Friday, May 11, 2012

Pirates and the Internet overseas

Just to think *sigh* back home I was always such a law-abiding citizen...

Okay, first let me confess: there are some very basic things that most people learned at age 12 and I didn't. Like the rules of ironing skirts. Or how to heat things up with radio waves. This led to several episodes of the microwave vs. the fork, the microwave vs. the paper towel, the microwave vs. the styrofoam container, and so on. In my defense though, I never make the same mistake twice! Anyways, that's why I ended up doing a Google search for "does butter go bad?" I thought I probably knew the answer to this question (turns out it does) but my babysitter I mean common sense consultant (the boyfriend) was out and I was hungry for this. It seems like butter would last a long time, doesn't it? Back in the states I could keep a stick in the fridge forever but things have a shorter shelf life here and I thought I should probably investigate. When I clicked on the link to a cooking forum this screen popped up: The administrator has banned your IP address. What, seriously? For what?! My first thought was: UKRAINE. I bet they banned Ukrainian IP addresses. (My next thought was: oh, it's okay, the butter is probably fine. Turns out- it wasn't :p )

Now why would a Ukrainian be banned from even reading a cooking forum? What's your guess? Spam?

In related news, my abilities to continue researching pop culture have been greatly hindered by similar policies. MTV won't let me watch free episodes of Teen Mom (how will I prepare for motherhood now?), Lifetime withholds episodes of Russian Dolls (possibly the most worthless show ever. But, uh, still valid cultural material), Netflix gives my computer the brush-off entirely. Yahoo news always puts a this video is not available in your area sticker over part of the screen but hooray, plays the video anyways. The absolute suckiest thing was when refused to let us buy an episode of a science show. Seriously, Amazon? The money was already in my account from a gift card, so it wasn't a credit card issue. It's like all these companies and media channels think the world really does revolve around America...but what about the other 6.5 billion people in the world who want to be part of the loop? Or have I got this all wrong? Is it like this everywhere? (ie, you can't watch Malaysian TV shows from Germany, Nicaraguans can't access media sites in Australia, etc.)
I guess I understand them. You know that someone already has your unreleased movie or platinum song or hit sitcom and even worse, you know that they got it for free!!!! (Battleship hit the streets here ages ago- that may have something to do with soccer- and I haven't stopped to look but I bet The Avengers is also being sold on DVD.) Of course you're not going to let them on your site. You can't directly say "eff off, you Euro pirate" but you can say "we're sorry but this video cannot be viewed from your current country."

ABC News
Video Surf. Ironically, while trying to watch a documentary about Ukraine.

So, what's the solution? I asked around and the answer was always the same: torrent. Peer-to-peer sharing. Especially popular is a lovely little website that I'll call "The Illegal Lagoon". Either you know what I'm referring to or you don't and if you don't, it's probably because you don't need to know. The Illegal Lagoon is everywhere in Ukraine. When you buy a DVD on the street for $2, there's usually a little skull and crossbones on the back indicating where the movie came from. If you walk into a store to buy a movie or game, they'll ask if you want the cheap (downloaded) or expensive (legally distributed) version. Even though the legally distributed movies are still cheap in terms of western prices, the illegal ones are much cheaper, cheap enough to be the more popular choice.

It would be interesting to know who started this. Did major companies start snubbing global citizens outside the mainstream area, thus forcing online piracy as a way to stay current on modern media? Or did the copying start first, leading to hostility from entertainment providers?

My summary and thesis statement in one: yes, what people are doing is illegal but they're not being given another choice. What would you do? Would you find access to media if it were off-limits to you?


  1. I live in Germany (but am an American citizen). I run into a lot of the same video streaming issues, especially if it's a music video. I can totally understand how downloading (illegally) has become so popular though... If its free to watch on ABC in the states, what difference is it if I watch it from Germany?!?!

  2. Hah. Euro pirates. Hahaha.

    Yeah, I had some trouble with this when I was over there... in the end I just decided to order episodes of The Daily Show and Colbert Report via iTunes. At least iTunes didn't discriminate. Other than that I downloaded tonnes of daily CBC podcasts (<3!).