The Not So Global Internet

We’ve talked about this stuff before, but not lately. The promise of the Internet is you can connect a server to the Internet anywhere in the world and reach users anywhere in the world. You can login to the Internet anywhere in the world and reach services anywhere in the world. In reality it doesn’t work like that in many places for many services.

We are in the caribbean this week celebrating the year end holiday with friends and family. Yesterday we installed a VPN client so that the Gotham Gal could do some online shopping on a website that only sells to users in the US. We also installed a bittorrent client so that a friend of my son could watch films he had rented on iTunes before he came down here.

The latter experience was particularly frustrating. My son’s friend rented the films on iTunes in NYC, flew down here, then when he tried to play them, they would not play because of IP blocking, but the rental clock (24 hours) started ticking anyway and he lost the rental rights he had paid for.

So we installed a bittorrent client, downloaded the films, and watched them. We figured that my son’s friend had paid for them so we might as well watch them.

I’m not really down with spoofing my IP address or pirating films. I would way rather do things on the up and up on the Internet. But when companies break the Internet to enforce some random geography restriction, and when there are easy to use workarounds, it’s human nature to use them.

The worst thing about all of this, as I’ve blogged before, is that these restrictions teach us the workarounds. The Gotham Gal had never used a VPN before. My son’s friend didn’t have a bittorrent client on his computer. Now they are well versed in these technologies. That’s life on the Internet in late 2014. I’m hoping someday it won’t be like that.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JJ Donovan

    This is vacation for you? Sounds like a regular day in NYC. Take some time to step away from the computer, enjoy the sights of the Caribbean. Take a boat ride, snorkel or read. We’ll hold down the fort here! JJD – Wishing he could step away from the computer….

    1. fredwilson

      We’ve done all of that too. Just because we use a computer on vacation doesn’t mean we sit in front of it all day. Sheeesse

      1. JJ Donovan

        Excellent! Glad to hear that you are relaxing too! JJD – Back in the office…

  2. LIAD

    So true. They force us into a corner. All but ensuring we learn about and then use a workaround.Result being we have a more cumbersome experience. Causing/increasing our disdain for the companies, making it more likely we will have less scruples about bypassing them again next timeContent consumption is like water. It always takes the path of least resistance.Media companies would be wise recognising that and acting accordingly.

    1. CJ

      Corporate IT faces the exact same issue. Ultimately making the network and information less secure through a process advertised to protect it.

  3. Dave Pinsen

    Pirates of the Caribbean.

    1. fredwilson


  4. kirklove

    The Internet is a rambunctious teenager that still has a lot to learn.

  5. Rohan

    I’ve felt that pain. Things are so much easier now in the US. There were 2 work arounds I used to do to stay legal -1. iTunes – Have a friend buy gift cards in the US and send me the codes and not attach a credit card to my address. The address used to be 1, Cupertino2. Audible – Even buying books was a problem! So, I had a friends US credit card on my audible. This meant I used to pay the yearly fee with my credit card, and then switch over so they can register the purchase on his. Why have such a rule when it is SO easily exploited?I still have issues getting to watch premier league football on the internet. Let’s not go there..

  6. Barry Nolan

    Same frustration prompted my use of Adblock. Content cortorted around ads, pages polluted with pop ups. Practicality forces you to use Adblock.

  7. WA

    The VPN has proved to be a great tool for years while outside tne US. Easy security access fix for tech enabled liberal artisans. Totally get the work around frustration-my bet is there are some creative solutions kicking around right now on this. The pattern of identifying a need here on AVC and the follow up solutions to market is a pretty good track record over the years. Its like Merry Christmas world, all year long. Oh yeah-Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and an amazing New Year to all…

  8. awaldstein

    I argue the point that the market is honest and those who steal are the corner case, not the reality.The best retail stores realize this and don’t make it cumbersome to all to insure that the few don’t steal.The net of it though is that if I put up a post entitled–Workarounds streaming Itunes–the mass market would jump on it and not realize–or maybe care–that it was stealing.

    1. ShanaC

      It’s not. As I was telling someone before – I know someone who downloads books as a way of testdriving them before buying physical copies. If he didn’t, he would be sitting on a ton of books he wouldn’t finish

      1. awaldstein

        hmm–your argument is that it is ethical to take things for free to decide if you want to buy them?like stealing a suit from armani, wearing it for an occasion and deciding that you don’t like the way the shoulders hang on you?questionable…

        1. bsoist

          I hear you, but her example is not quite the same thing as wearing a suit.@ShanaC:disqus I’m sure you know this, but Kindle books have a “read a sample” feature which I’ve found to be a good way to test drive a book.

          1. awaldstein

            of course but it is an ethos question that connects them. do you have a right to try before you buy if you can game the system?

          2. Will Chow

            It’s not about rights, but rather about economic incentives. It’s short term thinking to restrict usage (constrain supply) because the real goal here is just to maximize price. A smarter strategy for both sides is to make consumption easier, increase your addressable customer base and broaden the product’s reach. The path of restriction is one that companies (especially incumbents) keep pursuing but with the same lame results.

          3. awaldstein

            Yup.Invariably open is the direction for better commerce.Invariably with hard goods and things with digital rights this is extremely non trivial to develop a model that works.

          4. bsoist

            Legally? No. Ethically, I choose not too, but this has been a subject of debate for thousands of years.

          5. awaldstein

            Agree and will continue as so.How you live in relation to what you believe is right is who you are in my book.

          6. bsoist

            Agree 100%I will resort to “illegal” downloads in cases similar to what Fred describes, but that’s it.

          7. ShanaC

            Not useful and available for all books

      2. Matt Zagaja

        Last time I went to Barnes and Noble they had a pretty generous return policy on physical books, but maybe your friend should just get a Kindle, they offer sample chapters for almost every book in their library. My test for books is usually whether I’m engrossed by the end of the sample at which point it’s a pretty easy decision to buy the full kindle book.

      3. Amar

        I found a pretty honest way to do this — my library 🙂 They also allow me to recommend books for purchase that are not available through them or an interlibrary loan (i.e. in any library in Austin). My wife is absolutely thrilled that I no longer fill the house with books from amazon .. and I am glad I get to test run the books first. I had never bothered utilizing the library. The key event that opened my eyes to libraries was the arrival of my kids. <sarcasm> Who knew a taxpayer funded institution could be so useful </sarcasm>

    2. RenataBliss

      I disagree, piracy is alive and well! Are you using N=1 as your formula for this argument (you don’t and your friends don’t so no one does)? Do you socialise with people under 30 on a regular basis?There are 2 issues here, one is geoblocking, the other is generational differences.I would argue that geoblocking is the #1 reason for piracy right now, and is most prevalent in countries like mine, the Carribean etc where more money can be raised by limited content releases.45% of Australians admit to having consumed a pirated film, and 1/3 of the population admit to pirating films on a regular basis (38% to be exact). However we also have powerful geoblocking for films, games, music, books etc etc. Even iTunes products cost more in Australia- why? They’re digital files yet we get fleeced due to an abitrary positioning within the Pacific Ocean.When Netflix comes to Australia next year, it is expected that their biggest competition will be themselves. 700,000 Australians currently use IP workarounds to subscribe to Netflix USA, and these people are likely to pay less, and get more titles, than the ones who subscribe legally to the Australian service.However my own research as well as published research across the internet indicates that there is disproportionate piracy by Gen Y. Of the Australian piraters, 12% are baby boomers as compared with 58% of Gen Ys.I work with, research and focus on Gen Ys, and it is a rare for me to find anyone who is willing to buy content, even if it’s very cheap. Normally if they do, they are also married (a curious correlation but one that makes sense to me).

      1. awaldstein

        What a terrific comment.The first part is really interesting to me. Geoblocking has it seems created a cultural shift that I simply don’t experience here in NYC. Everything is pretty well available here and available first. Outside of ire over having to buy media packages rather than ala carte, what you want you can buy.The Gen Y piece puzzles me a bit as most of the clients I consult with are Gen Y (whatever that truly means) and I just don’t see it. Or missing it.Traditional media maybe but that is not generational really.Really interested to know more about this if there is a digestible link to share.Thinking about the N=1 statement. I don’t think so. My community is extremely broad although probably slanted towards the 3-50 range with less in their 20s except for a few clients, employees of one of my investments I work with alot.Thanks again. I like to see my NY bubble poked at. It’s healthy.

        1. RenataBliss

          I’m glad to help you examine your bubble. I enjoy examining my own bubble too… Most of my research is walk up interviews with strangers at youth hostels, colleges, universities and on the street in contrasting areas around [insert city here]. When I edit my (mostly video) interviews together I’ll post you a link.In the meantime, I find this article good when it comes to data on Gen Y Europeans:…p11 (1.2.2), (up to p41) p53-57 (4.2.2-4.5)I’ve got a list of other research about this, I’m happy to share it with you if you’re really interested.

          1. awaldstein


  9. Twain Twain

    Reducing friction for users is something most startups focus on.Yet it seems the memo and “put it into action” isn’t universal yet.

  10. Eliot Pierce

    I am in Rome visiting my sister and family and am so annoyed that Netflix, Hulu and HBOGo don’t work here. I was able to stream The Red Balloon on YouTube… My sister was a heavy BitTorrent user, but now iTunes appears to work here, so she has gone legit. I don’t know how to do use an IP spoof on an iPad to appear as if I am in the US.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      Tunnel bear from the App Store

    2. Geoff

      try installing the Hola extension in Chrome 🙂

    3. feargallkenny

      Happy christmas eliot. try this. It costs a few bucks a month. I use it to watch rugby, Rte and bbc from nyc. The HMA! Pro VPN iOS app for iPad, iPhone, iTouch – Hide My Ass

  11. William Mougayar

    Welcome to a regular dilemma we face even in Canada, where Hulu isn’t available except via a VPN & a US credit card. And I regularly switch to a US Google Play account to download Apps only available in the US.Even Amazon discriminates – yesterday I wanted to buy a friend an e-book as a gift, but that’s only possible from the US, even with a VPN spoof, Amazon wouldn’t let me do it because my account is Canadian (they are smart). So, I had to email my friend a $20 gift with a link to the book so he could buy it himself. Same applies about some European TV or sports streaming sites. They are only available if you are there. They don’t want the whole world to stream because advertising that supports it isn’t targeted for them.

    1. awaldstein

      Got you.Used to live there and understand this.On the other side making product and distribution decisions for US based companies to sell consumer products in Canada was almost always too much pain to be worth it.Is the issue the US companies or the government just making is to painful?

      1. Matt Zagaja

        I once worked on a project researching international markets for a start-up selling a consumer product. The people at the Department of Commerce are quite helpful with these things, but it seems far from trivial. Especially when dealing with things like tax and liability issues.

        1. awaldstein

          yup–that’s my point to my buddy william is simply that the reason companies don’t is many times the government of the country’s barriers.want to make it difference–then make the changes.

      2. William Mougayar

        I think it’s a mix of the two. Sometimes, the local regulations are a hurdle or hoop to jump through, before you can get to the local market.

  12. mikenolan99

    Having lived in Belize for a while we experienced all the same emotions… And workarounds. No wonder bootleg DVDs proliferate the islands.Now I am worried that it is getting more like this in the US… How soon before I can’t watch an Amazon movie I purchased because I have Comcast?

  13. scottythebody

    As an expat American, I’ve lived this life for years. It sucks. A lot of people I know in similar situations just hack or configure their wireless routers to establish permanent “home base” wherever they want to be.The iTunes one is particularly annoying and I can’t imagine why they’d implement that. They’ve destroyed the primary use case for such films: rent them to watch on a trip or on a plane. You’ve already paid with a US credit card, so why would the location in which you watch them make any difference. Bizarre. It has not happened to me (so far — fingers crossed).

  14. falicon

    Agree it sucks on many levels. Unfortunately I think the internet is only going to get *more* fragmented and not less over time…especially as mesh networks become a more integral part of the system (they won’t always be available; and they won’t be available to everyone, from anywhere).There will be huge advantages and pros to mesh networks…but there will be some cons as well (what you point out is going to be one of the *big* ones I think).

    1. Michael Elling

      Mesh networks (wifi) are layer 1-2. They are open access, shared spectrum bands with nearly infinite frequency reuse (which is what cellular is) due to power restrictions regulated by the FCC. They still require “backhaul” connections to the internet; most of whom are monopolized and/or regulated.IP, what is being addressed in this discussion, is layer 3. It has no settlements associated with it and therefore does not upgrade well and is the reason we see so many “silos” built on it. The data “internet” was an arbitrage of the outdated, expensive, voice centric PSTN networks.The IP based “internet” would not have developed were it not for important open/equal access policies implemented by the FCC variously in layers 1-3 in the core, mid and last mile of the PSTN in the 1980s-90s. Most people forget this when they discuss the internet and net neutrality. They conflate and confuse the layers and boundary points and conveniently forget important network principles that were learned in the first 140 years of digital networks up until MaBell was vertically separated and we began down the path towards more open, horizontally aligned, digital networks.The future will be market driven balanced settlements based on marginal cost providing important price signals and incentives to smoothly carry traffic and supporting “signals” north-south and east-west in the informational stack. If MaBell were the Roman Empire we are currently in the middle ages of networks.

      1. falicon


  15. Nick Persico

    This is also true with professional sports. Restrictions with blackouts or the requirement of a cable subscription force fans to find ways to watch it illegally. The most asinine example is MLB.TV blackout rules.I’m a big Orioles fan living in NYC, so I subscribe to MLB.TV for $130/season. I don’t have a cable subscription. When the Orioles play the Yankees in New York, I cannot watch the game because it’s blacked out within the Yankees’ market. Since the Orioles and Yankees are in the same division, they played 10 games in New York this past season. The Orioles also played on a FOX Saturday “nationally televised” broadcast 5 times. The FOX Saturday broadcasts are not actually televised nationally. They broadcast 2-3 games each Saturday, and cut up the broadcasts by region. FOX decides which games will be shown in each market. The MLB.TV service does a blackout of all these games regardless if it’s being shown in your market.Therefore, there were 15 Orioles games that I could not legally watch at home. That’s almost 10% of the total regular season games. I paid full price for the subscription, and the MLB only gave me 90% of the service. So I learned how to use a VPN and/or find a place to illegally stream the 15 games.As Fred says, the “restrictions teach us the workarounds”.

    1. Ryan Brohman

      I feel your pain. The entirety of Canada is a blackout zone for the Jays, regardless of whether they’re at home or on the road. Unless of course you have a Rogers cable/ internet subscription. (Rogers owns the Jays)I’ve been using a VPN to bypass, but it’s more complicated than it should be since I have to change the server location often (can’t use a NY based server if Jays playing Yankees). I was finally able to get a setup configured that I could do this all from the couch with only a universal remote, but still it’s an unneeded inconvenience for a service I pay for.

      1. Nick Persico

        Wow. That’s terrible. You would think that one of the main goals of a baseball franchise owner is to increase the amount of fans. An obvious way to increase fans is to increase distribution channels.Instead, they do the opposite. They decrease and restrict distribution channels.

      2. bsoist

        Unless of course you have a Rogers cable/ internet subscription. (Rogers owns the Jays)Wow, I thought I had it bad with MLB blackouts. Something like that should be against the law.

    2. pointsnfigures

      That’s eventually going to change.

    3. Elia Freedman

      I pay for, too, but am an Indians fan in Portland, oregon, so only get the blackouts when they play the Mariners and Saturdays. That isn’t too bad. I was going to pay for this year but something like 30% of the Cavs games were blacked out. Forget that. They didn’t get my money.

      1. bsoist

        I’m a Mets fan who lives between two other markets – Orioles and Sillies – and I used to have a terrible time when I was with DirecTV. I am still convinced they applied the rules incorrectly – and the mess was complicated because the did not carry the network that most Sillies games were on.When I lived in Florida, the NBA rules were state based so I couldn’t watch the Heat but I could watch the Hawks. Made no sense to me because the Hawks were much close to home.

  16. Russell

    I think it goes both ways – service providers screw with the delivering services outside of their key regions, but people also seek out media that reinforces their own views. The first is a technical/business model problem. The second is a psychological problem – and to my mind the more devastating one in the long term.Happy holidays – a well deserved break!

  17. Stijn Hendrikse

    And you are forced to download VPN or stream/download software or media that might be more prone to virus/malware…

  18. Matt Zagaja

    I just want to note that with iTunes rentals and other issues I usually use their online support request form and they are responsive. Don’t be afraid to describe the problem and ask for them to re-authorize a download or credit your account, they seem to have discretion to do it.It sound strange that a website would block people from shopping there. As long as someone has a US credit card I do not see why they’d care.Next YCombinator Company: ZenExport. Sell your product to the world: compliance, currency conversion, and logistics. We make it easy for the customer to give you their money, and for you to sell your product in 50+ international markets. Just need some seed funding and a co-founder two ;).

    1. bsoist

      It sound strange that a website would block people from shopping there. As long as someone has a US credit card I do not see why they’d care.I’m not defending their policy, but I can think of reasons to be suspicious of U.S. credit cards being used from other countries.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        I get that exists as a possibility but when it comes to physical products they’d also have to provide a US shipping address. Do they really care if someone is ordering a pillow to be shipped to their NYC apartment from Manhattan or Bermuda?

        1. bsoist

          I agree with you, they are going overboard.

          1. LE

            My saying is “when something doesn’t make sense there is typically something you don’t know about it”. Some predictable patterns actually exist for a reason.

          2. bsoist


        2. LE

          Sure because could be a fraud perpetrated by the doorman, the UPS guy or someone else who manages to get hold of the “pillow” and is using the address as simply a drop point. Or a variation of that. (Person ordering and person swiping are two different people of course. Or perhaps the person swiping is the person ordering and they are shielding themselves by using a foreign IP which is harder to trace. Or working in conjunction with criminals overseas.)Look at it this way. If you are B&H Photo in NYC and someone decides to buy a very low margin $2500 Sony 4k camcorder what would your motivation be to block that order if not that from experience you developed patterns that told you it was fraud?I can tell you that I can spot a fraud order for the product/service that we sell just literally by comparing a few things about the appearance or the order (product, whether they capitalize, how they write the address, their name, their address) and who is making the purchase. The IP is helpful because once you’ve made an assumption you can then further strengthen the decision with some physical evidence to back it up. They’ve actually gotten more sophisticated though. Several years ago I began to see cases where they actually used a stolen card and used an IP address that was very close to the billing address. A much better fraud. So in other words billing address is in Lakeland Florida and the IP traces back to near or in Lakeland Florida. However the name of the person ordering and what they are ordering doesn’t match “Jane Smith” (hard to explain why without revealing to much..)

          1. Gordon Swaby

            Caribbean Entrepreneur (Jamaica) and regular reader of AVC here. What Fred described is pretty standard for folks in the Caribbean who want to consume US content, many would love to pay, but simply don’t have that option.To address your point specifically LE. Big business in Jamaica (with a population of close to 3 million) are mail forwarding services, specifically and Mailpac. Many Jamaicans purchase items online (most of it from It’s sent to a FL address with a KIN number attached ( this is what they use to identify a specific client’s package), after which they bring it to Jamaica where you pick it up at their office or they have it delivered to your doorstep.I use a J’can dual currency credit card (JMD and USD) with a Jamaican address on Amazon.

        3. LE

          Meanwhile as a result of my comment and mentioning BH Photo I was planning on ordering a scanner from Amazon this am (my go to place) and decided to check out bh price. It ended up being about $30 less because of no sales tax.

    2. LE

      It sound strange that a website would block people from shopping there. As long as someone has a US credit card I do not see why they’d care.Because it’s typically a marker of fraud to have a foreign IP address with a US credit card number in certain types of businesses. Normally we end up backing out near 100% of the transactions that come in using US credit card addresses but using a foreign IP address.Attached is a random selection of fraud orders.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Ah, well that makes sense now. Thanks for the insight!

  19. bsoist

    Sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, my son and I realized we would be in Italy for the first opening day at CitiField. After deciding that selling our tickets was a more reasonable option than flying back for the game – if I remember correctly, we considered it for some time 🙂 – we decided to watch online.Needless to say, we needed workaround, even though I was a paying subscriber.I think we watched the 24 finale that year using a similar workaround.

  20. Mark Gannon

    ESPN changed their system last year. Previously you could watch anything they broadcast online for free. Now you have to prove you have a cable subscription. I don’t think I should have to get a monthly cable subscription to watch Michigan games. I’d even be willing to pay per game ($5) if they improved the quality. The streaming quality for sports events is pretty bad.The Big Ten started its own cable network. You can’t get the on line version in the US without a cable subscription. I’ve actually used a VPN to make it look like I’m overseas. But they want $20 per month for the service. Again, the quality was pretty dodgy.For me, part of the issue is the prevalence of attorneys in media companies. When ever threatened by change, their first instinct it is to get a law passed. When it comes to technology, they work to subvert the technology so they can maximize profits. One of the most interesting things to come out of the Sony hack, is their plans for a legal campaign to break DNS.

  21. bsoist

    restrictions teach us the workaroundsI can’t help but think of some parallels.The drug war – think of all the crime caused by our attempts to stop crime. ( FYI, I don’t believe drug abuse is a “victimless crime” but I think declaring war on it causes more harm than good.)Teachers and schools who still prohibit cell phones and/or texting during class.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      Drug dealers = entrepreneurs

      1. LE

        I wouldn’t glamorize it like that. As only one example if you work in the health care system (or law enforcement) and you see what happens to people as a result of drugs you would realize that there is nothing good that comes out of people in the supply chain making it easy for people to start and get addicted to drugs. (Drugs Inc. on Netflix is tedious but an interesting watch).

        1. bsoist

          Addiction is a terrible thing.

        2. laurie kalmanson

          a lot of those effects are from drugs; a lot are from the war on drugs

    2. LE

      think of all the crime caused by our attempts to stop crime.Examples?

      1. bsoist

        money laundering

  22. John Revay

    Fred Wilson – hacking the Internet -Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year!Or as Eddie Murphy said – Merry New Year!

    1. awaldstein

      ahh–Trading Places!

  23. pointsnfigures

    Today walking around Istanbul with a guide I was reminded of that. I have no phone without wifi because of data charges. Ironically the guide is studying Economics and Religion, writing a book about it. He is looking at it in a very historical context, not current history.We started talking about Bitcoin Initially he was not sold. Now he is coming around. Worth it to note he is in his 60’s.Once BTC gains traction it will be interesting to see how they erect moats and fences

    1. awaldstein

      But if you are walking around Istanbul you have hundreds of cats living on the streets and with open access to the city.One of the coolest things about that town.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        Make the cats hotspots

        1. awaldstein

          end points of a mesh network–cool.they are everywhere. i was there recently sitting in a hotel lobby and all of a sudden, cats on my me–perfection.

          1. Ro Gupta

            purr-fection?sorry — I think you just got Hirsh’d, as we say at Disqus NYC

          2. JimHirshfield


          3. LE

            I’ve had that happen on some islands when out to dinner. They jump on the table right with the food.We have a cat and I love our cat but I have no interest in a Ferrel cat jumping on my lap. Plus any wild cat typically won’t be de-clawed. I tend to stay away from cats that have their front claws. I’m not interested in being scratched just because the cat thinks that I made a wrong move.

  24. hemang c subramanian

    I think at all levels some economic (or social) entity wants to manipulate the right to access information by either wholly blocking OR partially by throttling internet speeds through multiple layers.Be it powerful individuals , groups such as hackers, corporate entities such as networks or governments. However, for almost every such attempt to manipulate access to services, there is always a new workaround almost instantly created by someone else on the internet. Therein lies the beauty of the internet…and its openness..

    1. JamesHRH

      Status quo is a big part of it. It is how they operate offline, so……

  25. laurie kalmanson

    Downton Abbey fan. Would gladly pay. Broadcast six months behind in US of UK release date. Proxy: solved.The biggest fans are the ones most likely to pay–offer me a legit route — or find other ways to get around stupid delaysSpoiler alert: nothing much happens this seasonNote: the Clooney one off fundraiser is worth a click; also features Patsy from Ab Fab

    1. ShanaC

      Same as a lost girl fan

      1. laurie kalmanson

        Downton Xmas special just now was a lot of pageantry, not much actual plot advancement

  26. Peter Sigrist

    Demonstrably there is no rule of law on the Internet and we are coerced to conform to the wishes of our feudal landlords. It’s just like medieval England all over again (and you and me are outlaws FTW!)

  27. Jan Schultink

    1) As a non-US person, I used to complain about this all the time. But now, most non-US advanced internet users by now have found their own solution that they have to use everyday, so when going abroad, things still work :-)2) But maybe all these issues are just higher forces telling you to disconnect for a week 🙂

  28. ZekeV

    There are usually legal work-arounds to watch a show. Get it when it’s on DVD, etc. Legal but inconvenient. If it’s OK to break copyright and “hacking” laws for convenience, then is there anything immoral about breaking them for profit? It’s a hard question. I suspect that the laws of technology and human interaction will eventually force the issue. In the long run, the law will not be able to control access to information even in the limited and porous way that it does now. The view of the MPAA and other groups that advocate for criminal prosecution of copyright violators is that accessing copyrighted info without paying for it is somehow akin to a violent property crime. Well either everyone we know with a computer is a violent criminal, or else this is a false world view that’s doomed to fail.

  29. Sean_Patrick

    I think this is symptomatic of a complete lack of innovation in financial services. It is more profitable to bill in one currency than in another. I pay more for an app from the itunes store in euros than in sterling even taking into account that days exchange rate. I’ve noticed on Amazon you guys in the states get better prices than people in the UK do. So Amazon, apple etc just firewall geographic locations quite cynically for revenue purposes.

  30. george

    Sounds like another perfect day in paradise! This reminds me of the early days, just trying to make a service work remotely…really frustrating. Hoping for synergy in 2015!Separately, My sincere gratitude for all the knowledge you and others have shared over the course of 2014, it’s been an exceptional year of learning!Wishing you and your family the Happiest Holidays!

  31. fs2117

    When you offer people a reasonable, no-hassle experience, they will opt to go that route even when cheaper and more “uncouth” alternatives are present. Case in point: when Louis CK released his comedy special for $5 back in 2012. No DRM, no download restrictions, no geo-blocking, no catches. Pay for it, and it’s yours. No jumping through hoops required. It was wildly successful. So much so, that a number of other comedians adopted the model: Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, Joe Rogan, etc (Comedy Central has even adopted the model). Be cool to your users, and your users will be cool to you.

    1. LE

      It was wildly successful.What are you comparing it to? Do we know what he would have earned in the traditional model? Do we know what would happen if he hadn’t received all the publicity that he got because he didn’t follow the traditional model? Have you, or has anyone seen the numbers or is this all based on highly accurate (of course) news stories? (I know Louis did this I am asking about the others and how credible the info is).One of the points in business is to maximize profit. The entertainment industry is a business and artists are typically interested in making as much as they can for their efforts. Because they might not always be in demand. Like a has been 70’s or 80’s star. (Look what happened to Joan Rivers before she reinvented herself. She was headed in that direction..)Separately this is Louis CK talking about the $5 experiment which was in 2011 apparently:…Note when you read the article he’s not much of a businessman. He never had a million dollars and then he decides to give away a large portion of it. Foolish given what he claims his financial circumstances are. Not the best thing for his family either. As if he will always be popular and funny. The world is littered with has been comedians. He should have banked that money and earned a bit more before being so generous.Be cool to your users, and your users will be cool to you.At scale things like this tend to break down. Like you can run a diner in the midwest and tell people “pay what you want” but it’s not going to work at Panera Bread all across the country. Point being I’m not certain that if this was done industry wide it would result in income staying the same and not decreasing. Right now it’s more like a new broom sweeps clean.

      1. fs2117

        Did they make more under the $5 model than they would have under the traditional model of selling full rights to the Comedy Centrals or HBOs of the world? Who knows. According to this, the answer four days in was, no:…Since that post, Louis’s mentioned in interviews (2013 Howard Stern appearance) that he ultimately did make more. Given that there’s leveraging power in exclusive ownership of information, we’ll likely never know exact figures. But it’s probably safe to assume that the direct-to-consumer model proved to be a success given that a number of comedians followed suit.I agree, Louis CK doesn’t seem like much a businessman, but it doesn’t take much of a business acumen to run a quick cost-benefit analysis. Presumably, he ran a quick tally of what he thought he could make against what he thought his expenses would be, and that weighed in favor of going directly to his fan base. And it seems like this led to maximizing profit – he was able to convince HBO of a hybrid deal for his next special:…Did Louis anticipate he was going to be able to convince one of the major networks into a deal like this for the next special after he showed them that he could go direct to consumer? Again, who knows. But if so, then suddenly he’s gone from ‘not much of a businessman’ to one of the most astute businessmen I’ve ever come across.I’d argue that relying on human integrity, compassion and honesty with a pay-what-you-want model is very different than being ‘reasonable’, which is ultimately what Louis CK’s intentions were, in my opinion. Of course, that’s conjecture on my part, but that’s my take. And it’s beautiful to see that it benefited him.

        1. LE

          Thanks for your detailed reply and good points.The people who would have paid him $200k for the show (I scanned what he wrote) of course take on the risk of the product not selling perhaps they would have, if Louis had or was able to negotiate, cut a better deal? (Update they did – HBO which you pointed out) (I don’t know the answer but as someone who negotiates quite a bit it’s never a non starter to cut a better or more creative deal. He could have proposed “pay me $20k but give me XYZ upside” as only a single example. After all he took a risk in putting on the production. The “people who would have paid him $200k” would have removed all the risk by paying all of those costs. So the comparison is not entirely fair.And of course, and most importantly, if other artists are able to do what Louis CK did then the “large company” would cut a better deal because they’d have to. Market forces at work, right?And it seems like this led to maximizing profit – he was able to convince HBO of a hybrid deal for his next special:Ok didn’t even read that far (in your comment), but there you go exactly what I was saying above. That said it’s entirely possible that Louis could have been the pioneer that got shot in the back as well.Did Louis anticipate he was going to be able to convince one of the major networks into a deal like this for the next special after he showed them that he could go direct to consumer? Again, who knows. Doesn’t matter but if we are guessing my guess is “no”.to one of the most astute businessmen I’ve ever come across.One does not get to be an “astute businessman” in such a short period of time. So given that from what I know (that he has never operated a business or close to that … I could be wrong) I would say he bet correctly and won with his gamble. This is not the same as being “an astute businessman” someone who has been in business for some time and has seen the ups, the downs, what can go wrong (and why) and what does go right and why. It’s something learned over time and you get better at it and typically more cautious over time in many cases. It’s not like driving a car where you top out and don’t really develop better skills. And it’s not like sports where you get better but at a certain point your muscles don’t work. I’m sure Louis has become a better comedian over time vs. when he started. (But even with that at a certain point creativity matters and without that all the years mean nothing.)I’d argue that relying on human integrity, compassion and honestyWould be interesting to setup a long term study of that to see how it plays out over time. Knowing what I know about human nature I think it would depend on many factors. Small enough pot of gold then people would tend to be honest big pot of gold people won’t and so on. That of course is already well known.

          1. fs2117

            I’d suggest looking into Louis’s background and the case study a bit more, if you’re interested. Many of the questions you’ve brought up have readily available answers provided by Louis CK, himself, and others who followed the story closely.

  32. LE

    The latter experience was particularly frustrating. My son’s friend rented the films on iTunes in NYC, flew down here, then when he tried to play them, they would not play because of IP blocking, but the rental clock (24 hours) started ticking anyway and he lost the rental rights he had paid for.What I have found frustrating is the fact that you can’t get refunds on things you purchase from itunes or at least it’s not apparent to me how to do so. They don’t Actually I’m wrong I think. [1] After making that statement I decided to check and apparently you can request a refund if you are not happy with a purchase at least according to this:…[1] Maybe not the above instructions don’t seem to work and they are fairly recent.

  33. panterosa,

    My daughter learned the “try to pay, and if unsuccessful pirate” method of content buying via Fred and AVC. #startupkid

    1. ShanaC

      Which means everyone pirates

  34. Supratim Dasgupta

    My parents are here with me in the US and would be returning to India soon.They got hooked to Netflix and now they will miss it terribly in India. Does anyone know a workaround to stream Netflix in India? 😉

  35. kev polonski

    This is going to get so much better once the Federal government starts regulating the internet under net-neutrality. Can’t wait.

  36. LE

    You need to mention to the Gotham Gal that if she owned a restaurant not only would she never ever be able to go out on Saturday nights or any holidays (that the restaurant was open even if someone else operated it) but she would never be able to take a vacation over a holiday like this. Or certainly any long 6 week vacation (ha ha ha forget that!) Likewise if she owned any retail business with retail employees she would quickly find that she wouldn’t be able to relax while away on vacation at all. She’d be thinking of whether everything was going correctly “back at the store” (or the restaurant). Hire a competant manager? Very funny!As an investor it’s much different. You are shield by the day to day it’s someone elses aggravation to keep it running. Plus you have eggs in many baskets. A huge difference. Back when I sold my first business the only thing I cared about was that the business stayed alive enough to pay me the money they owed me every month. If the delivery truck crashed or a key employee left or a machine broke down it wasn’t my aggravation and trouble (and I didn’t even know about it which was key) it was the problem of the people that bought the business. (Business is still alive to this day by the way. But when I was in it and lived it and I worried every single day and didn’t take a vacation or any time off for maybe 5 years or 6. And it was a good thing I worried if I didn’t I’d never have anything to sell. My worries were real and necessary.If you’ve never operated a business from ground up in the traditional world understanding the anxiety that accompanies the day to day operations isn’t possible, just like people who don’t have kids don’t know what that’s like.

    1. bsoist

      Terri asks me all the time if I miss the restaurant business.It was fun, but no.

      1. LE

        Execution is really key in the restaurant business not that it’s not key in all businesses.I was harping to the owner of the local sushi restaurant that she should offer a discount like her competitor does. She kept telling me she would lose money and I kept telling her that people order other items which the competitor makes profit on. And that he only discounts 2 night a week and only certain items. And he is packed and you have to wait to get takeout he has so much business (at the same time she is empty and her food is good.)The sign below is what she puts up as a test after my prodding (and free advice). Note how bad it is. If it doesn’t work she will think it was the idea and not, in part, the execution (which would have involved only certain days, certain items, and of course a professional sign not one done by her kid).

  37. marko calvo-cruz

    The restrictions are still effective a vast majority of the time. You’d be pretty surprised at what percentage of ordinary citizens are unaware that VPN and bittorrent technology exists.

  38. bmathes

    I can’t find the video, but either Hal Abelson or Gerry Sussman (of the computer science bible fame) gave a great lecture once about the fundamental problem of the internet and the law.In essence: We have this technology that makes geographic location *completely immaterial* when it comes to information. But every single law has geography baked in as an assumption: Jurisdiction.Geography-bound state and national governments will make rules, and we’ll have to clip the internet’s wings in order to play nice. There’s some far-future dream where the local laws are a well-defined spec/API that each router in each geography can apply, but laws are not written like that at all, IANAL so I don’t know if they even could.

  39. Jon Michael Miles

    Your experience does point up Cuba, and what will happen there.

  40. ranjth

    I live in India and I experience restrictions like this every day. The sad part is there is so much content that I’d pay for (HBO Go, TV Shows, Netflix, Spotify) if I had the option but I don’t, so I just resort to downloading via bittorrent or using VPN to get around the geographical restrictions.

  41. J Strauss

    Actually, iTunes does not geo-filter by IP address, it never has on the video store for either TV or movies. As long as you have a US based account (determined by the credit card associated with your account) you can purchase from the iTunes US store in any country around the world.

    1. laurie kalmanson

      But you can’t purchase things not in us catalog / rights

  42. aminTorres

    ha!, the story of my life… specially the last 7 days.I am a few miles north- west of you in the north side of the dr… and have run into similar problems and resorted to similar solutions… sadly,I have to load my media consumption supplies in my computer or external drive each time.

  43. Nir Dremer

    I’m In Israel. Spotify, Hulu, Netflix and almost all of the services that are related to copyrighted content are blocked here.Whoever has the knowledge fake their presence using services like Hola & MediaHint and get the benefit to use (and pay) for these services.Everybody else will continue to use BitTorrent, Popcorn Time and other services as there is no other reasonable option for now…

  44. PrometheeFeu

    Spending 2 months in Laos and facing the same issues. Got a VPN to avoid the hypothetical government tracking (unlikely they have the means and I’m not involved in stuff they care about, but better safe than sorry) and keep using the video services I’m used to. It’s frankly nonsense. I’m willing to pay, sell me the goddamn thing already. Or don’t complain that you are having a hard time making money.

  45. ShanaC

    The crazy thing is what about us in the US that like non us stuff. It’s a pain for everyone.

  46. Sean Hull

    Isn’t this a bit utopian?The world is still divided up into nation states & regions with varying laws & so forth. Why should the internet exempt us from those rules we play by on dry land?

  47. Selim

    A 7 day frustration, with workarounds that lead to a satisfaction, can’t be considered as a frustration… Would you like to know what a frustration is? What if you: can’t buy from Amazon, iTunes, B&H, or any other online shop, can’t have a Paypal account, can’t bid on Ebay, and (a few years ago) can’t even watch Youtube or access to Facebook, etc. even you have a decent high speed “internet access” via DSL! The list is too long to be mentioned here.This is a testimony from our country Tunisia (North Africa) where this is a reality. Some restrictions were made by the political regime in place before the revolution in 2011, even sites that provided links to proxies were blocked, and this made people look for workarounds so that almost everyone used Tor, VPN’s, etc. This also lead to the proliferation of hacking in many areas: movies/DVD’s, software, etc. This knowledge acquisition could be considered as a positive side effect of these restrictions.But most of the restrictions are due to the non convertibility of the local currency. People, even rich, could only have local credit cards with local currency. For iTunes, as a workaround example, you have to create a French iTunes account and ask a friend to send you a gift card from France but you would pay him in local currency… not so cool.So I can confirm Internet is not so global, it has brought a big frustration with it because now people are aware of what’s happening everywhere but can’t always be active.Well to be positive, despite all this frustration, I’m happy to be an assiduous reader of until the day when it will no longer be free.

  48. Cecilia

    As evidenced in the hoopla around The Interview and how theaters will not show it and same day digital release only became a reality due to Sony being stuck, the whole content distribution ecosystem needs to be changed/disrupted. I think viewers will gladly pay extra for cross-border content…it’s the distribution laws that protect the greedy middlemen in the ecosystem that’s blocking true globalization. As a consumer of a lot of content I would like to purchase it directly from the makers of the content. Less middleman. This is how peer to peer content via YouTube got so huge. PS: just installed VPN client to watch Downton Abbey and prepare for Jan release of Broadchurch Season 2. 🙂

  49. Kwabena Asiedu

    I’m currently home in Jamaica and having the same experience. It seems to be common to use VPNs. I might be the only person not using one yet. A friend of mine wrote this blog article about this relation to the release of the “The Interview”. http://www.bigthinkingappli

  50. Rui Delgado

    You’re completely right. While we live in a global market, it seems the only people who haven’t realized this are the production companies.Paying for digital content should be globally available and easy. I think Apple proved that when iTunes Store started working. You would find that the most countries that consume pirated content is because it’s harder to purchase the items and normally the content arrives several months afterwards.

  51. Neel

    This might be an example where technology is ahead of the arcane legalities of the Hollywood system. Apple may have the right to rent the movies in US, but it could be the case that rentals and sales of that same movie in another country are explicitly forbidden by the copyright owner to Apple because another media firm in the visiting country paid for those rights. The geography restriction isn’t per se random but the artifact of the way the film industry works. Films get financed in part through these international deals. I agree this can be frustrating. Unfortunately you had to risk (as small as it is) breaking copyrights by using Bittorrent to work around this inconvenience. Apple would probably been in violation of their distribution agreement had they not blocked the IP address.