Update on Geo-Blocking in New Zealand

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Last month, we posted a blog about the geo-unblocking services offered by New Zealand broadband companies. The combined service allowed customers automatic access to offshore content sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer that were not authorized for distribution in New Zealand.  New Zealand customers paid for this offshore content but evaded the geographical restrictions by making it appear to the content services that they were located in an authorized jurisdiction.  Local media companies understandably considered this arrangement to be an illegal attempt to bypass their exclusive distribution arrangements with content providers, and brought a legal case against the broadband companies offering bundled geo-unblocking services.

The news is that the legal action has been settled.  The broadband companies withdrew their bundled geo-unblocking services, and the media companies dropped their legal action.

This result might provide a good opportunity for a transition.  New Zealand media companies are responding to consumer demand for immediate access to popular shows like Game of Thrones and True Detective by providing same-day availability.  As one commenter put it, “That’s the real way to compete for next generation viewers – with convenience and content…”  The way forward, however, has to be consistent with the right of companies to license and control the distribution of their own product.

Mark Mark MacCarthy, Senior Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology. Follow Mark on Twitter at @Mark_MacCarthy.