Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

There’s always a catch…

Anyone whos ever bought dvds or games from overseas will be familiar with the idea of regions or the PAL vs NTSC dilemma. A movie made for sale in Europe is encoded in the region 2 format, whereas American DVDs are in region 1 format. DVD drives are also encoded in a similar fashion. The result is that the different regions aren’t compatible. Ultimately, it just a form of control created by the various corporations so that they can control where their products go and when. Altogether, DVD comes in 7 regions. Blu-ray on the other hand only divides the world into three regions with 70% of Blu-Ray discs being region-free altogether. So it would seem that the days of geographic discrimination are slowly approaching an end. Sadly, there’s always a catch.

The next big area is probably going to be streaming content over the web. While, DVDs were divided up into 7 global regions, a website can discriminate on a per country basis very easily. Because every user on the internet is assigned an IP address and each IP address can be checked against a location database (try it) a website can easily check where you are. While the possibilities for this technology are huge the main use for it so far is in restricting access to sites. Already, many major US entertainment sites do it such as hulu.com, which was set up by entertainment networks to stream television content online as a legal alternative to youtube. If you’ve never used the site its because it doesn’t work outside the US due to this IP based blocking technology. Of course their are ways round it but due to the bandwidth demands of streaming video, it isn’t easy or cheap.

This IP filtering technology is also likely to be adopted by a large number of corporate media sites as it is so simple to  implement and makes protecting rights easy. Getting around in contrast is difficult. Free anonymity sites generally are slow and buggy which often “breaks” bandwidth heavy, interactivity laden sites like hulu. What we’re much more likely to see in the future is more and more sites like ipredator.se which offer to give users their anonymity back for a small fee. Ironically while the internet is often seen as a liberating platform for media, it seems that is is getting ever easier to keep your content under your control in the online world. However all it usually takes to get around any form of DRM is a little time and ingenuity from the online community. People will always be able to get the content they want, just not always through the channels that the companies want them to use.

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