Downloads, Geographic Restrictions and a Question about Proxy Servers

Hi again, been reading your article "Getting Along With Streamers 101" and I would like to know whether you have a short list of music download sights available to Canadians such as myself. It seems every time I starting looking for music to download (HD or CD quality) the site seems to tell me when its time to close the transaction that the service is not available to Canadians... Example: HD, Napster (on demand) bought by Rhapsody. All the info etc. you share on your site has been great but it would take me a considerable amount of time to go through all the music sites you have mentioned only to be told that it is not available to Canadians.

So if you could maybe give me some direction to make the task a little less frustrating it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

This is a great question and unfortunately that also means I do not have a very good answer. You can look at Wikipedia's Comparison of online music stores but as you'll see this list is not very extensive and its also not 100% accurate (for example, HDtracks is shown as having no Geographic Restrictions).

In many cases as with a site like HDtracks, this music in this format is not available anywhere else so geographic restrictions that adhere to record companies existing distribution channels for hard goods hardly seems, well, sensible. So what's a downloading music-lover to do?

I went on to talk about ways I've heard about getting around IP-based geographic restrictions and here's my question for you (yes you):

Is the use of a Proxy Server to get around IP-based geolocation restrictions illegal?
My take on this is the use of a Proxy Server, which in our example masks your actual location making it appear as if your request is coming from a non-restricted country, and the law also varies geographically—their use may or may not be legal depending on where you live. So please check your local laws before using a proxy service to buy music you otherwise cannot buy.

Which sure seems silly when you put it that way, doesn't it. On one hand you have record companies spending millions of dollars going after illegal downloads, while on the other hand these same companies make it impossible to buy their music because of their antiquated distribution and copyright practices. You have to wonder what's up with that (one guess: this has nothing to do with music or musicians and has more to do with record labels and revenue).

A simple step that music download sites can take is to include a list of 'participating countries' if you will and make this list easy to find on a FAQ page. I checked a few sites and most want you to register before providing this information. You might ask—why register if you can't be a registered user?

Of course we at AudioStream do not condone the use of Proxy Servers when that use is illegal and we caution against the use of free Proxy Servers which can often contain Malware and other viruses. That said, we at AudioStream also realize there are laws that are just plain stupid and unenforceable most having to do with what consenting adults choose to do with each others private parts. And don't get me started on Blue laws that restrict alcohol sales based on what time it is on Sunday. Cheers.

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bas72's picture

Hi Michael and Rob,

Just a little experience I'd like to share with you: living in The Netherlands, it was also impossible for me to buy music at HDTracks using a credit card. I wrote to HDTracks customer service about this, and they advised me to use Paypal instead: that worked for me! Hope it's any help.

Kind regards, Bas

sonnenwender's picture

Dear Rob, it is not only Canada, but Germany and probably other European countries have the same problem. And no Bas: Paypal doesn't help. I use Paypal with HDTracks, but a lot of albums remain beyond my reach because of my German IP adress. I exchanged mails with Norman Chesky about it and it is definetly not their fault but wanted by the record companies which keep whining about illegal downloads and than prevent customers from spending their hard earned Euros and Canadian Dollars. I even wrote a blog entry about it and as usual didn't get any reply on the sense of this policy by some record companies I asked to comment on it (German EMC being among them). You can find it here:

Best, Yours Clemens

bas72's picture

Hi Clemens,

You're absolutely right in the sense that certain albums remain unavailable for us Europeans. However I found that the few albums that are available to us cannot be bought with a credit card. They can be bought using Paypal though. Something wrong with European credit cards? Maybe it's because we didn't buy enough Joint Strike Fighters...

Cheers, Bas

deckeda's picture

Yes, is a conduit straight to our Pentagon's drive-through window for ... oh, nevermind.

I got no dog in this fight, as I live in the U.S. where Everything Is Of Course Perfection.

Worse yet, I can't answer the question posed to me (yes me.) I don't know, but suspect it's one of those things that doesn't come up often because online sellers aren't typically in a position to enforce or even detect it.

Then again, if I wanted to stay in the good graces of the record labels, blocking foreign IPs and foreign credit cards would only be a first step: I'd allow the ordering system to only accept U.S. mailing/billing addresses. (Most people aren't going to have a friend or family member in the approved country willing or able to be the virtual "fence" to get around that restriction.)

Jriden's picture

First a disclaimer.  I am not advising anyone to do anything in this comment.  If you take an action after reading it you are responsible for any consequences including legal ramifications.  With that understanding. . .

A friend I trust recently told me that one can safely and easily access most (if not any) music streaming or download sites worldwide (regardless of your location) by subscribing to a good worldwide VPN service.  Many corporations use VPN services to maintain a secure path for their proprietary data.  They are legitimate companies that do business above board in their locations.  

Good VPN's use very strong encryption to build a "secure tunnel" for your data.  Your computer is at the entrance.  The tunnel's exit is wherever the VPN company's server is and some VPN's offer many exit points around the globe. The apparent IP address assigned to your connection is at the exit point.  So in effect, your connection originates at the exit VPN server's location.

This is very different from attaching to some naked proxy server "out there."

According to my friend, he has yet to discover a music service he wants that he can't connect to using VPN if he can get an account open with that service.

Payment is a different matter.  My pal had trouble signing up for a certain service that refused his credit card from the USA.  So he contacted their support and asked if there were some way his money would be good.  The service itself advised him to set up up payment through PayPal even though my friend was accessing their site from outside their approved service area.

My friend lives in a South American country.  He enjoys streaming and downloading from several sites located in Europe and the USA.  He gets Hulu as well.

Just thought you might enjoy hearing about my friend's experiences with getting around location-based distribution restrictions. This PayPal plus VPN approach has resolved his issues, he says.