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EA “working to restore access” to Origin for players in Myanmar, other countries’ access uncertain

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Update 31 October, 2016: representatives of EA have responded to this story on Reddit and the Origin forums, suggesting that Origin may soon be accessible from Myanmar again.

Access to EA’s Origin service may soon be restored for residents of Myanmar, following a lifting of trade sanctions by the US government earlier this month (and a minor kerfuffle on Reddit over the weekend).

If you’ve also been banned by Origin, recoup your losses with these free Steam games.

Two Origin representatives, one named Alex on Reddit and another named Tom on the Origin forums, have indicated that EA is either “internally reviewing the situation” – that’s Alex – or actively “working to restore access” – that’s Tom, who updated the post on the Origin forums that we quoted yesterday.

Over the weekend, a Myanmar-based Redditor named trivial_sublime posted that he or she had lost access to EA’s Origin services. Iranian Redditor Ayymd_ reported a similar block being applied to gamers in his country about two weeks ago, linking to a post on the Origin forums dated September 14 complaining about it, under which Tom claimed it had been applied “in compliance with US embargoes and sanctions laws”. Ayymd_ then updated his post to show another thread, this time from mid-September, in which another EA community manager named Archi said access to Origin for users in Ukraine had been restored.

It looks like these blocks were applied with Origin updates sometime between August and now. In Alex’s post on Reddit, he suggested EA doesn’t have a choice:

“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 we reported yesterday, it’s not clear why EA has only recently chosen to observe trade sanction law in this way when these sanctions have been in place for years, or why other digital services such as Steam have been available to residents in some of these countries this entire time, without similar restrictions.

trivial_sublime also argues that the particular nature of the sanctions against Myanmar, which ended over three weeks ago, should not have required EA to prevent all access. Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation – that EA only latterly became aware of its compliance obligations, and other services haven’t caught up yet – but there’s some consistency and transparency still to be desired in the way EA has applied these new policies.

Original story 30 October, 2016: Origin, EA’s digital distribution platform, is still unavailable to players in Myanmar after the US government lifted trade sanctions it imposed on the country several decades ago.

Players in Myanmar (the small South-East Asian country sometimes called Burma) found that their access to Origin – which had been unaffected since launch despite existing sanctions – was being denied in mid-September.

However, on September 14 President Obama made the surprise announcement that trade sanctions against the country were to be lifted, eventuallyending the program through the Treasury Departmenton October 7.

EA_Tom, community manager on EA’s AnswersHQ support forum, explained to one user that the denial of service was now in effect for several countries the US has placed trade sanctions on.

“In compliance with US embargoes and sanctions laws, Origin is not available in Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine (Crimea region),” Tom wrote on September 15.

It’s unclear why EA has begun complying with trade sanction law now, with players from these regions having already purchased and played through the Origin service for years by this point.

In the current Origin terms of service, Section 14 pertains to exports and states: “You agree to abide by U.S. and other applicable export control laws and agree not to transfer the Application to a foreign national, or national destination, which is prohibited by such laws, without first obtaining, and then complying with, any requisite government authorization.” It is unclear at which point this clause was added to the terms.

Myanmar’s sanctions began in 1989 with a denial of trade benefits for poorer nations after the country was found to be in violation of several human rights charters. Sanctions were officially imposed in 2003 when the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act was passed by Congress, banning all imports and certain exports to the country.

Despite the embargoes now being lifted for more than three weeks, EA has yet to reinstate access to Origin for players in Myanmar. We have reached out to EA for comment on the circumstances of the nationwide ban and whether they plan to restore access to the country or provide refunds to those affected.