On International Video Copyright Restrictions

Rant Of The Day.

So apparently some crazy stuff went down at the VMAs last night. Something about Miley Cyrus gyrating inappropriately, Justin Timberlake reuniting with the Backstreet Boys (or is it ‘NSync?) and all manner of Hollywood elite naughtiness that promised to both amuse and titillate the audience.

I know this because various websites that I read to pass the time – Buzzfeed, Slate, et al. – have been writing and posting articles about the VMA shenanigans throughout the day. The format of said articles (and this doesn’t just apply to the VMAs, but about more or less anything that happens in America) generally follows this pattern:

1. EYE-CATCHING HEADLINE

2. FERVENT ASSURANCE THAT I REALLY WANT TO READ THIS STORY

3. BREATHLESS PARAGRAPH FILLING ME IN ON THE SCANDALOUS DETAILS

4. EMBEDDED VIDEO OF SAID SCANDALOUS HAPPENING IN ALL ITS SALACIOUS GLORY

5. THE “WASN’T THAT SH*T CRAZY?” PERORATION

Only I happen to live in the United Kingdom. Which means that the whole process falls apart when I reach Step 4. Instead of seeing the embedded video (from YouTube, or MTV, or Comedy Central or whoever the hell else), I get this:

4. SORRY, THIS VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE FROM YOUR CRAPPY THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. SUCK IT.

Thanks, Slate.com for linking to a video that only 4.45% of the world's population can watch
Thanks, Slate.com for linking to a video that only 4.45% of the world’s population can watch

But – and here’s the kicker – not before they make me sit through the obligatory 30-second commercial for J-Lo’s latest crappy perfume or whatever other shoddily-conceived and made wares that they want me to purchase. As a result, for viewers that God has chosen to curse by not conveniently placing them within the contiguous 48 states of the USA, Step 5 then becomes this:

5. WASN’T THAT GREAT THING THAT YOU DON’T GET TO SEE REALLY AWESOME?

I wouldn’t know, would I? I wouldn’t bloody know.

Comedy Central at least tries to be amusing about the fact that their bloodsucking intellectual property lawyers want to extinguish any last drop of enjoyment that I might possibly derive from their shows:

Even Colbert is in on the heinous conspiracy
Even Colbert is in on the heinous conspiracy

But somehow this lame attempt at humour just makes it all the worse.

And no, it isn’t one of the “detriments of living under a monarchy”. It is one of the detriments of living in a modern digital age still governed by dinosaurs and fossils from a previous era who seriously think that today’s web-savvy, enlightened global consumer will put up with their bullshit and tolerate a smug, scornful, condescendingly second-class service.

And the fact that many such content providers, such as Comedy Central above, offer to redirect you to “your local country website” – which is, without exception, massively inferior to the US version in every way, from design to content – merely rubs additional salt into the wound.

THIS IS WHY INTERNET PIRACY HAPPENS. THIS. RIGHT HERE.

Do the suits seriously think that I am going to shrug my shoulders and hop on a plane to the US of A so that I can watch their two-minute-long, mildly entertaining video clip, or else sorrowfully abstain from ever viewing it?

No. In my rage, I will turn to Google and hammer out a stream-of-consciousness search request into my long-suffering keyboard, and fifty websites of dubious legality will instantly offer to show me the same goddamn video clip, without asking me to move continents, kill my firstborn son or jump through a fiery hoop.

The bottom line is that I get to watch the thing that I wanted to see. Semi-Partisan Sam wins. Always. In fact, the only people who lose out are the blood-sucking corporations who tried to throw pathetic, unenforceable legal obstacles in my path, and – sadly – the content creators, who would have materially benefited had I been able to watch on the official site, maybe sit through a couple more ads, and even make a purchase from the online store once in a blue moon.

But I don’t expect much from the likes of ViaCom-NBC-Universal-CBS-Fox-MediaTron-Gargamel-Corp.

It would be nice, however, if the news and entertainment websites that I frequent – respectable websites and publications that should know that much of their readership originates from outside the continental USA and does not appreciate being titillated with the promise of content that they cannot watch – smartened their act up and linked to sources that do not enforce petty, control-freakish regional access restrictions (or at least pressured content providers to stop their errant ways for the good of humanity).

Henceforth, I will be naming and shaming any site that falls short of this entirely reasonable standard of behaviour on this blog.

Fair warning.

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Sweet Justice

The BBC reports that Apple has failed in its attempt to block sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet computers on the spurious grounds of copyright infringement:

A UK judge has ordered Apple to publish announcements that Samsung did not copy the design of its iPad, according to the Bloomberg news agency.

It said the judge said one notice should remain on Apple’s website for at least six months, while other adverts should be placed in various newspapers and magazines.

It follows the US company’s failed attempt to block sales of the South Korean firm’s Galaxy Tab tablets.

It said the notices must make reference to the court case and should be designed to “correct the damaging impression” that Samsung’s tablets had aped the look of Apple’s products.

Let me literally count the ways that this is funny:

1. Apple got smacked down for doing engaging in the typical, bullying behaviour that causes many people to hate large corporations, and was told that it could not, in actual fact, copyright or trademark vague and ethereal concepts such as “simple design” or “coolness” for their exclusive use.

2. Apple has to pay to place advertisements in the national media, admitting that it was wrong about something. I can’t wait to read the tortured wording.

3. 1 & 2 are funny because I own a rubbish, aging, malfunctioning BlackBerry, and my iPhone-toting friends make fun of me for it.

4. Though Samsung won the case, the judge said of their Galaxy Tablet device: “They are not as cool. The overall impression produced is different” when explaining his decision. So even in victory comes a rather devastating critique of their own efforts to build an iPad rival, now officially noted in the public record.

5. Free thought remains just about permissible in Britain today, as the article states that presiding judge “Judge Birss said that the US firm was ‘entitled’ to hold the opinion that his judgement was wrong”. It is good to know that the day has not yet arrived when failure to agree with authority represents a thought crime, despite the best efforts of Gordon Brown and the incompetence/weakness of the Cameron administration.

6. Hopefully other companies can breathe a little easier now, and continue to innovate and bring new products to the market with less fear that they will be persecuted by a big bully with a shiny logo.

There. Without knowing any of the specifics of the case, I have already extracted six reasons to be cheerful. That is all.