Estonia's airwaves -- make that pre-telescreens -- became yet another Finnish channel poorer yesterday. I'm not a big TV watcher, but these are where the good (English-language) films are, as opposed to the not so good (English-language) films. Not always, but usually.
The irony is rich. Back in Soviet times, northern Estonia could pick up channels from across the gulf with an antenna. Depending on whom you ask, Finnish commercial television channels such as MTV3 helped ensure Estonia a cultural edge over its Baltic neighbours.
But now that things are tightly under digital control pending switchoff, MTV3 bowed to pressure last year from American groups (probably the usual gang of idiots like the RIAA and Co.) to get technical.
Today another Finnish channel, Nelonen, followed suit on its mini-switchoff. The Estonian lobby had no chance. Negotiate your own separate licensing agreements with the holders of the rights, the Estonian cable distributor was told, and then you can use our feed.
There used to be a commercial where a customer asks the receptionist at a motel what the en suite entertainment options are. The reply: every movie ever made, any time of day. Something like that.
The digital age was supposed to make all this possible. And I guess it is making it possible -- for some. Except for an odd thing -- national borders. What were those?
I wasn't worried for a while. DVD region encoding, for example, was so easy to override, with all the shareware and firmware patches out there.
And I certainly didn't think regional restrictions would affect old releases. Surely Hollywood is all about product placement and money and the more people that see a film, the better?
I guess I should realized it a couple years ago, when I tried to download some audio content from Rolling Stone magazine, from this side of the pond, and I was told basically, sorry, wrong country. I took it as an insult against Estonia and resented them knowing where I was physically.
I'm used to paying extra for living in Estonia in various ways, such as not being able, for the longest time, to send 3-day priority mail to the States, even though Portugal, say, could send overnight.
What got me was that there seemed no quick way to bypass the Rolling Stone IP detection.
In February, I set up a Netflix account, also from an Estonian IP, and paid my $8.99, (or signed up for a free trial, which I guess they charge your card $8.99 in perpetuity until you send a cancellation notice to a working e-mail). But I couldn't rent movies. I then went through a proxy service, and that seemed to fool them, but every movie would have been the End of Days -- that's how long the download would have taken.
For now, I can rent movies from the iTunes store. They, too, like Paypal, wouldn't accept my Estonian-issued Visa credit card, a common problem with online purchases, but luckily I had a US issued Simon Gift Card in the drawer (thanks, Dad and family). Considering Apple is the company that made the iPhone, I'm surprised they aren't pickier over IP addresses and regionalism.