Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 08, 2014
Excluded from Amazon Prime

Oh the joys of living in the European Community! The EU has 28 member states. In five of them has a national subsidiary: Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the UK. Now for getting a book that is no problem: If you live in one of the other 23 member states without their own Amazon site, you can freely order books or DVDs or most other goods across borders. But now that Amazon is pushing more and more into the video streaming business, cracks begin to appear in the system: For license reasons any Amazon site can only stream videos in the national territory where it is located.

I wrote to both the UK and the German Amazon site, and got the same response: The Amazon Prime service, with the offer of Amazon Instant Video streaming of films and TV series, is not available outside their national borders. And because I live in Belgium and there is no, I am effectively excluded from that service. So is everybody else in Europe who doesn't live in one of the five represented countries. Needless to say the same license restrictions prevent me from getting Netflix, Hulu, or any other major video streaming service. The only exception is the BBC iPlayer, but only the iOS version of it.

I have a hard time understanding why Amazon is rolling out a service in Europe and then excludes half of the continent from accessing it. Film and TV licensing rights are a global mess!

The licensing agreements are different in each country as well - even between Canada and the US.

This means that the programming lineup in one isn't the same as the programming lineup in the other - even if your account is in the US.
Having to subtitle everything to Dutch would be one problem.

Then again, for our French speaking countrymen, I don't see why it isn't possible.

All in all, it's fairly ridiculous. For example, if I want to watch Orange is the new Black I have two choices: don't or pirate it. It would make a lot more sense to just broadcast it worldwide. No need to pirate it then.
Has it occurred to you that the problem might not be Amazon but rather overbearing government regulation within the EU?

That is to say, Amazon isn't excluding half the continent - your regulations are preventing them from including you.

If you want to know why many Americans are against expansion of the government (E.g., Obamacare, welfare, and other entitlement programs) it's because we don't want to evolve into the bureaucratic nightmare that is the EU.
Blaming this on the EU is ridiculous. It's the media empires that insists on licensing everything to everywhere, instead of simply using the internet to broadcast globally.
Yeah, those greedy copyright holders actually expect to get paid for the copyrights they invested millions into acquiring or producing.

Amazon, Netflix, and the rest want to break into these untapped markets, but excessive regulation keeps them out. They can't do it legally because of overly cumbersome laws.
While I empathise, Tobold, this really is a problem of the EU's making, not Amazon. It's not a union when the individual members all have different regulatory frameworks for things like copyright. If you want that kind of access throughout the EU, lobby the European Parliment. They're based in .be after all :)

Different states in the US suffer from similar confusion, which is why you get union tended consequences like people living in Washington state (sales tax but no income tax) & shopping in Oregon (income tax but no sales tax). The only difference is the US constitution has an explicit interstate commerce clause that provides a framework for some standardisation.
lobby the European Parliment. They're based in .be after all :)

Actually the European Parliament is in Strassbourg, France, and not in Belgium.
Those greedy copyright holders want to make the max amount of money they can, which is why they sell the rights multiple times to different regions.

Amazon could set up Prime services in every country in the world, but it's just as hard to set it up in a tiny country like Belgium or Norway as in places like the UK, because all the content creators have already sold the rights to somebody else. And so they limit themselves to the big markets.

Amazon, Netflix, and the rest want to break into these untapped markets, but the tangled web of copyright keeps them out. They can't do it legally because the rights belong to so many different companies.
Well I guess that's because there are a lot of pirates in Belgium ;-)

(Your archive isn't searchable, but I remember a long time ago you actually argued that the content industry isn't offering their content online in countries that have a lot of pirates. Maybe you can find it.)

Amazon Prime in Germany isn't that good anyway. Probably for licensing reasons too you can only watch programmes that are available on DVD/Bluray already. So a year after it airs on TV.
Commenters are suggesting that EU regulations are too blame but in other areas EU law specifically upholds the right to buy goods and services across borders. There have even been court cases about it (cars and abortion comes to mind). How come these rules don't apply to media products?
Film and TV licensing rights are a global mess

You don't even know the half of it.

Distribution and licensing rights for audio in particular is one huge clusterfuck all over the world, and it's clearly affecting distribution of video as well.

I know of some cases where songs where licensed for musicals only (meaning, only for the live theatrical performances themselves,) and when they released the DVD specific portions would have the music track muted (you could hear every thing else, but the song was missing). It was a bit surreal.
There are too many cooks in the kitchen. In an ideal world, there'd be the creator, the consumer, and the delivery man.

Instead, we have the creator, fifty fucking delivery and excise men, then the consumer, who is paying an inflated price for all the pieces of the pie taken by the rest.

Piracy is the answer. This absurd chain of unnecessary interference is a relic of days when we didn't live with a globally-connected communication network, capable of transmitting ideas instantaneously anywhere in the world for the same price regardless of where it goes.

They're all too caught up in the business of translating idea/digital to physical, because at least then they have some kind of concept of how to HANDLE that.

Piracy? While it may be illegal, it's the water that dissolves the paper boats they're making right now. It's the unstoppable environment they cannot control despite their best efforts, which they need to adapt to. And while they've tried ham-fistedly to sustain the chain of middle-men all greedily lined up to take their share, with online-only 'experiences', and easily-cracked DRM, the best thing for the content-creation industry is for the distribution industry to die. Cast overboard. It's dead weight. It needs to be jettisoned. If not completely, then at least in a greatly diminished capacity.

We live in an era where the content-creator can delivery DIRECTLY to a consumer, if they so choose. And where if a consumer encounters too many hurdles, they can choose to opt out of the paying experience entirely and simply take what they want, because, "Fuck it, I tried, but it's not worth this shit."

The only way these fuckers will start adapting to their environment is if the environment gets a lot nastier, a lot harsher, a lot scarier. They're still trying to control it and need to get smashed by some metaphorical tidal waves to get the point that they can't control this environment the way they want to, and need to change.
Welcome to 20 years ago when I tried to sign up for BSkyB to watch Star Trek TNG, season 7 from within Germany. It's not the EU, it's the licenses the broadcaster buys, be it BSkyB or Amazon. They buy for distribution in the UK (or Germany or three more) and that's it. The licensees buy exclusive rights with a guarantee that nobody else can broadcast within their territory for the duration.
You might be able to get around it. We have the same problem in Canada. If I wanted Amazon Prime I would pay it to the .ca site which doesn't include streaming, just faster free delivery. There is a service called UnblockUs ( which is just a VPN that will fool services into thinking you are from another country. I tried the week free and it worked for Netflix and Hulu. Now I already had a Netflix Canada account and didn't have to change it. If Netflix isn't even available in Belgium you might have to find a way to get Netflix in another country (UK maybe). Of course it will cost you more money since Unblock Us is $5/mth on top of Netflix/Amazon Prime.

I'm actually contemplating using Unblock Us in combination with the US Amazon Prime in place of Netflix just so I can get streaming AND free shipping.
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