In a World… (of region locking)

Veep is pretty great. This is not news to many. However, I’m only partway through Season 2. I picked it up for £10 in HMV relatively recently and had a stilted but positive chat with the cashier about the fact it is pretty great. One thing I love is that every character is treated equally horribly. True equality.

But this post is not a review (see rule 1, post 1). It is about my global and cultural positioning. Veep has been in the news recently; that is, the sort of news that I read. Season 4 has just begun, Armando Iannucci is stepping down as showrunner before season 5 and there was an article about how brilliant an emotional moment the latest episode pulled off (from Vanity Fair; of course I haven’t read it, spoilers etc – http://vnty.fr/1QiimGI).

Globally, I am positioned in the UK and television wise, this can be very positive. Doctor Who. BBC iPlayer. Fewer commercial breaks (though I do have a soft spot for consuming hours of American ads as a novelty on holiday). But we do miss out on many shows from the largest TV market in the world.

Veep is a bad example. It is shown in the UK, on Sky Atlantic. Season 4 is likely to air this summer, a few months after the US. I genuinely don’t mind waiting, but it is a reduced experience when the buzz has died down and your search for other people’s comments and opinions produces articles months or years out of date.

Things seem to be much better now – Netflix allowed me to be part of the final episodes of Breaking Bad in parallel with the US, including Talking Bad. It does the same for Once Upon a Time, within three days. And Game of Thrones is broadcast simultaneously with the US at 2am on a Sunday night/Monday morning.

But we still have region encoding. I was unable to pay money to Amazon, even while in the US, to download the 40th anniversary special of Saturday Night Live. I use Splitsider (http://bit.ly/1Qiqbfx) to get comedy news from the US but many of the new and interesting clips are region locked. And I don’t know of a legal way for me to see how James Corden is doing as a late night host, other than selected YouTube clips.

I have always refused to illegally download or stream TV, ask people who have lived with me how stubborn I am on this point and how annoying it has been. I am not certain that using a VPN to unblock content is legal (even if it only “violates terms of use” – that still doesn’t sit right). I am willing to pay money to whoever owns the content that I want to watch. But even that is not always possible – see this BBC News article about HBO Now cracking down – http://bbc.in/1QiiJAW.

Creators must be allowed to earn from their creations (including broadcast corporations; even the most evil-seeming ones make beautiful work possible) . But consumers should be able to consume, regardless of their location.

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