Digital downloads: a big step backwards

There’s an interesting op-ed in today’s Register about the way in which digital downloads are sold in specific territories. The writer makes some good points:

In Australia, under current laws, if physical CDs were 55% more expensive in Australia than the US, or were unavailable in Australia, retailers could simply import them from the US and sell them locally. These rules don’t apply to the digital music market in Australia.

Effectively, the music industry has been able to resurrect territoriality. Territoriality was lost by record companies in Australia in the late 1990s when parallel imports were introduced. To some degree, territoriality was lost to in other countries when free trade agreements were executed allowing cheaper CDs to be imported from “low cost” countries.

With territoriality resurrected, consumers again face excessive prices and limited choice. Despite the atmosphere of free trade, local digital music re-sellers are protected from international competition, record company profits are maximised, and local consumers are left to watch other markets in envy.

…If an Oz consumer wants to access the US Napster, Wal-Mart or iTunes services why can’t he or she do it? For that matter – why can’t ANY international music consumers access ANY international music service? Or are we only supposed to enjoy the benefits of globalisation and the internet as a market without borders when the record companies and content re-sellers say it’s ok for us to do so?