I have a grievance against international media companies. They have a very strange policy of not selling their products in certain geographical regions. There are many services that I would like to subscribe to, but cannot because I am located in Egypt.
For example, I cannot watch content on hulu.com, nor can I download ebooks from Amazon, Apple or Barns & Noble. The same goes for digital music. I cannot buy music from iTunes or Amazon because of my geographical location. I can understand that these companies need to reach agreements with content providers and legal authorities in the countries they sell their products to, but, honestly, how hard can that be?
Also, while I cannot buy ebooks from Amazon, I can buy normal “dead-tree” books. What is the difference between them? Why can I buy one form but not the other? Is there something inherently different about ebooks? The only difference I can see is that if you give someone a digital copy of a book, it would be easier to upload that copy to pirating sites compared to the hassle of scanning a book and then uploading it.
However, peer-to-peer sites are already full of pirated content. This content is there despite the restrictions already in place on digital content. Is this the reason that digital content is restricted in certain parts of the world?
I live in Egypt, and I have to go through a very torturous process before being able to buy digital content legally. Will dedicate a blog post to this some time in the future, but it is sometimes not worth the hassle. By placing these unreasonable restrictions on digital content, companies are driving prospective customers away, or, worse yet, forcing them to resort to piracy to get the content they want.
The incident that prompted this post is the announcement of the new Facebook streaming service described in this article. I was excited when I found out that I could watch movies on one of my favorite social networking websites. When I tried to watch the movie, I was met with the, expected, message that I could not view the content in my geographical location. My message to content providers is: please give us the “privileged” of being able to pay you money to get your content, you are throwing away a revenue stream unnecessarily.