enforce that fragmentation. The Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Julia Reda, quoted a fellow MEP justifying geo-blocking as follows: “I can’t buy Finnish bread in any German supermarket or bakery. Far too few people here would buy it, so the market doesn’t offer it to me. And you don’t see me demanding that the European Commission bloody-well make that product available to me.”