One of the original movie streaming companies asked me to do quality control on the dubbed German version of a TV series. The pay they offered was not too shabby, and I said yes. Alas, I had to find my own way to watch the German episodes.
Fear not, I thought, lovefilm.de has just been rolled into the German version of Amazon Prime. I have an Amazon account, I’m a Prime member, what could go wrong?
Well, can you say “global economy” or “free trade”? They’re not what you think they are. I ran head-on into the 2014 equivalent of good old-fashioned tariffs and trade barriers: regional licensing. It means that even though I am an Amazon customer in the U.S., I cannot buy certain products from Amazon Germany, or Amazon France, etc. To buy those “regionally licensed” products, I need to have an address in the country of the service, and a credit card issued in that country with an in-country billing address.
Luckily, in Germany you can pay on-line from a German bank account, which I have. And an address of a relative will do. That settled, I connected my laptop to my TV and tried to run episode 1 of season 1 – only to get a warning message saying that I was trying to access the content from outside Germany. Again, a licensing issue. Geo IP detection is widely used to protect on-line sellers from fraudulent purchases. In this case, it was used to determine that the server through which I made the connection was in Los Angeles.
In the wake of the 2013 revelations about extensive spying on Internet connections and e-mail, a whole slew of products hit the marked designed to protect channels of transmission by means of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Where the VPNs of yore where hardware-based, this new generation is software-based.
I have been using a VPN service for quite a while to protect my Internet traffic when in hotels or coffee shops. A neat side-effect of a VPN connection is that to the outside, it looks as if you are connected at the point of your VPN server. Many VPN services offer servers all over the world. So I started my VPN service, selected a server in Germany, and pretended to access Amazon from a German server. That did the trick and I could watch streaming content in German.
If you are not using VPN, you should look into it, especially if you are frequently using public networks to connect to the Internet. Some VPN packages are easier to use than others. It also matters how many access points in which countries they offer, and you should take a good look at their data storage policy. The ideal VPN service offers access points in all major countries, should be easy to turn on and off, should be located in a safe country (safe from official snooping, that is), and delete its records of who signed in to use the service pretty much immediately after the connection is terminated.