WTO? WTF! Barriers To Free Trade

Living in Europe, one is struck by the general harmonization of products and services in western industrialized countries.  Thanks to the principal of increasing wealth through free trade embodied by treaties and groups such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), many trade restraints have been removed. Whether through standardization, access to capital, or the elimination of tariffs, manufacturers and consumers alike benefit.

So why is it, then, that region-based trade restraints are still allowed on entertainment media?  I’m talking about the region coding of not only DVDs and BluRay disks, but the players and computer drives that read them.  Moreover, the internet itself is divided into feudal cantons where media like You Tube, Layla, and US network TV streams are blocked in certain countries (like all of those in the EU!).

If you live in the USA and have not ventured out of North America, this may come as a bit of a surprise.  DVDs from home will not play in Europeon (sic) players, and visa versa.  The optical drive on my computer requires you choose a region to match the DVD, but you can only change 5 times before the drive’s hardware locks you out.  As mentioned before, MOST of the streaming internet news and entertainment we take for granted in the states ist hier verboten!

So what does this have to do with bicycling in Europe?  Well, I’ll tell you.  While the majority of people in the known universe are all agog over guys chasing after a ball, the rest of us are agog at the spectacle that is the Tour of France.   Not having satellite TV (and cable is not an option here), I would LOVE to be able to watch the streaming HD video coverage of Le Tour on Versus.  $30 buys you about 110 hours of coverage.  An incredible deal, but only if you live in the USA or Canada!

Regionalizing DVDs and players is bad enough, but the internet?  Unconscionable!  The Internet is all about breaking down the barriers of space and time.  Unlike all other mediums, the internet is instantaneously everywhere.  Furthermore, for sporting events, downloading the highlights next week kind of spoils the fun, yes?

It’s not like I don’t want to pay for copyrights and such.  What gets me hopping mad is that I do not have the right to choose; some lawyer somewhere has made that choice for me.  Versus is simply FORBIDDEN from offering their coverage in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, etc.  Folks, this is not free trade.  There is NO technical reason for this situation, only lawyers, and they have been allowed to fashion ILLEGAL contracts to restrict trade.  This is an infringement not only on the consumer but also on the copyright owners, because they are denied the right to sell their content.  Bad for the seller, bad for the buyer.  The only one who wins is a competitor that can’t cut it on a level playing field.

Today is the Fourth of July, a day set aside by Americans to celebrate the proposition that individuals have God-given rights, including the right to life, the right to act, and the right to prosper from those actions.  A day set aside to remember and honor those who felt so strongly in this proposition that they pledged the fortunes, lives, and sacred honor to secure these liberties for future generations.  May the lovers of liberty the world over continue to break down the artificial limits on trade and prosperity, limits that in the end profit a few and impoverish the many.

As for me, I’m following the live coverage on VeloNews. It’s kind of a tweet format, but includes photos and audience feedback.  Kind of entertaining, but not so much as big-screen HD video coverage…

I’ll leave you with this “poem” by the VeloNews tweet meister, C.F. Pelkey.  It is taken from various press releases from non-English speaking teams and is titled:  “We were fought by men very fast”

My sensations are good.
We were fought by men very fast.
Definitely not could do more
I had to do much effort to place well .
I have it quite touched and that I’m still hot.
But yes, I had good legs

It is happy when the excellent team manager
said that the beautiful state of many men’s team.
Sponsors are proud
to these runners
who are very competitive in all
situations.
Because all riders are turned to me
and struggling to make things right.

My sensations are good.
We were fought by men very fast

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