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Australian Consumer Group Wants Geo-IP Blocking Banned 233

Posted by timothy
from the I-bet-most-americans-agree dept.
daria42 writes "Live outside the US? Then you're probably used to being blocked from watching Hulu, frustrated by not being able to buy the eBooks you want from Amazon and most of all, annoyed about paying significantly higher prices than Americans for exactly the same software, games and content online, all based on your IP address. This week Australian consumer group Choice called for an Australian ban on geo-IP-blocking, saying it created significant barriers to the free flow of goods and services. Maybe other countries' consumer groups should follow suit, in the quest for a fair go?"
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Australian Consumer Group Wants Geo-IP Blocking Banned

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:42AM (#40697597)

    We have it soooo good here !!

    • I dont know ... We just need to sort this issue out to bump those Canucks out so we can most of Top 5 cities instead of just Top 10 ;-)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World's_most_livable_cities [wikipedia.org]

      1 Melbourne Australia
      2 Vienna Austria
      3 Vancouver Canada
      4 Toronto Canada
      5 Calgary Canada
      6 Sydney Australia
      7 Helsinki Finland
      8 Perth Australia
      Adelaide Australia
      10 Auckland New Zealand

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Vienna? Really? That place is falling apart.

        At least it was back around 2002 when I was there.

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        In what fucking reality is Auckland livable? I swear to god, this place is a clusterfuck of weird rules, obscene council rates (taxes for you 'merikans) and sky-high prices for everything!

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      We have it soooo good here !!

      Would be a lot easier to buy a VPN account on a US server, I would think.

  • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:49AM (#40697697)

    The content that's on Hulu is also on TPB. The only thing that I'm blocked from is paying for it.

    • This is why I don't even complain about IP blocking. So far it hasn't inconvenienced me in the slightest.

    • by Spectre (1685) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:10AM (#40698005)

      The content that's on Hulu is also on TPB. The only thing that I'm blocked from is paying for it.

      Music distributors, are you listening? I want to buy music from an artist I like, but your distribution agreements with iTunes won't let me (legitimately) PURCHASE the music you supposedly want to sell (it's only available in Canada, I live in the USA).

      You are driving your WILLING customers to piracy with your idiotic market segmentation!

      • by mjwx (966435)

        The content that's on Hulu is also on TPB. The only thing that I'm blocked from is paying for it.

        Music distributors, are you listening? I want to buy music from an artist I like, but your distribution agreements with iTunes won't let me (legitimately) PURCHASE the music you supposedly want to sell (it's only available in Canada, I live in the USA).

        Here in lies one of the other problems.

        I wont buy from Apple due to the way they treat their competitors, so I cant buy from Itunes and often here in Oz there is often no alternative.

        Licensing should be indiscriminate. A flat license fee per copy sold (yes sales execs, I'm only counting when real money changes hands) should be payable to an independent licensing authority and this fee should be the same for the world over (no one in this day and age gives a shit if it's in US Dollars, Euro, South African Ra

      • by Qwertie (797303)
        I didn't buy any mainstream music for the past few years because Amazon won't sell music in Canada and I'm boycotting iTunes entirely.

        But then a friend referred me to a company willing to take my money, 7digital [7digital.com]. Oddly, they don't show up in the first page of Google results for "Buy music in Canada".
    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Internet changed the rules, and instead of embracing and adapting to the change, they are just denying that it happened. And that is killing their future, they are forcing people (specially their would-be consumers, the ones that are willing to pay) to watch for alternatives, and adopting that into the global culture.

      And trying to push that state of denial, lobbying for laws to force it and trying to export them everywhere, could not only make them fall, but entire governments, or define a new kind of slav

    • I moved to US only recently (about a year ago), so I couldn't access Hulu or some books on Amazon, but "Frustrarion"? Seriously?

      Hulu -- didn't even know what it is, or even that it exists.

      Buying ebooks from Amazon -- OK, you do know that some people speak languages other than English, do you? For those who *want* the book in English, there are plently of DRM-free eBook readers and you can just pirate the content. For the most interesting stuff at least. You wouldn't but Kindle, if you are not in US, that is

  • I don't care, I download my ebooks,music, films and series from torrents and eMule. This has the advantage that I can read the ebooks on both my phone and my tablet and share them with someone else without havving to deal with DRM, and watch my video without being pestered with unskippable commercials or warnings from foreign police organizations like the FBI. And The Pirate Bay does not do any geoblocking.
    • by dmacleod808 (729707) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:18AM (#40698103)
      eMule? Seriously dude?
      • by johanw (1001493)
        The biggest advantage of eMule is that the search function is also completely decentralized if you're on the KAD network. So blocking central search engines like TPB, as they do in some countries, will be ineffective.
    • by Sentrion (964745)

      I don't care...without being pestered with unskippable...warnings from foreign police organizations like the FBI...

      You mean you don't take notice of FBI warnings? How dare you show such contempt for the global jurisdiction of the US Government!

      • by Applekid (993327)

        I don't care...without being pestered with unskippable...warnings from foreign police organizations like the FBI...

        You mean you don't take notice of FBI warnings? How dare you show such contempt for the global jurisdiction of the US Government!

        If your country bends over and accepts extradition requests from the US, that's their fault.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:52AM (#40697735) Journal

    Well, I endorse the intent of this, but the main reason the free flow of digital goods is blocked by region is because of the balkanized licensing of media. Geo-IP blocking is a consequence of this, not a cause of it.

    If you want global viewing of content or global distribution of software, then the balkanization is the problem. For media such as movies and music, the solution would involve getting rid of local licensing and extortion by local media groups - good luck with that. For software, there are language and legal issues which differ from country to country, and a software maker may prefer to have these handled by a "distributor/importer" who gouges the consumer. In some cases, the "importer/distributor" is actually a local subsidiary of the overseas supplier, but still adds extra cost.

    • by FlynnMP3 (33498)

      Well, I endorse the intent of this, but the main reason the free flow of digital goods is blocked by region is because of the balkanized licensing of media. Geo-IP blocking is a consequence of this, not a cause of it.

      Agreed with everything. This is hardly common knowledge though. It should be more transparent. Itemize the charges for regional fees/taxes and this will get the regular public aware of the issue and then maybe something can start to be done about it. As you say though, good luck with that. The interested parties don't want that kind of information revealed because it precisely gives the consumers something to target.

      Education is the answer and it will take a long time.

    • by dk90406 (797452)
      While balkanization is part of the problem, it if not the complete picture. The other part is greed (or rather, adjusting you prices to what you think the local market can support.). Buying this DVD in US? 8$. In Denmark? 14$. In china? 3$). If I buy from online software vendors, their european stores are more expansive than the use stores. Lokalization/translation and tax can not explain the whole difference.

      Granted, some online software stores give the same price globally, and even let me choose if I want

      • by mark-t (151149)

        While balkanization is part of the problem, it if not the complete picture. The other part is greed

        Yeah.... good luck solving *THAT* problem.

      • by westlake (615356)

        Lokalization/translation and tax can not explain the whole difference.

        But population may.

        China 1.3 billion. US 312 million. Australia 23 million. Denmark 6 million

    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      Indeed. If you can't get digital goods in one country, it's almost always because a local entity owns the copyright there and the Berne convention makes it illegal for US organizations like Amazon and Hulu to export to you. To Amazon, this is a lost sale, but it's better for them in the long run to institute these Geo-IP blocks than deal with the legal fallout from breaking copyright law.

      It's your local rights holders who are the problem, not the overseas distributors.

    • by mpe (36238)
      For software, there are language and legal issues which differ from country to country, and a software maker may prefer to have these handled by a "distributor/importer" who gouges the consumer.

      This may be the claim, but how often is software from the likes of Microsoft available in anything other than "US English"? (Including the EULA.)
    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      But isn't that the so-called "free market" at play? After all, only a conpiracy theorist would describe the latest global criminal bankster criminal conspiracy of rigging the markets --- that LIBOR scam (which began at least around 2005, well before the global meltdown which is what they are now trying to claim was the "charitable origin" for it) --- as such!
    • by jvillain (546827)
      Couldn't agree more. Wouldn't be great if this made it into the TPP rather than the crap we are going to get.
  • While not really explained by the summary, the key issue is local business shielding the international businesses.

    So for example (hypothetically), I want to order to something from Nike US because the product is not available in Australia - but I continually get re-directed back to the Australian store (and just have the US store completely blocked) ... annoying and they lose my business.

    BUt more importantly for them, it is a way of forcing me to purchase at local prices form local distributors rather than

    • by berashith (222128)

      this is true for airline tickets also . My wife is from Austria, so we used to fly to Europe often enough. A round trip from Vienna to the states is much MUCH cheaper than a round trip from the states to Vienna. We would try to go to the Austrian version of the carriers sites, but would get redirected back to the US prices when it was time to buy. We almost started planning for yearly trips the "wrong" way, 50 weeks apart , so we could technically originate in Europe, but the efforts were going to outweigh

      • Although I appreciate the frustration that comes from shopping for flights, I have to point out that this describes one of the basic fallacies of worth. Value is not inherent goods or services; it is inherent in the perception of those goods and services. Most people are going to agree, after a few moments of consideration, that an equal volume of water isn’t going to be worth the same thing to just any person, in any situation, at any time. The same is true for your airline ticket. We must expect
      • by Sentrion (964745)

        Some suggestions:

        1. Access the sites through a proxy server based in the target country. Then you won't be blocked.
        2. See if you can hire a local travel agent. They can probably get even bigger discounts and sometimes can find other carriers with even better prices.
        3. Use the services of a host-country based "personal shopper" to conduct the transaction on your behalf if the foreign company has a problem with your IP address, mailing address, shipping address, your bank or your currency.

        Naturally these

    • This is one reason why I, as a libertarian, oppose tariffs universally.

      Basically your country views us the same way many here view China.

      It's harder to compete in the global economy when say, the steel you need to build cars with costs a lot more here due to tariffs, whereas its cheaper in another country who doesn't have tariffs. Sure you can protect a few steel industry jobs, but you do so at the expense of many more jobs. Contrary to popular left wing opinion, corporations love tariffs; it gets rid of th

    • by mpe (36238)
      So for example (hypothetically), I want to order to something from Nike US because the product is not available in Australia - but I continually get re-directed back to the Australian store (and just have the US store completely blocked) ... annoying and they lose my business.

      There are a couple of real issues involved here. Shoe sizing systems are not always the same between different countries and a US company might not know how much to charge for shipping.
  • it created significant barriers to the free flow of goods and services

    If a government or another 3rd entity is implementing the block, then it's a barrier between Hulu/Amazon and you. If Hulu blocks you for whatever reason, it's just them refusing to serve you.

    In the case of ad-supported TV, it kinda doesn't make sense for Hulu to show you ads for stuff you won't buy. Or am I missing something? As for Amazon, it's plainly their loss.

    • Not quite right. It's a pseudo-govermental organization trying to get their way. Or, if you want to look at another angle, it's a group of businesses banding together trying to get their way in a market. In the old days I believe that was called a "trust".

    • If Hulu blocks you for whatever reason, it's just them refusing to serve you.

      Say Microsoft is implementing the block because the government has informed Microsoft that allowing Australians to buy certain applications would violate Australian law. Who would be responsible for the block in this case?

      • by Sentrion (964745)

        Either way, it's a decision for the Australian government, and they have the power to make it work with most major multinational companies, just the same way the US government looks out of US business interests in other countries. The US was even able to get Swiss banks to hand over the names and address of American tax dodgers, something that they couldn't do for decades. The reason is the ability to put pressure on multinational firms who want to do business in your country. Naturally, if an American w

        • Naturally, the Aussies may make special exceptions when they want to keep their citizens from accessing specific US sites.

          It's not merely "specific US sites", unless you're counting every online store that sells motion pictures or video games whose publisher hasn't paid off the Australian Classification Board [wikipedia.org] as "specific US sites".

    • by bug1 (96678)

      If Hulu blocks you for whatever reason, it's just them refusing to serve you.

      Yea, thats fair enough, but thats not really the issue here, the issue is when GeoIP is being used to introduce discrimatory buisness practices.

      Companies are refusing to serve you at the front desk like everyone else, but is willing to serve you "out the back" if you beg them.

      Take an example of the top line visual studio, its cheaper for people in Australia to pay someone to fly to the US to buy it, give them a few weeks in vegas, and fly them home rather than buy it from Australia via the internet.

      Really i

    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      It's not a case of Hulu refusing to serve you, if you're not in the US the Berne convention makes it illegal for them to do so.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:55AM (#40697777) Homepage Journal

    This is one of those areas where you can see what the so-called "free marketeers" really think. If you *really* believe in the free market, IP blocking, region codes, etc. should be right out because when it comes down to brass tacks they are simply artificial price controls on a marketplace that no longer have natural time and space restrictions in place. As usual it isn't about core beliefs, it's about what gets the most money in their fat hands.

    If they want the world to be "free market" they need to stop being hypocritical and take the good with the bad. You can't go running to big brother every time it doesn't go your way and the outcome of your philosophy doesn't match up with what your perfect world looks like.

    Yeah, I know it is way too much to ask.

    • by Tjp($)pjT (266360)
      The free market also accounts for cost. If it costs more to sell somewhere, shopping, transit fees, etc. licensing agreements with the content providers included, you add those to the cost to buy in that area. Software comes with support issues as well. It could well be that in order to meet the requirements for service (like the whole one year versus two year current snafus) the cost is higher in another region. It is not because Apple or some other seller decided they don't like Australia (or some other r
  • by eddy (18759) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:56AM (#40697801) Homepage Journal

    Companies love to talk about free markets, but they hate to operate on them. Free to them means not the free flow of goods and services, it means the freedom to do whatever they like.

    Steam for instance, topical, even has two tiers for europe; western and eastern, with different prices and catalogues. Imagine if they had two tiers for the US! If I go to Steam this very minute, in their "Flash Sale" there are four games listed. Well, normally. Currently one of the boxes say "We're sorry. This game is not available in your region".

    They're allowed to produce products whereever in the world it's the cheapest for them -- which is fine -- HOWEVER they are then ALLOWED to segment markets so that consumers can't enjoy the same freedoms. Politicians bend over to give corps the legal tools to enforce these arbitrary restrictions on trade. Is it any wonder that we revile them?

    Sorry for the ranting, but I don't have time to rewrite.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sorry for the ranting, but I don't have time to rewrite.

      are you sure you're not giving us a lower-quality rant based on region?

    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      That's a silly rant. Parallel importers [wikipedia.org] make good business doing exactly what you seem to think is illegal. The only thing that prevents consumers from doing the same are convenience and legalized trade barriers (tarrifs and import duties), which are usually justified on the basis of protecting local jobs. If you want to buy dirt cheap products direct from the factory with no duties, convince your government to sign a free trade agreement with China. The Chinese would be thrilled.

      But this is talking about d

      • by KiloByte (825081)

        To establish free trade in digital goods, you'd have to overhaul the entire international copyright system, not a simple undertaking.

        I think both Dwayne Hicks and Ellen Ripley voiced a plan that would fit here well.

      • by mpe (36238)
        But this is talking about digital goods, which are covered by the Berne Convention, circa. 1886. Effectively all international trade of digital goods is illegal under the Berne convention. If Steam can't sell you something in your country, then they probably don't have the legal right to. To establish free trade in digital goods, you'd have to overhaul the entire international copyright system, not a simple undertaking.

        Or you could simply declare that later treaties such as NAFTA or Maastricht supercede t
    • by mpe (36238)
      Companies love to talk about free markets, but they hate to operate on them. Free to them means not the free flow of goods and services, it means the freedom to do whatever they like.
      Steam for instance, topical, even has two tiers for europe; western and eastern, with different prices and catalogues.


      In this context "whatever the like" includes breaking the law.

      Imagine if they had two tiers for the US!

      The real surprise is that they don't. Authorities in the EU tend to be for more agressive about persui
  • Australia's government will probably reject this. Geographic IP blocking is already necessary to protect Australians from being able to buy video games that Australia has not classified for elements objectionable to parents.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Australia's government will probably reject this. Geographic IP blocking is already necessary to protect Australians from being able to buy video games that Australia has not classified for elements objectionable to parents.

      You;re right that Australia's government will reject that theory now we have an R18 rating ratified by parliament.

      Yep, the whole process worked, Michael Atkinson was forced to stand down over voter dissent and R18 was passed.

      Amazing isn't it.

      As for parents, they've been buying violent games for little Johnny (the generic child, not our former Prime Minister) for longer than the discussion has even been in Parliament because they think their child can handle it. Yep, violent video games have been ar

      • I'm not talking about games that would be rated R18. I'm talking about games whose (smaller) publishers have not paid the Australian Classification Board [classification.gov.au] to rate them, even if they would have ended up rated G or PG.
        • I'm not talking about games that would be rated R18. I'm talking about games whose (smaller) publishers have not paid the Australian Classification Board [classification.gov.au] to rate them, even if they would have ended up rated G or PG.

          The article is also, not talking about these games.

          Why does the latest Gears of Bore or Call of Halo cost 3 to 4 times as much in Australia, legally sold from Australian retail stores under Australian laws WITH AUSTRALIAN RATINGS than the exact same games in Europe or the United States (which it is 100% LEGAL TO IMPORT).

          But nice try to dance around the point of price disparity for exactly the same product and grasp upon ideas that are not only horribly out of date but also incorrect (the laws do not

  • One of the dumbest solutions to the problem I have ever heard. If you make it illegal for iTunes to not sell something they sell in the US in Australia then if they can't license it for Aus they'll just have to remove it for everyone; sounds cunning. Except, a company that doesn't sell in Australia at all can't be sued, and certainly couldn't be pursued, for not allowing Australians to use their site. Netflix would shut up the Aus office and a new company AusFlix founded by them would service the Aus market
    • by Sentrion (964745)

      The problem with your AusFlix argument is that in international business the governments of nations don't just care about the legal entity operating within their borders, but also the relationship the legal entity has to other companies and individuals outside the country For instance, the UBS branches operating within the US are completely separate legal entities set up to serve the American market, but the US government was able to put pressure on UBS in Switzerland to reveal the names, addresses, and ac

  • by CAIMLAS (41445)

    What makes them think things should always be the same price, everywhere?

    Sure, we're talking about essentially the same thing, but there's a reason why things cost different amounts in various places. Avacadoes are cheaper during avacado season, and cherries/apples/pears/etc. during their respective seasons. They're cheaper near where they are grown. Sometimes, they're not even available due to lack of demand.

    It's simple economics. There's little/no reason why globally universal prices should be in place -

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gedeco (696368) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:18AM (#40698111)

      They're cheaper near where they are grown. Sometimes, they're not even available due to lack of demand.

      It's simple economics. There's little/no reason why globally universal prices should be in place - it's an asinine idea.

      Sure, this makes sense for the price of Avacadoes, but not for a ebook or a movie you can buy online.

      So where is the problem?

    • by mjwx (966435)

      What makes them think things should always be the same price, everywhere?

      Sure, we're talking about essentially the same thing, but there's a reason why things cost different amounts in various places. Avacadoes are cheaper during avacado season, and cherries/apples/pears/etc. during their respective seasons. They're cheaper near where they are grown. Sometimes, they're not even available due to lack of demand.

      It's simple economics. There's little/no reason why globally universal prices should be in place - it's an asinine idea.

      Because you're an idiot. Avocado's are real goods requiring real transportation from the fields to the markets.

      Digital media has no such constraints. The goods served out of the same server in Europe have the same cost regardless of if they are served to France, Spain or Germany. Why does the price differ for these three countries?

      Same as serving them from Japan, NA or Europe into any country in the world. It's an extremely asinine idea to think that digital goods have the same inherent transport cos

    • by C0R1D4N (970153)
      I shouldnt be blocked from buying avocadoes from closer to the source where they are cheaper and having them sent to me.
  • Easy solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:10AM (#40698013)

    Go out and purchase a VPS hosted in the data center of your choice in the country of your choice.

    I do this currently, granted it is not to get around GEO IP Blocking, rather for a centrally hosted box I can connect my roaming devices to via VPN and route all my traffic through it.

    I like the BBC, and yes I could go TPB route if I wanted, I can also pay $10 a month for a VPS hosted in a data center in the UK, which would allow me to watch BBC streamed programs without having to wait for them to show up on BBC America. That, and well, who needs ATT/Verizon/whomever snooping on your traffic and profiting from it..

    • And when you have to put in your shipping and billing address...?
      • by BitterOak (537666)

        And when you have to put in your shipping and billing address...?

        I think the author was talking about digital media transferred through the Internet, not physical goods. As far as the billing address goes, use PayPal or similar.

        • by Kalriath (849904)

          Most of those services actually block you if your PayPal account is not registered in their country. Personally, my approach is to search Google for a local hotel and use that as the address. I won't detail how exactly I get around credit card issuer geo-blocking for obvious reasons (namely not wanting the dicks that geo-block to work out a way around it).

  • While I also dislike geoip blocking I think that we can fight them much more effectively by technological means (like proxies) than by further regulation of the Internet.

  • I hate how I can't access some sites, pay more for some services (eg steam, adobe) or get inferior counterparts eg (low quality steams).

    This would kinda screw up agreements where IP isnt licensed for use in Australia or say censored/not released here yet but it would sure make a lot of Australians happy.

  • (Due to legislation in your geographical area that requires us not to block users in certain geographical areas based on their apparent geographical area, we cannot host or advertise our services in your geographical area and this comment is thus not available in your geographical area. We are sorry for the inconvenience and redundancy.)

  • by DaneM (810927)

    Now, if they'll band this in the UK, I'll be able to watch Dr. Who on BBC's website, instead of having to search it out on a more "questionable" site. (/wishful-thinking)

  • The people trying to legislate it don't get it. You can't legislate what happens in someone else's country. If you want what is in that country then you may need to move there.

  • One work-around that already exists is to hire an American or other foreign "personal shopper". You can also access sites directly through a US based proxy server. But even if you get access to the blocked site that doesn't mean the retailer will ship to your Australian address or accept your Australian currency, credit card, etc.. Again, the personal shopper becomes the solution. They can even package and consolidate multiple orders from multiple businesses as one single shipment to save on transportat

  • by J'raxis (248192)

    You want to pass a law in Australia banning a foreign company, over whom you have no jurisdiction, from banning users from your country.

    Good luck with that.

  • Oh yes, because as everyone knows, passing a law in Australia causes other countries to follow it. Seriously? They think they can pass a bill in their country that forces an American company like Hulu to obey it and start streaming to Australia? Apparently they don't know how the world works. Now if they meant it would only effect things the opposite direction, well Australia doesn't really sell anything significant to outside countries that's geoblocked so it'd be pretty darn pointless.
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @12:26PM (#40701197)
    Don't get your hopes up, given that the Aussie government has been active in helping the Assange* persecution.

    Though as a USian, I have to point out I don't think they've yet joined in our extra-judicial citizen-killing.

    * - Yes, he's kind of a dick; doesn't justify meddling in the rights and justice systems of three sovereign countries.
  • Get a proxy or VPN account with a US provider. Hire a remailing service in New Hampshire. (one that gives a street address, not box number address) Get a US based Visa debit card.

    Join the Virtual US!

    YMMV, and you then must pay the shipping at consumer rates for hard goods, and then customs and import duties as required, and any local regional taxes on purchased materials above customs and duties fees, for example in Washington State we have a "use tax" on goods purchased out of state and brought into th

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