Hollywood Anti-Piracy Initiative Requires a VPN Outside the U.S.

MPAA chief Chris Dodd has urged theater owners and customers alike to support WhereToWatch, a "one-stop shop" designed to quickly guide audiences to legal content. Following its launch everyone could access the resource but perhaps fittingly, users outside the U.S. now need a VPN to receive advice.

At the same time as the Hollywood studios complain endlessly about piracy, the counter argument that they simply haven’t done enough to make content available legally online persists.

Without a similarly complex system of release windowing and geo-restriction, the music industry has largely overcome those obstacles. Meanwhile, however, Hollywood appears largely hamstrung by its own business model, leaving itself open to criticism that it hasn’t done enough to provide legal alternatives to torrent and streaming sites.

In an attempt to dispel claims that content simply isn’t available, the MPAA came up with WhereToWatch, a searchable database listing where movies and TV-shows can be watched legally. Due to poor coding the site initially proved impossible for Google and Bing to index, a situation that has improved somewhat since last November.

Yesterday during a speech at CinemaCon, MPAA chief Chris Dodd again urged theater owners and customers alike to spread the word that in order in to protect the industry and its workers, consumers need to access content from legal resources.

“That’s why we at the MPAA created WhereToWatch.com – a one-stop shop, guiding your audiences to content quickly, simply, and – most importantly – legally. And if what they’re looking for is online, WhereToWatch.com will show which sites and at what prices that film is available,” Dodd said.

“On a broader level, this effort is also a crucial recognition of the changing technological landscape, and the need to continue evolving to meet the demands of our consumers,” he continued.

“That will mean finding new ways to enable audiences to see movies where and how they want, while maintaining the magic and unrivaled appeal of the theater-going experience that has been this industry’s driving force for well over a century.”

But while recognizing that consumers should be able to see content at a time and place of their choosing – a major complaint that has persisted for well over a decade – consumers wanting to find out where to watch that content legally are also faced with a dilemma.

Since its triumphant launch in November last year, the operators of WheretoWatch have now chosen to give it the same treatment that Hollywood bestows on its movies – by geo-restricting it.

wheretowatch

For the hundreds of millions of citizens outside the United States who are also expected to consume film and TV content legally, the above message is nothing less than they’ve come to expect. Free and equal access to content is not something the major studios and their distributors are good at, and that is now reflected by the very resource that former senator Dodd spent so long championing yesterday.

But never fear. Thanks to the wonders of tunneling technology, last evening TF was able to find a VPN exit node in Seattle that enabled us to sneak past the MPAA guard dogs. Once on WhereToWatch.com we were able to search for a number of films and find out where we could obtain them legally. The irony was headache inducing.

Overall it’s a ridiculous situation. The music industry largely managed to solve these issues years ago but for as long as users are forced to jump through hoops to obtain or even learn about the availability of legal content (not to mention waiting for extended periods, Australian style), piracy will persist.

And when other MPAA strategies such as site-blocking and “three strikes” systems are already being exported to all corners of the globe at huge expense, one has to wonder why the obvious solution isn’t being taken first.

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