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Australian Consumer Group Wants Geo-IP Blocking Banned

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the I-bet-most-americans-agree dept.

The Internet 233

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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DON'T LIKE IT ?? MOVE TO THE US !! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697597)

We have it soooo good here !!

Re:DON'T LIKE IT ?? MOVE TO THE US !! (1)

mister2au (1707664) | about 2 years ago | (#40698167)

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

Re:DON'T LIKE IT ?? MOVE TO THE US !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698251)

Believe me, yes you do...

Re:DON'T LIKE IT ?? Buy from someone else. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699313)

The world is chock full of content. If somebody doesn't like selling to you or a group you belong to, perhaps it would be in your interest to react and take your business elsewhere. Don't enable such suckers. Say no to abuse!

Fuck Hulu, goto http://vodo.net/film/allfilms [vodo.net]
Fuck Amazon, goto http://gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org]

Re:DON'T LIKE IT ?? MOVE TO THE US !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699687)

Indeed, not living there makes it worth paying more :-)

Globalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697645)

There is a free world-market for multinationals but still a higly localized and bordered market for consumers buying the products from the multinationals. It's about time this gets fixed.

If trousers are less expensive in the US, why is it illegal for me to import them to the EU and sell them in masses?

Re:Globalism (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#40697661)

There is a free world-market for multinationals but still a higly localized and bordered market for consumers buying the products from the multinationals. It's about time this gets fixed.

If trousers are less expensive in the US, why is it illegal for me to import them to the EU and sell them in masses?

Because if God wanted you to have rights, he would have made you a financial instrument, not a puny flesh pod.

Re:Globalism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697805)

If they don't block national IPs, it has been argued that they're targeting the market (and need to abide by the local laws). If a country has any laws that are considered "unreasonable", then the multinationals may not want to abide by them.

Re:Globalism (5, Insightful)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40698215)

So the real problem is stupid laws. I would like to point fingers at some other country, but the US and US states are probably the world's worst offenders. Right now there's some guy serving a four year prison term in Florida for violating Florida's "obscenity" laws, but he never set food in Florida until an extradition order had him arrested in his home state of California and transported to Florida in a prison van to be tried by a jury of his non-peers. Why was this allowed? Because he had a p0rn site, his web hosting company used servers in Florida, and he mailed DVD's all across the country - including Florida. Now the material this guy produced WAS obscene, but if California did not see a reason to prosecute him then that should have been the end of the case unless he relocated to Florida to run his business.

"States Rights" sounds like some sort of great idea until you consider that the focus is on the right of the state over the rights of individuals. For instance, there is a myth that the Civil War was fought over slavery, but this is not true - it was fought over States Rights, such as the right to enslave their own people. Given that we live in an age of light-speed telecommunications, overnight shipping, a national highway system, and frequent flyer miles, the notion that every American needs to be intimately familiar with all of the laws, legal precedent, and nuance for how these laws are enforced in all 50 states while they go about their daily affairs is just no longer practical.

Maybe the US needs to overhaul the Constitution and reorganize. Somewhere between six and ten administrative regions might be more appropriate. After fixing our internal problems then we should tackle some of the nonsense with our international relations.

Re:Globalism (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 2 years ago | (#40698475)

    I hadn't heard of this case. Can you provide a link?

Re:Globalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698695)

Of course not. The onus is on the receiver of the argument to back up the speaker's assertions.

Re:Globalism (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#40699463)

"States Rights" sounds like some sort of great idea until you consider that the focus is on the right of the state over the rights of individuals.

Really, most of the people pushing "States' Rights" mean "right for the state to do what I want it to do" and squeal like a stuck pig when a state legalizes gay marriage or marijuana.

Sorry, doesn't wash (for the USA) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698773)

Why? Because US laws on the internet insist that they apply abroad over the internet.

Frustration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697663)

I was banned from the streaming archive of my home country's tv channel.
It's completely nonsense because no one but the people born there would watch their drama, news etc overseas.

Re:Frustration (2)

Rei (128717) | about 2 years ago | (#40699257)

I've seen a Sigur Rós video get blocked to viewers in Iceland. I mean, WTH?

Re:Frustration (2)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | about 2 years ago | (#40699407)

A short video about a Dutch athlete on the BBC site, blocked for Dutch viewers.

Australia can ban what they like (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697665)

It won't help, when the exact thing they are complaining about is what businesses *in other countries* are doing.

Re:Australia can ban what they like (3, Informative)

David Chappell (671429) | about 2 years ago | (#40698069)

It won't help, when the exact thing they are complaining about is what businesses *in other countries* are doing.

I was wondering about that too. It turns out the summary overemphasizes a few minor points of the article which the poster found interesting while ignoring the main point of the proposal. The meat of the proposal is to prohibit the common practice of charging Australian purchasers of digital goods delivered over the Internet about 50% more for no appearent reason.

If this were about foreign companies refusing to serve Australian customers, then I agree, there would be little they could do about it. But since these companies are already selling in the Australian market and would like to continue to do so, the Australian goverment has much more leverage.

Re:Australia can ban what they like (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698637)

Without national IP blocking, many companies would be found guilty of violating copyright by exceeding the terms of their licenses.

Author A produces a work.
Author A licenses it to Publisher B for production/sale in the US.
Author A licenses it to Publisher C for production/sale in Asia.
Author A licenses it to Publisher D for production/sale in Australia.
etc.

If the Publishers B, C & D don't do national IP filtering, and someone from the wrong region buys the copy they are licensed to sell in a *different* region, then they're guilty of copyright violation.

Forcing Author A to license the work to a single publisher for production/sale world-wide means that only large publishers with divisions and knowledge of laws world-wide could publish works.

Now, the issue of Australia having higher prices? That comes down to a number of factors, most of which are unknown to anyone but the companies involved. Some of them, though, include high import taxes, special legal requirements which apply *only* within Australia (such as mandatory game ratings which can actually *prevent* a work from being sold, not simply limit the number of outlets willing to stock it), etc.

I've seen people do the math on some items and discover that when import taxes are taken into account, the 50% price differential is actually as low as 20% or as high as 45%, depending on the particular object being imported. Some of that is, undoubtedly, a bit of 'padding' to account for currency fluctuations, and exchange fees, and some of it is probably an acknowledgement that they've already been pushed into the next 'price bracket', so they may as well round it up to the 'top' of that bracket. (A $19.99 item gets imported, and the additional costs raise the effective price to $21.54AU, they're probably going to decide to price it at $24.99AU.)

Making national IP blocking illegal won't fix the problem because because of the licensing issues mentioned above. The import issues are going to remain as long as the laws which cause them remain. Price point bracketing can account for a lot of the difference. But sometimes it's quite a bit more, and *that* needs to be looked at.

Click Agree. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699137)

All those porn sites that ask if you're over 18 because it would be illegal for someone underage to enter.

How do they manage that?

Oh, that's right, they ask that the person buying it be obeying the law.

Maybe they could do the same here.

Maybe if they're an internet company, they need to buy a license for distribution in the inherently international internet.

Re:Australia can ban what they like (1)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 2 years ago | (#40699327)

John Scalzi's editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, wrote a comment on one of Scalzi's blog posts explaining this in the context of ebooks:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/06/13/patrick-nielsen-hayden-explains-ebook-territorial-rights-for-you/ [scalzi.com]

If I remember phn's description correctly, in AC's example I'm not so sure B selling a copy of the work in Asia would be copyright infringement. I think it would be a violation of the contract between A and B.

Re:Australia can ban what they like (3, Interesting)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | about 2 years ago | (#40699487)

You're right, it's another example of why copyright is unsustainable in the world-wide digital age. I suppose you can prevent easy distribution of physical goods in the world but digital copyrighted items are impossible to contain within borders. Essentially, the promise made by copyright laws to the rights holders is a lie.

Re:Australia can ban what they like (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699783)

You are correct.

Stop all economic blocking! (0, Flamebait)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40697675)

Hmmmm. Leftists in favor of free trade.

Well, it's about time.

Re:Stop all economic blocking! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697853)

They only like free trade for intangibles like ebooks and entertainment... when it comes to food and other essentials, they are happy to let folks suffer.

Re:Stop all economic blocking! (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40698315)

Please explain what is "leftist" about the Australian consumer group Choice?

Unintended consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697693)

What about online voting?

Shooting themselves in the foot. (4, Funny)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | about 2 years ago | (#40697697)

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

Re:Shooting themselves in the foot. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40697859)

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

Re:Shooting themselves in the foot. (5, Informative)

Spectre (1685) | about 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:Shooting themselves in the foot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698089)

Please wait 2 year for our contract negotiations to be completed so we can sell content to you... Now you know why everything on American Netlix is pirated by Canadians who have Netflix. What other option is there? buy every one for $20 at the store? the store(s) that are all going bankrupts (see: Blockbuster, Best Buy, etc).

Re:Shooting themselves in the foot. (2)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 years ago | (#40699215)

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 Rand or fucking Malaysian Ringit, electronic money costs nothing to change). This means anyone has the authority to sell the media as long as they pay the flat, agreed upon in advance, same for every single customer the world over, non discriminatory fee.

This single advance would eliminate most if not all piracy from nations rich enough to pay for music.

Re:Shooting themselves in the foot. (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#40699599)

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 slavery, one for this century, if they manage to be successful in that push.

That would be nice. (1)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 2 years ago | (#40697705)

Fat chance though, all the effort going into SOPA/ACTA/PIPA whatever is to prevent open markets and free trade.
It just gets harder to sue people across international borders when they take that precise IP and start spreading it around.
Kim got raided but usually it's just enough to send a vague threat letter to get people to fork over some cash to the RIAA.

Don't care (1)

johanw (1001493) | about 2 years ago | (#40697725)

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.

Re:Don't care (4, Funny)

dmacleod808 (729707) | about 2 years ago | (#40698103)

eMule? Seriously dude?

Re:Don't care (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698565)

Back in Europe, eMule/Kademlia [peerates.net] is still alive, and will probably stay that way for a long time.

Re:Don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699049)

the first rule of emule is, there is no emule.

Re:Don't care (2)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#40699323)

the first rule of emule is, there is no emule anymore.

Fixed that for you

Re:Don't care (1)

johanw (1001493) | about 2 years ago | (#40699195)

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.

Re:Don't care (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40698415)

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!

Re:Don't care (1)

Applekid (993327) | about 2 years ago | (#40698837)

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.

The problem is different (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#40697735)

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.

Re:The problem is different (2)

FlynnMP3 (33498) | about 2 years ago | (#40697901)

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.

Re:The problem is different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698353)

Be careful what you wish for. Many times the additional costs are due to societal factors/standard requirements in the other countries (taxation, copywrong rules, contry-based content - known coloquially as CANCon in Canadanistan etc). By removing the impediments to truly free international flow of goods, all you will do is reduce everything to the lowest common denominator, which will actually result in higher prices for all, most notably the US patrons.

As in the case of cars, standards vary across countries, and meeting those standards means increased costs for differing markets, with the resulting change to pricing structure. If you had to meet the highest standards (where they didn't conflict with each other) to sell your product in every market, your pricing model could very well be way out of line with the market you're trying to sell in. Movies often have different titles based on market etc.

There is indeed more than meets the eye in this case. Not to say that I wouldn't mind being able to access Hulu from Canada mind you.

Re:The problem is different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698285)

No it's not!

This is similar how Big Content wants you to believe that rules intended for businesses apply one-to-one to private persons.

Yes the Balkanization is a problem but it's easier, and a lot faster, solved by excluding "final sale", i.e. if you are an end user, you can buy the content/service/product anywhere in the world. In order for it to be "legal" it just has to be licensed for sale at the territory the sale is made.

Note that this is one of the main reasons RIAA/MPAA and their coronies are pushing the US Government/USTR to demand sovereign-in-name-only countries implement anti-digital-lock-circumvention-provisions in their national laws.

Re:The problem is different (1)

dk90406 (797452) | about 2 years ago | (#40698351)

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 to pay in USD or Euro.

Good luck of getting Netflix to Europe for a USD 8 / month. My local ISP will charge me the almost the same for rental of a single movie. Localized subtitles does not warrant the added cost.

Re:The problem is different (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#40699107)

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

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

Re:The problem is different (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 2 years ago | (#40699739)

The solution to this little problem - greed - is a .45 bullet.

Re:The problem is different (1)

westlake (615356) | about 2 years ago | (#40700017)

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

Re:The problem is different (2)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 2 years ago | (#40698967)

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.

Re:The problem is different (1)

mpe (36238) | about 2 years ago | (#40700039)

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.)

Two separate issues (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697749)

To me, there are two issues here: 1. Being blocked from content and 2. Seeing different prices based on your location.

In all likelihood the reason people are (generally) blocked from seeing content is due to export and/or copyright restrictions, and if that is the case, well then it doesn't just apply to the internet. Why should I be able to buy something online that I can't order over the phone, simply because online the retailer can't tell where I'm at?

As far as different pricing goes, it's not fair to say that this only applies to (that things are less expensive in) the US. I remember when I was in college there was a huge controversy over buying cheap, export versions of textbooks. Why pay $125 for that engineering text when you can get a softbound Indian copy for $30?

Bottom line - none of these things are limited to the internet, so it's more of a political issue than an IP one.

The real problem ... (1)

mister2au (1707664) | about 2 years ago | (#40697763)

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 international.

It is a way introduce artificial barriers and price selectively in certain regions - Australian being the one in this case.

Interestingly, some businesses without a local presence, or just introducing one, actively encourage international shipping with special shipping arragenements - such as Amazon, GAP and a few others.

Re:The real problem ... (2)

berashith (222128) | about 2 years ago | (#40697929)

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 the costs, and if we ever slipped up with the schedule then we stood to lose a lot, so we just never went through with it. It is a pain though, as it is the same plane, same seat, same route, same everything, but if you buy it in english it costs twice as much than if you can buy it in german.

Re:The real problem ... (2)

Greenspark (2652053) | about 2 years ago | (#40698827)

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 that the airline will charge as much as they can and still sell tickets. The reasons for the disparity are probably a lot more complicated than most of us (including myself) expect.

The second thing that should be mentioned in conversations about the ‘global economy’ is that we’re all using currencies that are rarely pegged to any concretely traded commodity. Each currency is owned and regulated by a government, and the value of that currency floats on a certain amount of trust – basically the trust that the currency’s future value will continue to be what it basically is worth right now. Governments must, therefore, protect that value. They do it with tariffs, and trade agreements, and interest rates, and adding/removing actual currency, and all kinds of machinations that are dizzying to us, the mere mortals without advanced economics degrees. Allowing citizen’s ‘worth’ to flow without restraint to the best available price worldwide creates a problem because the currency is participating in supply and demand in a larger scope than the regulatory bodies controlling the currency. Let’s look at Greece to have a good example of where this kind of thing can cause problems (NOT saying that this is all bad, just pointing out that it’s not simple).

The Geo-IP blocking is a way to handle serious economic concerns with exposing end consumers to international markets. Basically, it forces the same geographic limitations that were always there. There may be better ways to do it, but just tearing down all the barriers is probably too reckless.

Re:The real problem ... (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40698883)

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 services aren't free, but if you conduct enough business with companies in the other country then these services could save you a lot of money.

Re:The real problem ... (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 2 years ago | (#40698231)

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 their competition. Unions do as well.

Nothing good has ever come from a tariff, every single one of them has always resulted in higher prices, and easily cost our economy twice what the jobs it saved was worth. Just look at the destructive consequences of the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, whose goal was to increase employment, and had the opposite effect.

Smoot-Hawley was the true cause of the great depression; not the stock market crash.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQQon4tjlSA [youtube.com]

"Waah, they don't wanna sell to me! Make them!" (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 2 years ago | (#40697767)

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.

Re:"Waah, they don't wanna sell to me! Make them!" (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40697841)

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".

Why there's no XBLIG in Australia (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40697885)

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?

Re:Why there's no XBLIG in Australia (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40698961)

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 website owner has a prejudice against Australians and want to block them, there's not much that Australia can do about it. But it can apply pressure to the major multinationals and that is the intent with this campaign. Naturally, the Aussies may make special exceptions when they want to keep their citizens from accessing specific US sites.

Compulsory classification (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40699351)

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".

Re:"Waah, they don't wanna sell to me! Make them!" (1)

bug1 (96678) | about 2 years ago | (#40698397)

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 its nothing new, just companies taking as much as they can, because they can, Australia have been pretty active at weedng out this sort of thing in the past, having banned region encoded DVD's.

Re:"Waah, they don't wanna sell to me! Make them!" (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 2 years ago | (#40698981)

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.

are you free market? (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40697777)

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.

Re:are you free market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697919)

What does IP blocking have to do with "free marketeers"? IP blocking is done by the vendors and not governments and are thus not price controls but a way for companies to determine who to do business with. It's not necessarily a good business move for some vendors but if you run a website and don't want to deal with customers from certain countries why should you be legally forced to accept business from unwanted areas?

Companies love to talk about free markets (5, Interesting)

eddy (18759) | about 2 years ago | (#40697801)

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:Companies love to talk about free markets (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698331)

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?

My product, my price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698337)

If my product I should be able to price is anyway I want. If you don't like the way its priced buy a different product.

Re:My product, my price. (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40698839)

Do you have a different price for black people?

Re:Companies love to talk about free markets (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 2 years ago | (#40699343)

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 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.

And to be honest, free trade in digital goods would be a terrible thing. Digital goods have incredibly low unit costs, but incredibly high non-recurring expenses. You can sell any individual unit for almost nothing and make an operating profit, but in order for your business to remain solvent, the average unit price needs to be much higher. If you can't enforce price discrimination based on local purchasing power, the only way to economically produce digital goods is to sell them at exorbitant prices in the developing world.

This is the situation with pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical industry is one where parallel importers do a lot of business, because the economics are very similar to digital goods, except generally there's no laws preventing international trade. If you go to the developing world and sell your life-saving drugs at prices the locals can afford, you make a little bit of profit, but then the parallel importers buy up most of the local product, reimport it to richer regions, and resell it at great profit. But you can't sell it to everybody for those prices, because at the prices you can charge in Africa you'll never make enough money to even cover the cost of the approvals process in North America. So pharmaceutical companies sell to nobody for those prices, and people living in the developing world suffer the consequences.

If you establish free trade in digital goods, you aren't suddenly going to get your games, movies and music for cheap. You're going to see the legal, inexpensive options for people living in the developing world disappear.

Re:Companies love to talk about free markets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40700107)

If you establish free trade in digital goods, you aren't suddenly going to get your games, movies and music for cheap. You're going to see the legal, inexpensive options for people living in the developing world disappear.

With its cheaper prices, this makes the US fall into the "developing world" category?

Mandatory game ratings (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40697811)

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.

Re:Mandatory game ratings (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 years ago | (#40699469)

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 around for just as long and we have a lower murder rate than the US (1.1 per 100,000 vs 4.5 per 100,000, international average was 7.6).

If you wanted to make the least bit of sense you would have siad:

Geographic IP location was already nessasary to TO PAY LOCAL TAXES

Which is completely fair and does not require IP blocking NOR PRICE INCREASES for Australian purchasers.

Rating fee (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#40699897)

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.

You miss the piont (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 years ago | (#40700125)

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 prohibit importing of "non classified" or "have not paid the classification board", they only prohibit SPECIFIC banned items of which there is a clear, well published and well defined list, wikipedia can help you here).

As I said, nice try to get away from the point but what bearing does this bit of superfluous and wrong information have to do with the fact games for Australian customers ARE MANY TIMES THE PRICE OF OTHER COUNTRIES.

Do you get the piont, yes I know you're a bit slow on the uptake but I've put them in bold and CAPITAL LETTERS.

Stupid solution (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 2 years ago | (#40697821)

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.

Now if they said that you couldn't be prosecuted for pirating something that can't be bought within Australia after release, or x months from release, it would solve the issue. Can't buy a tv show? No problem, you can download it for free from the hundreds of services that would pop up to provide it.

Re:Stupid solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698409)

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;

No they won't. They just have to license it for sale in the US if they are in the US. That one of their customers is not in the US is not iTunes problem.

"Everybody" complains about the poor artists not getting any money. Getting rid of the myriad of local licensing arrangements (a logical development) is a good idea. Or do you think these people all work for free? No. There's always a boss who makes more than the prime minister of the country. A bunch of directors, also well compensated + benefits. A shitload of lawyers. Etc. etc.

Re:Stupid solution (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40699205)

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 account details of American citizens holding accounts at the Switzerland based locations. The Australian government could put the same kind of pressure on "AusFlix" to force NetFlix to comply. Now, of course, NetFlix could found and then completely sell off "AusFlix" before trouble starts, but then they would miss out on all future profit from the spinoff. Considering the costs to spinoff such a company it might not even be worth it for NetFlix.

Your piracy argument is a good example for how governments could bring pressure on foreign firms to bring equality to the market. But would it be worth the damage to international relations to break so many anti-piracy treaties they have already signed?

Not enforceable internationally (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#40697925)

It's easy enough for non-Oz companies to set up separate Oz and non-Oz subsidiaries to handle Oz and non-Oz business, then have the non-Oz companies keep using geographic IP-based blocking.

Now, if the goal is to create an even playing field WITHIN Oz, well, it's their country, they can enact and enforce such a law if they want to.

Re:Not enforceable internationally (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40699227)

See my reply to Stupid Solution above.

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40697949)

For once it's not blame Canada!, it's blame USA!

Why? (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 2 years ago | (#40697967)

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.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

gedeco (696368) | about 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:Why? (2)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 years ago | (#40699617)

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 costs as perishable goods or even physical goods given the fact they don't need to be shipped any-fucking-where. Local taxes might have given you a crutch to stand your lame point on but I'd just point out that Australia's GST is 10% whilst UK's VAT is 20% yet the UK price is cheaper than the Australian price (and US prices don't include sales tax).

Distributors could use this point when there was a real cost in distributing physical media but since the DVDs are all pressed in the same third world location this has no longer been an excuse (shipment to China to Australia costs no more than shipment from China to the US, especially with the Chinese-Australian free trade agreement) but not when the content is digital (having no physical form).

Re:Why? (2)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 2 years ago | (#40699743)

I shouldnt be blocked from buying avocadoes from closer to the source where they are cheaper and having them sent to me.

Easy solution (3, Informative)

bleh-of-the-huns (17740) | about 2 years ago | (#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..

One way to prevent blocking (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#40698061)

Their government can just set up a bunch of proxies... or put up some torrents

Legislation is not the way to deal with this (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40698067)

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'm all for this (1)

shione (666388) | about 2 years ago | (#40698137)

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.

"free market" is not for consumers, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698395)

it's for corporations. The bigger, the more free.

Paradox. (1)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#40698425)

(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.)

BBC (1)

DaneM (810927) | about 2 years ago | (#40698445)

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)

Imaginary borders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40698519)

This is exactly why I rent a server in the US which beyond hosting my website, conveniently saves me a good chunk of money using it as a proxy when i shop online. In the time of Internet, electronic borders do not always make a lot of sense.

Bass Akward (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 years ago | (#40699203)

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.

A Solution Exists (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#40699309)

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 transportation costs.

VPN/VPS (faster) Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40699923)

I live in Toronto and was have the same problem with geo blocking stuff, just more annoying because we are literally right beside them and we still get blockled. I bought a VPS and was using it for a while but it was too slow, now im using this DNS service that unblocks sites like Hulu or Netflix but uses your own connection so its actually fast. There are a few different services like this but im using Blockless.com, im 5 days into the free trial and its been a pretty smooth ride with only a few hiccups. I highly recommend that anyone here with the similar frustrations should check it out, if you can get your hands on a US credit card you can sign up for Netflix and use that as well.

pointless law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40700143)

This law would benefit Australians in no way whatsoever that I can see (OK, it might a little if the blocking is between .au states and territories). Aussies that are subject to geo-blocking would be that way because a server in another country is doing the blocking (eg the US) and strangely, the US isn't subject to Australian law.

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