We live in a cosmopolitan world, in which crazes and fads can spread around the globe as fast as the bits can get through the pipes. You can make friends (or enemies) of people on the other side of the world, and speak to them more often and more meaningfully than people on the other side of the street. Every day we move closer to a world without borders.

Unless, that is, you are trying to buy or sell content.


I have never watched the Godfather films (I know, I know), and with some intercontinental travel coming up, I thought this would be a good time to load them up on my iPad and finally catch up - forty years late, but who’s counting?

Since I no longer have any truck with physical media, my first stop was iTunes. At first I thought they did not have the films, but this turned out to be because I live in Italy, and so they are listed as Il Padrino. Fair enough, except that it’s not just the title card that’s Italian; the only soundtrack available is an Italian dub. It’s not even the original, it’s a re-dub, and the reviews are all one-stars complaining about the new dub.

Of course iTunes has all three Godfather films in the US store, but Apple in their wisdom tie your iTunes account to the country your credit card is registered in.1 This means I can’t simply download the English-language version from the US store.

We don’t get Netflix in Italy, because we have crazy regulations here in Europe, but there are any number of video-streaming services. Unfortunately, I want to watch the film offline, in an aeroplane, so they are no use to me.

Back when I still did physical media, what I would do is buy the DVD from Amazon - which, infuriatingly, was often cheaper than the download versions. DVDs all come with original-language soundtracks as well as whatever dub applies, so I’d just rip the DVD (thank you, DeCSS) and watch it that way. However, I no longer own a computer with a DVD drive, so that’s out.

I tried shopping around for other options, but ended up torrenting the blasted thing2, promising myself I will buy it once Apple actually deign to accept my money.3 This is a bit like my recent efforts to buy albums I used to own on (copied) cassettes. I’d rather you didn’t think of it as theft, more as deferred revenue.

Seriously, would it not be easier just to let me give you money? When piracy is not only free, but actually the quickest and easiest way to get the content, what is the point of walls? For every dollar you make by forcing someone to jump through your Ultraviolet hoops, you lose thousands to people who refuse to have anything to do with you - this time, or in future.

Well done.

UPDATE: In a nice coincidence, Facebook reminds me that region locks aren't just for movies by releasing their new app, Paper, for the US only. Because of course nobody outside the US wants it.

Let's break this down. It's not a volume issue, since most FB users are in the US. It's not a language issue, because plenty of people speak English outside the US.4 It's not a content issue, because the content is people's FB streams.

So: why?

Especially when it’s easy to jump the fence.

Image by Martin Wessely via Unsplash

  1. Yes, there are hacks, but by the time I realised this was an issue, it would have been too much hassle to switch accounts. 

  2. The irony is strong with this one

  3. Yes, I know it’s not just Apple here, it’s probably the studios’ fault at least as much as Apple’s for restricting the rights in the first place (hello, region-coding on DVDs!). 

  4. In fact we speak proper English. British English is not a dialect, dagnabbit.