Origin Lifting Sanction-Fuelled Block Against Myanmar

I get it: keeping up with news is bor-ing. It’s all, “This person said this, the other person said that” with only brief joy in “this skateboarding otter saved that family from a fire” before plunging back into “our country invaded that country, this policy is doing that” and it’s like ugh, I’ll wait until Hollywood make movies out of the exciting bits, thanks.

So I entirely understand why EA have overzealously blocked Origin users in certain countries, blaming trade sanctions that are already lifted: it’s all boring to keep up with.

Over the weekend, someone living in Myanmar (also known as Burma) posted on Reddit that they had, some time after early September, started getting “access denied” messages when trying to log into Origin. This meant they couldn’t play any of the games they’d bought. The initial response from an EA representative explained:

“The short answer here is that this occurred due to the US government trade embargo on Myanmar. In accordance with US law, EA is legally required to restrict online services to residents of countries that are embargoed. This isn’t an EA-specific issue — it’s an issue that impacts all companies offering services that are covered by trade embargoes.

“As the OP has noted, the embargo on Myanmar appear to have been lifted earlier this month. Accordingly, EA is internally reviewing the situation and looking into whether and when service can be restored to Myanmar residents.

“It’s unclear to me whether we can do anything for residents of other countries that are still similarly embargoed, but I’ll bring the topic up for discussion internally.”

EA had apparently let people buy and play games from Myanmar into September, which is a bit funny as trade embargoes have been against Myanmar for many years – and the Origin block supposedly came after the US had announced plans to lift them. The sanctions were formally lifted on October 7th.

So yes, the Myanmar block is going. An EA community manager followed-up yesterday:

“We are working to restore access to Origin for our players in Myanmar. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and we’ll share updates on timing as soon as possible.”

Myanmar isn’t the only country blocked on Origin due to trade embargoes. Other places affected include Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. Yes, some Iranian players reported in September that they too had been blocked and lost access to games they’d paid for and previously played.

It looks like EA did a bit of a sanction sweep, deciding that the trade embargoes required them to be stricter than they once had. Some have accused EA of being overzealous, of taking unncessary steps to make double-sure their bum was covered, but I couldn’t tell you whether those accusations are warranted. The timing of the blockfest and the Myanmar sanctions lifting does make it look jolly silly, though.

That there digital distribution and DRM, eh? Quite the sticky wicket. But did you hear about the one-legged fox who became best friends with a baby after saving it from a crashed car?


  1. Sue de Nimes says:

    I thought we called the country “Burma” in the UK.

    • GenialityOfEvil says:

      Myanmar is the official name of the country, but some don’t recognise it because it was changed after a military coup that many countries don’t recognise as legitimate. Burma is an old colonial name, so it’s not even a local name of the country.
      The media tends to use Myanmar because it is technically official.

    • Holderist says:

      I know it as “that country that the last Rambo movie was set in.”

      • Jalan says:

        Or that episode of Seinfeld that had Elaine travel there to meet the opium-addled J Peterman to discuss business expenditures, namely a large sable hat that “just bottled in the heat”.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Does inability to sell to people there mean that people there can’t use their products? This seems kinda shaky, EA.

    • gwathdring says:

      EA might not have a system in place for allowing continued use of existing games and their DRM and so forth while banning you from using the store or activating new products.

      They might also have such a system and prefer not to bother or might have determined that said system is too much of a grey area for their ass to be properly covered. Hard to say.

  3. Ieolus says:

    Taking the money of people living in these countries and then denying access to the service is unethical to say the least.

    Edit: Oops, I just meant to say… “Typical EA business practice”.

    • Tiltowait says:

      I believe the Reddit poster was not from that country but may have purchased elsewhere and moved.

  4. Kefren says:

    At least with GOG you can buy and download your games, then back them up before you get hit with a trade embargo. Take that, trade embargos! It totally gets round your embargoing traderyness.

  5. Ajmist says:

    EA messed up in this case. The trade embargoes in question ended before February 2013 with ongoing trade embargoes (canceled recently) only applying to certain banks and business entities more than 50% owned by persons on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’d love to know how a decision like this gets made without consulting a lawyer first. Unless EA has Lionel Hutz as their general counsel.

  6. syndrome says:

    And this is exactly how US denied access to Mickey fucking Mouse
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    until they’ve successfully established this
    link to google.com

  7. ScubaMonster says:

    If it’s a trade embargo, couldn’t they just cut off access to buying any more products on the Origin store instead of banning access to stuff they already bought? Or are they actually legally obligated to cut off any and all sort of digital communication with the country in question? Either way sounds like BS.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      I imagine the issue is that it’s difficult to determine where a product is actually being bought from. For example NK leadership can often use Chinese go-betweens to purchase stuff for them. If NK uses such a go-between to buy Origin keys in China using Chinese bank accounts, which are then activated in North Korea, then EA is still breaching sanctions.

      Sanctions typically cover providing various services to the embargoed country, so specifically it may well be the process of offering a download or authentication service to games that is disallowed. Offering a refund service may well be disallowed also.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Does anyone know Kim Jong Un’s Steam handle? I want to play Rocket League with the Beloved Leader.