A Seamless Global Digital Marketplace of Entertainment Content

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In January 2016, Netflix launched its streaming service globally into more than 130 new countries. It also announced its plan to ban the subscribers' use of proxies, unblockers and virtual private networks (VPN) to view movies and TV programs unavailable in the subscribers' countries. With this ban in place, Australian subscribers will no longer be able to watch U.S. shows until they become available Down Under. Likewise, U.S. subscribers who are addicted to British shows will have to wait for those shows to come stateside.

The content providers' desire for this geocircumvention ban is easy to understand. If Australian fans have already watched a U.S. show via Netflix, who will tune in when the show finally arrives in Australia? Thus far, movie studios and TV producers have repeatedly criticized Netflix for turning a blind eye to unlicensed viewing. Had the company continued to ignore geographical licensing restrictions, many of these content providers might eventually have pulled their material from the streaming service. Nevertheless, the recently announced VPN ban is unlikely to provide a long-term cure to the content providers' chronic headaches. The problem lies not with Netflix, but with the unmet consumer demand in foreign markets.

This chapter begins by describing six types of access barriers that have been slowly broken in the digital environment. Although it is not unusual for new technology to break access barriers, the breakage of virtually all of these barriers at the same time does underscore the immense challenge the internet and new communication technologies have posed to the copyright system and the entertainment industry's copyright-based distribution model. To address these challenges, this chapter calls for the establishment of "a seamless global digital marketplace" of entertainment content, a proposal advanced a few years ago by Francis Gurry, the director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization. The chapter then explores five paths that can be taken to establish this much-needed marketplace.

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Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property

Series Title

Research Handbook on Intellectual Property in Media and Entertainment


Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc.


Megan Richardson & Sam Ricketson

Series Editor

Jeremy Phillips