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The Computer Corner

COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

So many times have I reported here on discouraging news for consumers that I am eager to jump on any opportunity to relate some good news, no matter how small, even if it does not affect any of us directly. Many times I have inveighed against the outdated international copyright laws that prevent expatriates in Mexico from legally streaming English-language television content from services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. With varying degrees of success, some people use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the law, but success is not guaranteed.

Our copyright laws in North America date back to the Berne (Switzerland) Convention that introduced mutual recognition of copyright between nation states. The “Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works” is an international agreement accepted, at least in part, by 175 nations, but this was written in 1886 and is hopelessly outdated in the 21st century.

It is, therefore, encouraging to read in the news that lawmakers in the European Union (EU) are waking up to the realization that people move about and the Internet crosses international borders. On April 1, 2018, the EU digital single-market rules for portable streaming came into effect. This was no April Fool’s joke. Now it is legal for English-speaking citizens from the UK to legally watch shows from Netflix UK while traveling in other parts of Europe where they had previously been blocked from doing so.

And there is more good news. The same rules apply to other digital services, including music, e-books, and games. Finally, some lawmakers have awakened to the idea that when a consumer buys a song from iTunes, they do not want to be told they cannot listen to it anymore just because they crossed the border from one country into another.

It is encouraging to see lawmakers accepting the need to update copyright laws that will acknowledge the realities of the digital age. Then there is March 29, 2019, an upcoming date that might make everything I just reported above seem like an April Fool’s joke after all. Some news reporting I have read hints that citizens of the United Kingdom will no longer benefit from the new rules after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union next year.

A bigger joke is the glacial speed at which lawmakers move to ratify some international agreements. The Berne Convention was immediately ratified by Belgium, France, Germany, Haiti, Italy, Liberia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, and the UK. Mexico did not become a party to this agreement until 1967. That is still two decades faster than the US Congress, which did not act on accepting the treaty until 1989.

So it looks like for the foreseeable future, all of us expatriates in Mexico who are customers of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon wanting to watch streaming content here from those providers will have to continue doing so in violation of the rules.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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