Geoblocking

I recently took a one month trial subscription to Amazon Prime to see what it is like and to decide if I should become a member. And, admittedly, I wanted to see “The Grand Tour” because I enjoy the antics of Clarkson, Hammond and May. The Grand Tour was no problem to watch and greatly entertaining. However, problems began when I wanted to watch a film…

Amazon Service Area Restriction

Literally every film I chose from the collection on offer, refused to play.  I’m not exaggerating for effect here, it was literally every film. What is the point of showing me these titles if I can’t access them based on where I happen to be in the world at that moment? More importantly, why should my present location matter at all when I try to watch a film?
It’s even worse for my wife, who has a paid subscription to Amazon Prime Japan which is useless in Europe because access to nearly all Japanese content is blocked. Why? Does Amazon think that Japanese people don’t leave the country? Or that no one outside of Japan would be interested in Japanese content?

It’s not just Amazon either. I think pretty much everyone has seen this dreaded error below:

YouTube’s way of telling you you’re in the wrong country

What’s the point of putting your video on a global video streaming network and then limit its availability to only certain geographical locations? I really don’t see the point.

VPN

There is a way around such restrictions, most of the time. I am aware of the existence of VPN services which allow me to pretend to be in a different country. However, it just feels wrong to me having to resort to such measures for several reasons:

  • Most free VPN services seem dodgy to me
    Bandwidth costs money so they must be selling something to pay for it. We all know the maxim that if something on the Internet is free, you are the product being sold.
  • I have to pay a second subscription
    When I go for a paid VPN service, I now have to pay a second subscription to get access to content which technically I could already access if it weren’t for the stupid geoblocking.
  • Potentially violating TOS
    By circumventing the distributors geoblocking technology, I may very well be violating the Terms Of Service which may open me up to being banned without being refunded.
  • It feels wrong
    Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here but it feels wrong to have to resort to using such measures. It feels a bit like lying and there really shouldn’t be a reason to lie here.
Bloody hell…

Torrents

I could resort to using torrents to get films and series I would really like to see. I am well aware of how it works but that has problems of its own.

  • It’s illegal
    It is illegal to download copyrighted materials without paying for them in the Netherlands. I could use a VPN to hide my identity while doing so but again, I would be paying a fee to get things I could technically already watch.
  • Not as secure
    While torrents  generally offer the specified content, they don’t always. Don’t ask me how I know.
  • It feels wrong
    Maybe I need to have my morality adjusted but like above, it feels wrong. Artists deserve to be paid for their work and I’d be happy to pay a fee for access to content.

End geoblocking

The best solution from my standpoint would simply be an end to the practice of geoblocking content. The only reasons why geoblocking exists in the first place are as follows:

  • Unfair contracts:
  • Fragmented laws:
  • Legacy business models

Fortunately, there is hope in the EU. Have a look at the website of the “End Geoblocking” initiative, from the office of MEP Julia Reda. They give 5 important reasons why geoblocking should be ended, some of which I have mentioned above:

  • Geoblocking is discrimination
  • Geoblocking locks in artists
  • Geoblocking locks out audiences
  • Geoblocking betrays EU principles
  • Geoblocking harms the economy

I wholeheartedly support such an initiative and I hope there will be progress on this front soon. Until then, Amazon isn’t getting my money.

End geoblocking!