Tuesday, March 11, 2008

GeoBlocking: Why Hollywood itself is a major cause of piracy

[From my opinion piece at Thinkernet --BSA]

GeoBlocking: Why Hollywood itself is a major cause of piracy


There is a lot of buzz in the popular press about video sites where you can legally download (for a fee) movies and TV shows across the Internet -- such as Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s UnBox. Unfortunately, the content on most of these services is only available to U.S. citizens. The rest of the world cannot legally download this same content because of a practice called "geo-blocking."

Geo-blocking is a technique used by Hollywood distributors to block their content from being accessed by online viewers outside the U.S. The system identifies users by their IP address to determine if they reside in the U.S. or not. There are several sites that provide services to get around geo-blocking, but they tend to be cumbersome and slow -- and you need a degree in Geekology to use them properly.

Hollywood studios generally are keen on geo-blocking because they can extract more revenue from the traditional "windows" process of first distributing through theaters, rentals, pay per view, and finally on cable TV.

Geo-blocking is also a convenient arrangement for international cable companies and culture regulators. Both are terrified of the contrary implications: Their citizens can have free and open access to popular American culture bypassing their own regulatory controls and wallets.