My first entry on Digital Renaissance will unfortunately be a post that resembles a rant – but comes with a FREE suggestion of how to make the digital world a better place.

Warner Brothers just relaunched it’s television website TheWB.com with ad-supported streaming of popular tv shows. While the service has some new interesting features and a nice rollout of shows (Friends, The OC, Veronica Mars, Smallville etc.) it shows a digital territorial gap between the US and the rest of the world. See below.

TheWB.com frontpage

This is what it looks like if you’re trying to visit theWB.com from outside the United States.

Unfortunately, due to complicated domestic and international entertainment law, our website is restricted to viewers within the US. But please write to your local government representative if you want to fight this injustice, so hopefully one day, fans like you from all over the world can enjoy theWB.com.

Excuse me?
From my talks with Hollywood studios I KNOW that Warner knows international entertainment law very well. And though they may have opinions about European copyright laws (which they think are too weak) – this message is just silly – the only injustice comes from Warner when they limit their service.

Entertainment and copyright today is a lot about agreements and contracts. A copyright holder can provide his copyrighted content to whoever he like with or without a legal binding contract - this is what the copyright law is partly about. Warner isn’t restricted by any international law to provide its service and content to countries outside the US - likewise are they not obliged to offer the content everywhere. But in this case they seem to blaim others for their decision of not making content available.

What makes the Internet different?
All major movie studios are doing DVD distribution outside the US – this works and has been successful over a long time. So why is the Internet different? A DVD carry digital files – those files can be transmitted over the Internet – and the same laws apply, the difference between a DVD-copy and a File should be zero.

So instead of writing to your local government representative, write to Warner, Universal, Sony, Paramount and 20th Century Fox instead. Make it short and tell them that you “as a fan” want to enjoy their content (legally). Also tell them that it’s geographical restrictions like these that make content appear on file sharing networks etc. And while you’re at it – tell them that DRM is bad for business too.

Update 2008-09-04:

It seems Warner got the message and changed their wordings to just “The WB can only be viewed in the United States”. Well done Warner and best of luck with the service!

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