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Don’t Block Geoblocking

One reason information technologies have delivered huge benefits to the world—and promise even greater gains in the future—is that they lower the cost of producing high-value, information-driven products and services, from movies and games to software tools. Yet, because these information products are fundamentally different from physical goods or services, their pricing models have often led to confusion. An example of this is the current debate in Australia about geoblocking, the practice of varying the availability or price of a digital good or service, market by market, depending upon the location of the purchaser.

A recent draft report by the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission renewed longstanding complaints against geoblocking. Citing a previous report by the Australian House of Representatives, plus pricing data from 2012, the report found that Australians paid an average of 50 percent more for digital goods than did Americans. In response to this perceived unfairness, the commission urged copyright holders to provide more timely and less costly access to digital works. It also encouraged the government to affirm that consumers may use software that circumvents geoblocking technology without violating Australian copyright laws.

Such a policy could reduce

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