On Youtube or other video streaming platforms you might get a message like this one.
It mostly occurs when you’re sitting down using your tablet, smartphone or laptop trying to watch a tv show , a music video or sometimes even a small clip of a movie that was produced or owned by a company outside the country you live in.
Why do media companies restrict content to selected locations? Most of them, like American Broadcasting Channel (ABC) or the BBC’s iPlayer , cite International rights agreements.
CBS for example, which owns and produces shows that reach a global audience like “The Big Bang Theory”, can earn money by reselling the show to Channel 4 in the UK, It will not allow UK viewers to access it on CBS’ website. Therefore, their online on demand streaming is reserved to US residents.
Basically what they’re doing, is selling exclusive rights to another media company strictly for that particular country. As a matter of fact, CBS has different deals for each country with each broadcaster. This means more money.
In recent years though the Internet has changed a lot. Online piracy brought issues that broadcasters had to deal with. Most of the content from the original channel was and still is being posted online illegally.
Services like Netflix and Amazon Video, became successful since they were the only concrete strike to piracy.Shutting down websites like Megavideo, which hosted TV shows and movies uploaded by single users illegally, was never a solution. The more you took down, the more would pop up later.
With Netflix the same programmes people enjoyed in America were easily available online to users worldwide, legally. In addition, shows that were not even available to some countries, because there was not a deal with any TV station, became accessible.
In the end though, Netflix still didn’t solve the problem. Much content that is available in America is not available outside the USA. According CBC News, “The streaming service is available in 50 countries, but has different content in each country, depending on its licences with content providers”. Moreover, many would prefer not to pay obviously.
How does Geoblocking work? Websites will read our I.P. (Internet Protocol) addresses, a “unique numerical identifier” which contains information on our location. Getting around the Geoblock is easy though. All it takes is a VPN, a program widely available online that can mask our IP address to a country of our choice.
These geographical copyright restrictions do not make sense. They just slow down user experience. If companies were to remove them, it could actually be beneficial. The amount of online traffic on the sites would be enormous. Monetarily, they could benefit from online advertising which is booming.
Today’s technologies make the world a global community, at least virtually, and trying to stop that from happening would be silly. In music, major record labels understood that. Instead of removing songs uploaded by users individually on YouTube, they decided to put the songs and videos themselves, for free, available everywhere, to help spread their popularity as well.
Schaffarczyk, K. (2013) Explainer: What is geoblocking?
. Available at: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-geoblocking-13057
(Accessed: 15 March 2016).
Streaming U.S. Netflix from Canada could soon become more difficult
(2015) Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/netflix-upholds-geoblocking-rules-amid-reports-of-crackdown-1.2889895
(Accessed: 15 March 2016).