Most of us know the struggle of following favourite series on Netflix or Amazon while travelling abroad. You have finally found a series to fully catch your attention and as you have just entered the season 3 of binge watching, due to work or a vacation, you try to get back to your favourite series from another country to only find out that due to different licenses per countries and geoblocking, you are unable to keep up with the plot and are falling behind, and as Netflix is smart enough nowadays, no VPN can help you keep streaming the content that you have actually paid for.
You are not alone in this, and the struggle is tightening up just as the EU legislators’ ruling to allow using online subscriptions abroad is now entering into force. While the aim of the EU draft law is to ensure that buyers of almost any goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers (the removal of unjustified geoblocking), it states an exemption for copyright material, including video streaming platforms, meaning that digital media streaming is left in the grey zone.
The very term streaming entered English circa 1300s from High German and the meaning of ‘flowing in a full and continuous current’, to enter the computer jargon in the late 1970s and to be first recorded in print in the 10 August 1981 issue of Computerworld in an article introducing a new streaming software that enables the continuous transfer of data from disk to tape, called Spectra Stream Rdos. In the next decade, the obstacles in front of audio and video media streaming were not having enough CPU power and bus bandwidth, and naturally users were downloading media, rather than streaming it.
The history of streamed media began in the early 1990s as greater network bandwidth speed and multicasting became available. In 1993, the garage band Severe Tire Damage became the first to broadcast live over the Internet, 2 years later ESPN SportsZone streamed a live radio broadcast of a baseball game.
The rapid development of streaming media technology followed – RealNetworks, Windows Media technologies, Macromedia, and later Adobe Flash, and HTML5 video.
In 2007 HTTP based adaptive streaming technologies were developed allowing video to be streamed without connection issues or buffering, followed by Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP aka MPEG-DASH in 2012 and the rapid rise of both live streaming and on-demand streaming providers.
Today – when Netflix has circa 120 million streaming subscribers worldwide and over 20% of EU households have streaming media player devices, media streaming is becoming the largest source of global recorded music sales and is overtaking both live TV and downloads and is here to stay – users within the EU have to be aware that streaming is not per se legal, as the streaming of copyrighted material for free on multimedia players without the right holders’ permission is actually illegal, and yes – pirate streams are on the same legal footing as illegal downloads after last year’s ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union.