News are trickling out from Down Under – from NZ to be precise, not Australia – that the copyright industry is threatening to sue Internet Service Providers who offer geoblock circumvention, a typical feature of VPNs that ISPs had offered directly.
There is no shortage of need for such sensible unblocking technology. There are plenty of stories about how paying – repeat, paying – customers are still circumventing various blocks to what they’re actually paying for. For example, Netflix customers in Australia are frequently tunneling to the United States to use Netflix there instead.
The concept of geoblocking is complete nonsense in the first place, of course. Yes, you can segment a market by natural boundaries in order to run a better business. But those border lines are supposed to be internal to your business, not imposed onto the rest of society. You have no right intruding on the property of others to enforce your arbitrary division. When you do so anyway, and try to get that right legislated, it shows your business is hopelessly broken from the ground up, and that you’re trying to assert a level of control that was never yours to assert in the first place.
In Europe, policymakers are starting to come down like a truckload of bricks on the nonsense of geoblocking. Politicians in the administration of Europe are most displeased with the fact that something can be blocked out from single Member States of the Single Market, and unusually, the European Parliament (by means of its rapporteur on the topic, Julia Reda – from the Pirate Party, incidentally) and the European Commission are in complete agreement that the copyright industry needs to come off its high horse right this minute on the topic of geoblocking.
So in Europe, it actually seems geoblocking will be legislatively banned within a political short timeframe, which is a technology generation or two.
The point is, of course, that it doesn’t work in the first place. The Internet wasn’t built with national boundaries in mind, so an approximation is all you get. Approximations may be fine for a lot of measurement applications, but never for enforcement of something.
And at the end of the day, it’s trivially circumvented anyway. Case in point, I’ve been listening to Pandora from Stockholm, Sweden for several years, despite the idea that it “should not be possible”. Except it totally is. In countless ways.