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New Zealand ISP's Anti-Geoblocking Service Makes Waves 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-it-up dept.
angry tapir writes New Zealanders and Australians are often blocked from using cheap streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu and instead at the mercy of local content monopolies for popular shows such as Game of Thrones. However, a New Zealand ISP, Slingshot, has caused a stir by making a previously opt-in service called 'Global Mode' a default for its customers. The new service means that people in NZ don't need to bother with VPNs or setting up proxies if they want to sign up to Netflix — they can just visit the site. The service has also caused a stir in Australia where the high price for digital goods, such as movies from the iTunes store, is a constant source of irritation for consumers.
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New Zealand ISP's Anti-Geoblocking Service Makes Waves

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  • Tits and swords (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:00AM (#47398741)

    You're not missing anything if you don't see GoT. It's just tits and swords.

    • by fey000 (1374173) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:14AM (#47398859)

      You're not missing anything if you don't see GoT. It's just tits and swords.

      Paraphrase: You're not missing anything interesting. It's just the most awesome thing in the world and the fourth most awesome thing in the world. All the time.

      • The books were good

        The hbo version is tits and swords. Demographically there are lots of twenty and early thirty something's now and most tv is made for them. Lots of sex, violence. Even the netflix original shows are made for that demographic

        • I thought it was a fairly faithful adaptation, but I admit I got bored some time in Season 2. The pacing in the book can be slow at times, but when transferred as-is to a visual medium it's amazingly tedious.
        • by wolja (449971)

          The books were absolute shite.

          For once the screen version was true to the books.

    • by Selur (2745445)

      "It's just tits and swords."
      Swords? Who needs swords, when they can have a dragon?
      -> Tits&Dragons are better than Dungeon&Dragons ;)

    • by westlake (615356) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:29AM (#47399439)

      You're not missing anything if you don't see GoT. It's just tits and swords.

      and the best writing, performance, and production values of any television series currently on air. List of awards and nominations received by Game of Thrones [wikipedia.org]

      • I lost my reverence for the television industry honoring itself long ago. Moreover the series is a training film for misogyny. The world would be a better place with it off the air, no matter how many awards it wins.
      • by Gothmolly (148874)

        Your two statements do not support each other.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Game of Thrones is broadcast free-to-air, over-the-air in New Zealand.

      The real issue is not GoT but that New Zealand is geolocked off from the prime streaming services on the one hand but on the other hand has been too small of a market to have any of those same interests bother addressing the lack of worthwhile local alternatives, a situation made worse by the satellite pay TV operator locking up the rights for much of the content that is available on streaming services elsewhere.

    • There's a Swedish website that lets you find things like GoT when they're not available in your country.

    • by bmo (77928)

      >tits and swords.

      Since when are these items bad?

      --
      BMO

    • You had me at "tits and swords". Actually, you had me at "tits".

  • I wish, some providers did that here in Austria, where I live.
    It's the same story in many ways.

  • by mtthwbrnd (1608651) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:02AM (#47398759)

    it is the same as stealing money from old women at knifepoint.

  • by XnavxeMiyyep (782119) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:03AM (#47398769)
    The Internet should be global.
    • by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:20AM (#47398899)
      It is. What the problem is is Hollywood and their media licensing rules. They're the ones that decided that streaming to an additional country costs more. Netflix didn't decide that all on their own for no reason.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:40AM (#47399031)

        Hollywood and their media licensing rules.

        See this is where we went wrong, allowing Hollywood to dictate anything beyond what happens in their films (let's face it, they shouldn't be allowed that, either).

        • So they should just make the films and then after that any TV channel or internet site can license it to themselves for free because they have no control over it? All their money comes from licensing it to theaters and cable channels with a tiny bit from DVD sales.
          • No one said free, but in this day and age, they should be playing globally from the moment something is released. In fact, copyright should stipulate availability in order to be protected, given the ease of digital distribution and all.
      • It's not just hollywood. It's everyone. Google even lets you stop people from viewing your views on non-desktop devices and it's amazing how many people choose to do this. I've not seen anything that implies new corporations care about you any more than the old ones.

        If netflix were free to any content to anyone they would but they'd still set up regions so they could make people in other countries pay more.
      • by agm (467017)

        It's their right to do this though. It's their content, paid for by them and produced by them. They should be able to put any restrictions they like on where they can sell it. I do not believe though that they should be allowed to prevent people from using their own personal equipment to copy bits to other equipment. Copyright shouldn't exist.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I do not believe though that they should be allowed to prevent people from using their own personal equipment to copy bits to other equipment.

          But "it's their right to do this though. It's their content, paid for by them and produced by them. They should be able to put any restrictions they like".

          c.f. Yourself [slashdot.org]

      • Not entirely true.

        Terrestrial TV companies (RTE in Ireland and BBC in UK) have agreements with the regulators to give them first shot at airing TV shows in the country. It can often be on their behest that these shows are not available to stream from Netflix and Hulu. It took years to even be able to get Netflix in Ireland in the first place!

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by hsmith (818216)
      Aussies have voted themselves high taxes on all goods. If they are tired of paying the high taxes on them, well golly do something about it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:02AM (#47399185)

        Aussies have voted themselves high taxes on all goods. If they are tired of paying the high taxes on them, well golly do something about it.

        Care to name those specific taxes, Mr Expert?

        The price differential is due to supply and demand, specifically the lack of supply/competition. The local stores have a monopoly on distribution through import agreements with manufacturers which lets them charge what the fuck they want, the retail prices contain a 100-200% mark-up over the actual wholesale cost, including tax, and it is pure profit.

        • by mjwx (966435) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:51PM (#47404241)

          Aussies have voted themselves high taxes on all goods. If they are tired of paying the high taxes on them, well golly do something about it.

          Care to name those specific taxes, Mr Expert?

          This. There are no additional taxes on digital media beyond sales tax.

          As an Australian, I import all my games and movies on disc from places like Hong Kong and the UK (I also buy my books from there too). I pay the UK/HK prices plus shipping and its still cheaper. Even if I had to pay tax (an order under A$900 is tax free) I'd just have to add 10% and I'd still be making a huge saving compared to buying it locally.... and this is 100% legal, it's even legal for an Australian company to drop ship media products and pay local taxes on the transaction.

          So I'd also like Mr Expert to point out where these high taxes are?

          Australia is amongst one of the lowest taxed nations in the western world (we pay more federal income tax, but no state income taxes like the US and Canada). High costs are a legacy of a time when the AUD was not strong (around US$0.5-0.6) and when we were so isolate we had no choice but to pay stupendously inflated prices. Isolation is not an issue anymore and the AUD has been strong for almost a decade.

          The price differential is due to supply and demand, specifically the lack of supply/competition. The local stores have a monopoly on distribution through import agreements with manufacturers which lets them charge what the fuck they want, the retail prices contain a 100-200% mark-up over the actual wholesale cost, including tax, and it is pure profit.

          With media, it isn't the stores charging the high prices, it's the distributors. Margins on media are razor thin and when it comes to Apple, Google and other online distributors, they are not local stores but still are beholden to the whims of the "rights holders".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        you do realise that taxes alone (10% is hardly high by the way) in no way explain a 40% increase in online prices

  • Great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:06AM (#47398797) Journal

    But how well will this work when IPv6 becomes ubiquitous?

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      You can still perform NAT over IPv6, or set up a more intelligent proxy if your data stream carries information that could unmask the remote endpoint. There will be no difference.
  • Will local rights holders sue?

    What about stuff that you need to get SKY TV for?

    What about stuff that has import taxes?

    • by Sique (173459) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:18AM (#47398883) Homepage
      Geo-locking content has been declared illegal in New Zealand, thus the rights holders don't have any stand to sue.
      • What's betting rights holders go nuclear and mandate NZ IP block blacklisting or they'll pull their content from the streaming services?
      • Geoblocking and all the unnecessary middlemen that try to use it to secure their artificial geographic monopolies need to die if they refuse to compete globally.

        To be fair to local online vendors though, there would need to be an international standard for sales taxes such as one harmonized rate per country so international vendors would at least not need to deal with the countless regional variants within countries when charging foreign taxes. Another possibility would be to let financial institutions char

      • by westlake (615356)

        Geo-locking content has been declared illegal in New Zealand

        New Zealand isn't a country.

        It is a Hollywood back lot complete with tour guides. Film and TV Theme Tours [tourism.net.nz]

        With a population of 4 million, New Zealand's value as a media market is less than 1/4 that of metropolitan New York City.

      • by gronofer (838299)

        Geo-locking content has been declared illegal in New Zealand, thus the rights holders don't have any stand to sue.

        I'm surprised the studios haven't forced technical counter-measures by now, i.e., making Netflix et. al. blacklist the proxy servers / VPNs from access to their streaming servers.

    • by PPH (736903)

      local rights holders

      IOW, suckers.

      Back when it cost real money to distribute product in smaller markets, they might have had a viable business model. But today, that is no longer the case. The marginal cost to distribute a digital product in NZ is zero. And the cost to distribute a physical good is what it takes to throw it in a UPS/FedEx box and load it on an airplane.

      Whoever paid good money to secure exclusive rights to provide a zero value service is an idiot. Actually, NZ elected officials are the idiots. Because they are

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:08AM (#47398821)

    Geo-blocking is a practice that needs to stop anyway, because it makes no sense. Take Steam as an example.

    Up until two or three years ago, there were a good number of people who used proxies to buy content not from their region on Steam - this was particularly important for Germans (who are served the "low violence" version of games by default) and Australians/New Zealanders (who were far overcharged compared to the US/UK and could use a proxy to buy stuff from the US Steam store cheaper than they could in Aus/NZ). There was one problem with this system, though. Most publishers sold games on Steam's Russian store for far cheaper than they did on the US or UK stores - a friend of mine bought a 4-pack of copies of Dead Island (back when that was a new-ish game and the 4-pack was going for upwards of $60 on the US store) from Russia for like $20.

    Then, Valve started cracking down on cross-region purchases, making it so that you could still add games from other regions but could not actually play them until your IP was detected as being in one of those regions. The problem was that it was applied so that more expensive regions had fewer restrictions - US-bought games can be played anywhere, as can AUS/NZ ones, but games purchased from Russia or a few other regions can't be played outside of those specific regions. This means that if you're from the US and go on vacation in Russia, you can play Counter-Strike GO while in Russia, but if you're Russian and go on vacation to the US you can't play CS:GO while in the US.

    It's a ridiculous double-standard, and a counter to geo-blocking would remove a lot of it.

    • by kav2k (1545689) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:22AM (#47398917)

      A couple of points.

      First, those restrictions have recently been kicked up a notch in ridiculousness. Some publishers now disallow gift copies in those "cheaper" regions - presumably, to stop such cross-region trading, but you can't even gift the game to someone within the region.

      Second, it's important to remember that region restrictions are entirely up to the publisher. As far as I can tell, Steam more or less mandates cheaper prices for Russian region, but adding restrictions is entirely publisher's decision. For instance, no digital copy of a Valve game was ever subject to those restrictions (retail is another matter though). Most indies don't opt for regional versions.

    • You know that other currencies are worth other amounts of money in USD on the exchange, right? Because it doesn't seem like you know that. Russia would be the exception but it costs a lot of money to even just change the purchase into another currency. Then it costs a lot to pay taxes properly in that country (in the rare case that they choose to do that). Then they have to pay for phone and e-mail support staff for that country. There are costs to maintaining a presence in another country and it's ref
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:49AM (#47399091)

        There is no "presence" in other countries in most cases. It's certainly not a requirement. Most of the "indie" games on steam have no "presence" in say Australia, and yet the price in Australia is not [US Price] * ($AU/$US) in AUD or just [US Price] in USD.

        It has nothing to do with "costs to maintaining and presence in another country". It is solely due to "that's what Xians are willing to pay for the game", which unsurprisingly pisses people off since most people don't like being charged more than someone else for no reason other than the seller thinks they are dumb enough to pay more.

        • Most of the "indie" games on steam have no "presence" in say Australia

          I thought the publisher (or the self-publishing developer) needed to at leats pay for a rating from the Australian Classification Board before a video game could be sold in Australia.

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            Sure, if they wanted to sell it "in Australia". But since they don't and instead just have it available on things like gog.com outside of Australia, they don't have to worry about that.

            • by mythosaz (572040)

              You mean, if they want to sell it in a market that has a meaningful presence - then they have to deal with local classification boards.

              Self-publishing is always an option, but rarely works if you're a complete and total upstart independent.

    • Most publishers sold games on Steam's Russian store for far cheaper than they did on the US or UK stores - a friend of mine bought a 4-pack of copies of Dead Island (back when that was a new-ish game and the 4-pack was going for upwards of $60 on the US store) from Russia for like $20.

      Then, Valve started cracking down on cross-region purchases, making it so that you could still add games from other regions but could not actually play them until your IP was detected as being in one of those regions. The problem was that it was applied so that more expensive regions had fewer restrictions - US-bought games can be played anywhere, as can AUS/NZ ones, but games purchased from Russia or a few other regions can't be played outside of those specific regions. This means that if you're from the US and go on vacation in Russia, you can play Counter-Strike GO while in Russia, but if you're Russian and go on vacation to the US you can't play CS:GO while in the US.

      It's a ridiculous double-standard, and a counter to geo-blocking would remove a lot of it.

      It makes perfect sense, since the market for these games is massively skewed. Many customers are only interested in particular titles; they want GTA V and don't regard "Gangster Sim III" as a viable alternative. Since the publishers have a monopoly over their titles, they can set the prices to whatever the market will bear, regardless of how much it costs them to produce each unit (which, FYI, is $0 since the game's already finished and released).

      If the market were allowed to decide, ie. if it was legal for

    • by Arker (91948)
      Unfortunately this is exactly what you should expect with the likes of Steam. DRM is DRM is DRM, no matter how you sugar coat it.
    • by taustin (171655)

      I know I'll get modded down for this. but I find it hard to sympathize with someone who goes on vacation on another continent and wants to play computer games in their hotel.

      Sever allergy to sunshine must be more common than I thought.

    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      I heard a nice argument supporting region locking on steam. While I personally would love that there just wasn't a difference in price, the argument was actually reasonable.

      It goes like this: some areas in the world get a cheaper price because these are areas where there may be lower income for the population (it makes no sense to charge 50€ for a game in a region where minimum wage is something like 100€, for example). To give you an example, it would make no sense to try to sell games in Venezue

      • by ewibble (1655195)

        Its an argument to make money yes, but I feel it is unfair, It arises from a monopoly position, a monopoly will charge as much as the market can bare, and that is exactly what you are describing. With healthy competition this can never happen. An I item costs a certain amount to produce, so if you start selling it for any higher than cost + reasonable return, then someone else will be quite happy to supply it for cheaper.

        Yes I understand that the vast majority of the cost developing IP, and the marginal cos

        • by Ardyvee (2447206)

          But how do you solve the competition problem in the video game space when what people wants is Call of Duty [latest installment] or GTAV?

          It is very hard to do anything resembling competition in video game space. Battlefield and Call of Duty, two high-profile shooters, don't really compete with each other. And there is barely any other Call of Duty-esque game that is anything around the required size (in terms of reach/popularity). Furthermore, all it takes is for the games to be released with a year between

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        It goes like this: some areas in the world get a cheaper price because these are areas where there may be lower income for the population (it makes no sense to charge 50â for a game in a region where minimum wage is something like 100â, for example). To give you an example, it would make no sense to try to sell games in Venezuela under the same price as everywhere else because the market would be too small.

        The counter-counter argument is also easy: why shouldn't you pay 2nd or 3rd world prices for

        • by Ardyvee (2447206)

          In the given example (steam), there is barely anything from most third world countries. At the very least, game companies tend to be based on first world countries and hire first world citizens.

          Now, I do agree with you that if you reduce cost, then either you lower prices or you can't complain when someone else sells a competing product for cheaper. But before asking for X country's prices, I would beg for a close examination to actual costs of production and transport. I would also beg for a close examinat

    • Some of it is based on the morality laws in the country. What's acceptable around sex and violence varies from country to country. Companies like Steam (as well as the publishers on Steam) have to play ball if they want to be able to operate in that region. So you'll get some countries where you can have all the tits you want, but all that blood needs to be green. Or you can show the nude insides of someone, but not nudes of the outside of the body.

      Some small time indie version of Steam could probably just

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:14AM (#47398857)

    It's not a Geo-block designed to prevent Australians and New Zealanders from accessing the content, it's a whitelist designed to allow only US residents. The pricing in various other countries also varies greatly.

    There is no valid argument as to why New Zealanders are paying much more for the same content as others in the world. We shouldnÃ(TM)t tolerate it.

    The reason they have to pay more is that the producers think they can extract more money that way. One way to counteract that is to stop buying their wares.

  • South Africa (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:32AM (#47398979)

    South Africa needs this from an ISP.

    We get raped on fee's, and other charges that *literally* don't exist anywhere else.

  • It will be changed real soon now and some low level guy will be let go.

    • At least it works now. I tried using Global Mode when it was optional but it never worked. I just watched some Family Guy on Hulu to test it and it works fine.

    • It will be changed real soon now and some low level guy will be let go.

      Hollywood is not in NZ and NZ doesn't get paid royalties on all those movies filmed in NZ, so they could give a rat's ass about forcing their own ISPs to jump through Hollywood hoops. Quite the opposite, in fact. Region locked downloads are illegal in NZ, so this change isn't just intentional, it's mandatory. (For some interpretation of mandatory compliance with the law.)

      • The NZ economy has benefited from Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong, Avatar and many other high budget movies where a significant part was made in New Zealand.

        I'd say that's more to do with Peter Jackson and James Cameron than the rest of Hollywood though.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The NZ economy has benefited from Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong, Avatar and many other high budget movies where a significant part was made in New Zealand.

          I'd say that's more to do with Peter Jackson and James Cameron than the rest of Hollywood though.

          That's actually not true - the movie subsidies we are paying (as taxpayers) have resulted in a net loss to the economy as was pointed out in 2010 - [www.stuff.co.nz] [stuff.co.nz]

  • Globalization (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HaaPoo (696098) on Monday July 07, 2014 @11:48AM (#47400041)
    It is very interesting that globalization is welcomed when reducing cost to produce and increasing the profit, but when it is issue of globalization on purchase price companies resist and try to stop it.
    • Touche. Consider the flip side though of having your income 'equalized' by globalization, outsourcing/global competition etc. Maybe it makes sense to have the whole world on a converged currency / value system rather than today's economic borders that preserve the status quo. I can't see it happening without some serious turmoil though. Rich countries have the most to lose while the 'great equalization' takes place.
  • by PAjamian (679137) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:42PM (#47404203)

    ... if the service (as I suspect) routes your traffic to a given IP from another IP in the same country, this could backfire as some services are actually better from outside the country, some examples:

    mlb.com (and other sports streaming services) which applies blackout restrictions if you're trying to watch games from inside the US or its territories. Watching baseball games from New Zealand, however, has no blackout restrictions.

    Purchasing goods from sites that apply sales tax if you're browsing from the same country that the site is based in (more far fetched, they usually apply sales tax according to shipping destination).

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