What do American digital content sellers have against the rest of the world?

I live in the “rest of the world”. I do not reside in the USA. Why is it I cannot get content that I’m willing to pay for?

As a preamble to this, you might want to read an article in The Economist: Cupertino’s cold warriors: What has Apple got against eastern Europe?.

The iTunes store is a major pain point. I can buy Apple hardware in Malaysia, be it iPhone’s, iPod’s, Macs, and more. But when I visit the iTunes store, I can only purchase apps for the iPhone (the iPad store opened recently). Why can’t I purchase music/movies, legally? So you’ll say why not visit Amazon’s MP3 store. Bam, I can’t make a purchase there either.

The iPad’s come with iBooks. Its a fabulous book reading application. I cannot purchase books from the iBook store, but I can purchase ePub formatted books, say, from O’Reilly’s Safari bookstore. What about the Kindle – its available in quite many locations, but only where AT&T is present – so some rather “odd” countries show up in the availability lists. Why can’t I purchase books, legally?

I’ve been a long-time subscriber to audible. Audiobooks mean I don’t have to take a trip out to the bookstore. Chances are, I might get audiobooks cheaper than the dead-tree versions available in Malaysia. Today I got an email from Audible, telling me there’s a book I might be interested in. True enough, I was interested in The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Who couldn’t be, after listening to the most amazing The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal?

Of course, I get greeted with the magical message:

Download The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World | David Kirkpatrick | The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World Audio Book unabridged | Audible Audiobooks | Audible.com

That basically reads:

We’re sorry. Due to publishing rights restrictions, we are not authorized to sell this item in the country where you live.

Sorry David Kirkpatrick, I tried to give you some money, but apparently, you’ve decided to shaft the rest of the world.

Sadly, this situation is not much different in a first world country like Australia. Sure you get the iTunes Music Store (you are paying a premium, in comparison to exchange rates), and eventually the iPad becomes available for sale, but its always behind the US. So its not an isolated third-world 1Malaysia problem. Of course not – Singaporeans still suffer from the lack of the iTunes Music Store, and they’ve been a first world, industrialised nation, since 1996.

When will American content sellers realise that the Internet lacks boundaries?

When will they realise that limiting based on geolocation (Android marketplace) or credit cards (iTunes store) is so 20th century? Incidentally, there’s a petition out there for Google: Enable paid apps for all countries on the Android Market!. Its okay Google, you’re not the only retarded one here – the BlackBerry AppWorld is no better; PayPal is available in Malaysia, but you can’t buy apps either.

You push globalisation to the core, yet you refuse to embrace it.

Give us the content that we want to pay for. It doesn’t matter where we are located. Really.


  1. Mike says:

    Yeah that's why I have a lot of us have accounts, one with a 90210 postcode! But you're right; many US-based companies seem to have a US-centric view of the world. Even with simple registration forms that ask for a “state” address – from Alabama to Texas, and nothing else!

  2. Mark Atwood says:

    There was recently a long and carefully written essay over at Boingboing that explained the reasons for this problem with respect to television shows. It was a good answer, but it wasn't a satisfying answer, because it had a bunch of ancient pieces of business history as the foundation, and everyone's response was “well, we now understand why you have this problem, mister content provider, but your problem is not our problem”.

  3. Ben Israel says:

    It's a lot easier to manipulate audible vs. iTunes. Just change the address and your location to the US. No need to show U.S. credit card. and… wa la… you're downloading U.S.-only content.

  4. Gen Kanai says:

    I think you know already but this is usually because the publishers have sold rights to non-US territories to different companies. With iTunes, it's really complex because they have different stores and each artist has different deals depending on the region, etc. It's a nightmare. Legacy of pre-Internet distribution.

    I mostly get around this with a VPN to our offices in the US so I can appear as a domestic US IP if I do meet a site that wants to block me via IP. If you have a US credit card and a US IP address, you're pretty much good to go.