World Cup Latest Failure of Content Geographic Limitations

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This week there is a flurry of news stories describing how you can watch the World Cup without paying a dime. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are enabling U.S. viewers to get around World Cup-blocking restrictions for streaming media, enabling anyone to get access to a free feed by looking like they are in a country.

UnoTelly is the service getting the big blast of coverage. It is offering a free eight day trial to "Experience the Web without Virtual Borders" during the World Cup. After that, there's a premium plan for $4.95 per month and a gold plan at $7.95 per month that includes "Secured servers to prevent snooping and to protect your identity."

A Washington Post piece discusses the issue of geo-blocking as it relates to online programming and the ability to get around it with VPNs. Consumers are irritated by paying for the ability to see live MLB baseball, but having the ability to see local games due to blackout considerations. The rough time to set up a VPN block bypass and start streaming blocked content? Around 10 minutes. 

Judging from the number of articles this week, World Cup soccer is proving to be a boon to VPN bypass.  IPVanish added eight new services in Amsterdam and additional servers in Switzerland and Israel to deliver the games from Brazil. UnoTelly highlights its ability to deliver not only sports, but videos, music, and 236 "unlocked channels" of live television via its VPN service.

But the craziness isn't limited to streaming media. Electronic books are one of the most insane areas where 19th century publishing practices conflict with 21st century delivery technology and the tastes of consumers. I speak from personal experience.

Several times, I have wanted to purchase books first published in the United Kingdom. It seems to take about six months for a book published in the U.K. in print and on Amazon.com.uk to appear in the United States on Amazon.com's website. My options to acquire the U.K. work are 1) Wait six months for the book to appear on Amazon.com's website and/or in US print, 2) Order the book in paper -- shades of Charles Dickens -- and have it rapid shipped to the States for a fee to arrive in a day or two or 3) Figure out a way to fake out Amazon.com.uk's website so I can download an electronic copy to my iPad.

This backwards copyright-stupidity has been taking place for years. There is no technical reason why Amazon.com couldn't magically make the U.K. electronic version appear in the States on the same day of release in Europe. Zero, none. Why should I have to resort to a VPN just to get a book six months earlier or pay for the paper copy?

Content owners need to wake up to the raw truth that consumers are fed up with artificial boundaries to getting what they want. It is not clear how much money companies are spending on geo-fencing content, but consumers are clearly finding work-arounds to content blocking.

 

Contributing Editor

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