I’ve always been of the opinion that the Internet for North Americans was more or less equal opportunity with no censorship. Maybe some websites with stores attached would divert you to the Canadian portal so you could shop in Canadian dollars, but otherwise I always thought that we were left to our own devices.
Recently it’s come to my attention that somebody, somewhere is withholding web content based on my Canadian IP address.
The first site I discovered this was Adult Swim (www.adultswim.com), which produces a lot of my favourite shows like Venture Bros. and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law. (Yeah, I still watch cartoons. So what?)
After forcing me to watch a commercial a blue screen popped up advising me that, “we are currently not allowed to share our videos across United States borders. It sucks. We know.” Though disappointed I gave them points for honesty.
The next time I came across this type of warning was at Hulu (www.hulu.com), an extremely popular website owned by NBC that streams popular television shows and movies from the network. A pop-up window advises me that, “Our video library can only be streamed from within the United States”, but that “Hulu is committed to making its content available worldwide. To do so, we must work through a number of legal and business issues, including obtain international streaming rights.”
I’m also a frequent reader of posts at Digg.com and Reddit.com, and I’ve discovered that links to videos at sites like Comedy Central never work. I tried to find out why, and discovered that I had to go through the Canadian Comedy Network Portal, which is owned by CTV and has the broadcast rights. While the same shows are available, finding the exact link is next to impossible.
The online Pandora Radio network is also banned in Canada for the time being, although Last FM — a very similar service — seems to work just find.
Since Canada’s laws in this area are generally more liberal than in the U.S., I’m a bit confused why this is happening but I can guess that it originates from the companies providing the content that have distribution deals on both sides of the border, rather than any governmental body enforcing copyright.
It makes sense that a Canadian company that profits from running U.S. programming, and that has exclusive rights to that property, would not want anyone to stream those shows with different or no commercials attached.
But while I understand it, I also don’t like it. If the search engines can tailor ad content to users based on their search histories, surely companies can stream content with tailored ad content as well but substituting ads.