2 Oct 2013

Why I HATE region-locking!

It's all around us, this artificial blockage of entertainment. We have region-specific releases. There's region-locking on game discs and cartridges, DVD's and blu-rays. While friends of mine in other countries may purchase episodes of television shows through their iTunes, mine only allows me to purchase apps and music. I pay around twice as much for my Netflix account than my American friends, yet I only receive a fraction of the shows and movies that they do. I actually consider myself lucky if a television show I follow is only four months behind the American schedule. It's an out-dated, artificially created system, and it's downright pissing me off.

This has pretty much been a pet peeve of mine for years on end, ever since the internet, and especially social media got big. The reason I felt the urge to talk about this today is because of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. I was looking forward to this event because obviously I'm a Doctor Who fan, but more importantly because it was going to be aired simultaneously all over the world, and I thought finally I'd get to watch something I'm passionate about at the same time as my friends across the world without having to look for some frowned-upon short-cut to do so.

But today, when I looked at the BBC's list over the whopping 75 countries that was going to participate in this event, my own country wasn't even on it. It takes me just two hours to fly to London from where I live, yet the BBC channel I have access to in my cable subscription is just making its way through season six on a snail-pace. I have real trouble grasping how it's more difficult to broadcast to Norway than it is to broadcast to what seems to be the entire continent of Africa.

I suppose that for the casual viewer, it doesn't really matter how the schedule compares to the rest of the world. But for those of us who would call ourselves fans, those of us who actually want to partake in the online community, it's a pain, because you never seem to be on schedule with anyone. The online community is always ahead of you, the local community is always behind you. You always have to be careful about what you read so you're not spoiled, what you say so you're not spoiling someone else.

We live in a world that's obsessed about the problem of piracy, and they don't seem to realize that the problem isn't people looking to break the rules, it's that there simply isn't a good legal alternative - at least not one that's accessible outside specific regions. Just look at how the music industry solved it. You don't see many people opting to acquire a song illegally anymore, not when the legal option is easier, and actually very affordable.

If only the television industry could embrace the same thing. It's not like the industry considers it non-affordable, it's not like there aren't services out there both for purchased downloads and streaming. It's just that they are all region-locked. Either I pay twice the amount for a fraction of the content (Netflix), or my purchase options are limited (iTunes), or I'm locked out entirely (Hulu Plus) - all because I happen to live in the wrong country.

I'm sick and tired of being made to feel like a second-class fan, of always having to wait longer than the rest of the fanbase, of always having to be creative in how I keep up. And I just feel like standing on a pedestal somewhere and screaming at the top of my lungs;

"Why isn't my money good enough for you people?"

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