There is a charity in France called Les Restaurants du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart) that provides meals for the poor. Every year since 1985 they’ve held a huge charity concert called Les Enfoirés. Dozens of the biggest names in French pop music lend their names and voices to the cause. There’s always a single released. This year’s song was just released, an original called “Encore un autre hiver.” Often it’s some sort of parody or remake of a famous song. Last year it was “Un Jour de Plus au Paradis” (Another Day in Paradise). It is what it sounds like, a French version of the Phil Collins classic. I like it. I like enough to want to buy the single and contribute to the charity.
But I can’t.
I can’t buy the single because of territorial restrictions. That’s the fancy term for a product (most often digital content) that’s available for purchase in certain areas but not in others. It’s the reason why dvds are released in different formats all over the world. It’s awfully difficult to stop someone in one country from sending a physical disc to someone in another country, so they make it impossible for you to play the foreign disc when you get it. Problem solved. You won’t go buying it foreign in the first place. Digital content is easier to restrict, at least through official channels. Have you ever gotten a “We’re sorry. This content isn’t available in your country.” message on YouTube? If you’re interested in foreign language television shows, like I am, then you probably have. Not everything is blocked this way, but a lot is.
I’m no expert in media economics, but the idea behind territorial restrictions, as I understand it, is that publishers (of music, movies, books, whatever) make money by selling the rights to their product in different countries. If a piece of digital content is just available everywhere, through the same retailer, the publisher loses out on the money they could have made by selling the rights to diverse local retailers. In other words, why would I let everybody all over the world download my song through iTunes USA if I can make more money buy selling the song individually to all the different local versions of iTunes.
You can’t sign up for an iTunes account with a foreign address and credit card. Well, you can, but you’ll automatically be redirected to iTunes Canada. Or Germany. Or wherever it is you live. And the catalogs you’ll have access to will be different. The same goes for Amazon. The interesting thing is that you can go to Amazon.fr or Amazon.co.uk and order yourself a physical book or CD (forget about DVDs though…different formats, remember) But you can’t order mp3s from any of those foreign incarnations of Amazon. It’s a really goofy policy. Digital content: it’s been around for years and still nobody knows what to do with it!
These restrictions are all well and good unless there is no local distributor. If I want to buy an mp3 of “Rolling in the Deep,” I can do it, no matter what country I’m from. No problem. Columbia Records has sold the rights to Adele’s catalog all over the world. It makes sense. She’s popular all over the place. Amazon(dot)wherever wants it. But very few people in America will have heard of Les Enfoirés, so their charity single isn’t going to have this kind of mass distribution.
So that’s it. I can’t find “Encore un Autre Hiver” or “Un Jour de Plus au Paradis” on Amazon.com’s mp3 site, and I’m not ALLOWED to download it from the French counterpart or from FNAC (France’s version of Best Buy). The only thing I can do is steal it. A charity single! How backwards is that?
At least they haven’t blocked the video from YouTube, so I can watch it there instead. And promote it here. And you can all watch it here and hopefully like it. Then maybe if enough people in America become interested then they’ll actually release the single in the US next year.
“Encore un Autre Hiver” Les Enfoirés 2012
“Un Jour de Plus au Paradis” Les Enfoirés 2011
I wrote this, in part, because Danone foods and Carrefour supermarkets are collaborating to donate 10 meals for every blog that promotes Restos du Coeur. For more information about the cause check out: