EIBF hails geo-blocking e-book ruling

EIBF hails geo-blocking e-book ruling

The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) has praised proposals devised between European Parliament, the Commission and the Council which will ensure the geo-blocking regulation will not apply to e-books.

The discussions, focused on the geo-blocking regulation, a technological protection where access to internet content is restricted based upon the user's geographical location.

The recommendation agreed upon yesterday, and tabled by the Estonian Presidency, leaves copyright-protected material, including e-books, out of the scope of the regulation and proposes a review clause of two years. It was decided in May 2016 that the previous geo-blocking regulation would not apply to e-books but a revision was tabled to consider the matter further.

The review clause will not kick off before the end of 2020 or spring 2021.

The proposal follows more than two years of campaigning from the EIBF around geo-blocking including a petition launched in June, calling on the European Council not to “force” bookshops to sell e-books across borders. It was feared that this could have driven the retailers them out of the digital book business.

An EIBF spokesperson said: “The inclusion of copyright-protected content has been one of the most contentious elements of the proposal, and a source of major concern for the book industry. This is a great day for our organisation as well as for all the other stakeholders of the cultural and creative sector with whom we have worked in close partnership.”

They described this development as “rewarding months of advocacy”.

The spokesperson added: “In a context of low cross-border demand and where profitability has yet to be demonstrated, a growing number of booksellers are nevertheless investing in the e-book market.”

EIBF co-presidents Fabian Paagman and Jean-Luc Treuntenaere said: “Booksellers need time to adapt to the nascent and uncertain e-book market and to see some crucial issues sorted out by the European institutions.

“In a nascent market, the profitability of which still has to be demonstrated, forcing traders to offer e-books across borders at this point in time would, in the end, be detrimental to European consumers: many SMEs could be forced to exit the e-book market and far from opening up the single market to consumers, this would be highly detrimental to cultural diversity and consumer choice in the EU, and only beneficial to major non-European international platforms.”

The text will formally be adopted by the European Parliament and voted by the council in the first months of 2018.