Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Right IP Address

A few years ago, Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki’s Foreign Parts got some critical love and was a must-see film. The documentary’s setting in the Queen’s auto parts lanes besides the New York Metz stadium was also the setting for Ramin Bahrani’s Chop Shop, a film which made it across Canada. However, Foreign Parts has remained foreign and not touched my local Canadian shores theatrically or rental DVD. Currently, streams the film for $2.99 (USD), a few weeks ago that price was $2.35. The website also sells a digital copy of the film for $9.99. But one can only rent or buy this digitial film if they live in the US. The only legal option for me to view Foreign Parts is to buy the film's DVD. sells a DVD of Foreign Parts in Canada for $29.71 (CAD). Hardly a fair differential to view the same film but people in Canada are used to paying more for everything. Even Canadian oil is cheaper in the United States than in the Canadian spots that extract the crude variety out of the ground.

Often excuses of tariffs, taxes, population and currency disparity is used to explain the price difference. None of these excuses matter when it comes to a digital streaming file which does not have to travel across a physical border. In fact, the price difference feels worse when it comes to streaming a digital file from a remote server which may be located in one common location. For example, iTunes US rents most new releases for $3.99 (USD) while the same film costs $4.99 (CAD) in iTunes Canada. At the current currency rate, USD 3.99 = CAD 4.09. And this ignores the fact that for most of last year, the Canadian dollar was on par or above the American dollar.

Then there are the lack of legal streaming options in Canada compared to the US. Fandor and Hulu don’t stream in Canada while has almost 10,000 more titles than Netflix Canada. SundanceNOW also has more streaming films in the US than in Canada. Licensing rights are blamed for lack of film availability in Canada. But there are many titles that have no distributor or rights holder in Canada. To make matters worse, in a few cases won’t ship a DVD to a Canadian postal code even though there is no place in Canada that sells the DVD. I ran into this problem last year when Film Movement confirmed in an email that they don’t have legal rights to sell The Country Teacher in Canada. As a result, Film Movement and won’t ship a DVD of The Country Teacher to a Canadian postal address.

When seeking reasons for the lack of film title availabilities in Canada, some say it is due to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations. But the CRTC can’t be blamed in all cases. Regardless of who is to blame, the fact remains that many films remain unseen.

If one followed the legal path, then one won’t have access to most films. But if a computer has the right IP Address, an American one in this case, then one has access to a world of films. But if a computer has a Canadian IP Address, then one must continue to be frustrated and see the message that the film is not available.

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