It’s the World Wide Web, stupid!

 

New services like FYX help us break down artificially imposed geographical barriers to Internet content. But only because the content cartels are hanging on to an outdated copyright model, says Paul Brislen.

 

Well, that’s put the rat well and truly among the pigeons.

Auckland-based ISP Maxnet has launched a sub-brand called FYX which offers ‘pay as you go’ data use at a cost of 34 cents per gigabyte. Users pay a monthly base fee of $34.34 (I notice a numbering trend here) which means for 100GB/month you’ll pay around $70.

That alone is nice – use as much as you want, or as little, without having to change your plan.

But FYX hasn’t stopped there. Intriguingly, it offers “global mode” which enables users to re-set their DNS settings and so ‘fool’ the Internet into thinking you’re from somewhere else. Why would you do this? To access content you can’t usually access because you’re a dirty foreigner.

For example, if you go to the Netflix home page, you’ll see a note saying “sorry, not available in your geography” which means even if you wanted to pay for your content, they won’t let you.

In the FYX world, the website will see you as being in the US, or the UK or wherever you need to pretend to be.

This raises some significant questions and some eyebrows, I’d imagine. How legal is this? Does it break the Internet? Will Maxnet be sued by content holders for circumventing their technologies? Will the Department of Justice/FBI/local police swing in through John Hanna’s bathroom window and arrest him for copyright infringement?

As far as I can tell (bearing in mind I’m not only not a lawyer but have publicly declared that I happily download television that’s not available here to watch online), FYX skirts inside the legal framework, albeit finely. FYX isn’t offering this content, it’s not making money off customers accessing this content (well, no more than any other ISP and given its pricing, somewhat less you could say) and it’s gone to great pains to avoid naming websites users could access this way.

I put it in the same basket as my DVD player, which is a Region 4 player but which came with a handy slip of paper which showed me how to circumvent the region coding – a slip of paper included by the DVD manufacturer and which helps the customer use the player in the way it’s intended – to watch DVDs.

Clearly, the entire model of regionally-based content distribution breaks down in this global environment that is the Internet. This rear guard action by the content holders to try to limit my ability to buy their product simply no longer works. Why would you do that? What strange business model is it that works by artificially limiting access to the product? It might work for the diamond industry but in a digital world, it’s not going to work for digital content.

I want access to the content and I will pay for it. Currently, I’m told I can’t buy that access and the hoops the industry wants me to jump through are simply no longer acceptable to me. I don’t want to buy a channel package, a decoder, a hard-drive recorder and all the rest just to watch one or two television shows a month at times dictated by someone else. I have half an hour free now and I want to watch a TV show.

All FYX is doing is making it easier for customers to pay for content, albeit quasi-legitimately. You’re breaking Netflix or Hulu or BBC’s terms and conditions, which is a lesser evil than pirating content for free. Nothing FYX is doing is new – it’s all already available from a variety of sources. What FYX is doing is highlighting how facile the content industry’s approach to copyright material is. The discussion isn’t about stealing content, it’s about access to content and FYX has knocked the ball squarely back into the rights holders’ court.

Perhaps a better title for this blog post would have been “The Lesser of Two Evils” because for my money, I’d rather reward the artists who produce content I want than put up with those awful ads on Pirate Bay.

 

This post originally appeared on the TUANZ blog

Editor in Chief at here SMNZ, I have a passion for social and digital media. When not writing and managing SMNZ I am the Head of Innovation at TAG The Agency, a digital ad agency and the Head of Sales and Marketing for End-Game, a software development agency. I'm also involved with a number of startups and I am always keen to support those that are bold enough to give things a go. Start something, better to try than to live wondering what if...

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