Monday, 12 September 2011

Piracy leads to scurvy and starvation

So, you want to buy an ebook (or mp3, or streaming tv or movie, or other digital media) but it's not available in New Zealand. Of course, you could download it for free, but that would be Wrong. And Bad. And Illegal.

Luckily, there are ways to genuinely pay for products that are geo-restricted. It takes a bit of effort, though. Basically, what you need is generally a combination of the following:

- A US IP address. You can use a proxy or VPN for this, and there are a range of both free and paid services. I have HMA! Pro VPN. The advantage of VPNs is actually pretty varied - showing up as being in a different place protects your identity, which is good for many reasons (victims of stalking, people with controversial opinions, political activists); securing your connection (they tend to have varying connection types, some of which are better than others for this), and of course geo-restrictions. My VPN is one I pay for, but if you poke around a bit you can find plenty of free proxies and a few free VPNs (or VPNs that give a free trial). Technically I could still cancel mine in the next couple of weeks for money back - but I'll note that I had a small glitch where the VPN thought it wasn't connected, so I emailed customer support and had a response in minutes which fixed the problem. Which is pretty damn good.

- A US credit card. I didn't have to do this today, but if I had, my preferred option would probably be to buy a prepaid credit card. Just google that and have a look at some of the results; one of them should work for exactly this purpose.

- ...along with a US billing address. For this, I found a service that is actually a package forwarder. That means that they give you an address that you can have goods shipped to and then forwarded to your real address outside of the States, which also means if I want to buy something physical I can probably get a more reasonable postage rate. I went for VIaddress which has the advantage of being free sign up and membership - you only pay when you actually have something shipped. They also consolidate packages for you, incidentally. You can probably find others by searching for "us billing address" - you'll get a lot of results that are forum conversations about this sort of thing and they often have good suggestions in them. One advantage of VIaddress is that the address they give you is in Indiana, which doesn't have extra sales tax like some other states.

- Occasionally you also need a US phone number. This took a little more work as the first ones I was recommended (from VIaddress' FAQ) have both stopped accepting new registrations. A bit more googling, however, gave me Voxox - you need to give them a mobile number for verification, but they accept quite a lot of countries including New Zealand, and you don't have to pay unless you use the service for outgoing calls.

Once you sign up for these things, you should be good to go. Use the proxy or VPN to mask your IP and head to an IP checker to make sure it's working. What is my IP address, IP Chicken, IP Checking, etc, will all do this. Then go to the site you want to buy something from and either set up a new account or edit your current account with your US credit card and billing address details (plus the phone number if they require it). In the vast majority of cases, this will allow you to successfully buy whatever it is you want to buy, thus successfully not pirating shit.

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