Can you imagine a scenario where you buy something in one country but as soon as you cross a national border it’s taken off you. It sounds completely bizarre but that’s exactly what happens with many digital purchases that happen over the internet. Take for example the digital entertainment site called Netflix, you could subscribe in Germany then leave the country and your internet entertainment service would stop working. It has actually got better with Netflix who expanded across to 160 countries last year, so now you can at least access the service however there’s still an issue. If you open you German Netflix account in Japan, you’ll get a Japanese version of the site complete with lots of Japanese type movies and TV shows.
We think the internet is a globally connected open market, yet its not really like that – businesses are actively creating barriers and blocks which restrict the internet. Where you are really does matter, it’s completely untrue that all internet users are equal and it’s getting much worse. Many of us where overjoyed when the BBC launched a huge live TV and online archive in their website. For travellers and ex-pats it promised continued access to British TV irrespective of their location, yet the curse of region locking affects that too. We can watch the BBC but you need a UK based BBC VPN to make it work – just as displayed in this video:
Remember for many people in the UK they pay a significant amount to the BBC for a TV license which funds this internet application. To remove access simply because they have travelled to a different country seems completely unfair. The problem is in two main areas, firstly the way copyrights are assigned on a regional level and secondly the complete lack of a commercial digital infrastructure to protect consumers rights when they purchase digital services.
There is hope that the European Union may be able to create the world’s first digital market. There have been some resolutions put in place which will create requirements across the European Union. The idea is that individuals are given rights to any digital products that they buy online. So if someone buys a subscription to a service in one European country that service must be available in all other European countries. Obviously this isn’t a global solution but it may produce a blueprint that the rest of the world might be able to implement.