Those who know me better definitely reckon that I am one of those crazy South Park (<– Hem, you can open this link only if you’re in the US) fans which knows every episode by heart and that, together with Mau, tries to dedicate 30 mins Thursday night to watch the new episode, aired in the US the night before.
Till a couple of years ago the South Park official site (South Park Studios) was nice, free and open worldwide, airing all episodes and clips just right after US airing, once again demonstrating Matt & Trey (the authors) open mindedness and free-o-cratic approach.
Well that couldn’t last and months ago Comedy Central decided to start shaping traffic from the .com domain to national domains (e.g. SouthPark.nl in my case, being resident in Amsterdam). Pretty fair you would say?
Well, I guess so but you know, as a South Park fan, when they also started messing around with content, limiting views “based on pre-existing contractual agreements” and following the local Dutch TV Comedy Central broadcasting schedule (typically postponing a few, CRUCIAL, weeks after the US original airing), this became hardly bearable
Basically if you try to access SouthParkStudios.com from the Netherlands (in my case) you’ll get a nice Cartman in blond dialog telling you to click and go to the national SouthPark.nl … with outdated content … outrageous
To be honest, I could solve my issues using the infinite resources of online streaming
But today I wanted to do something more: I actually wanted to send a friend a link to a specific clip from the last espisode (“Mysterion Rises”, 14th series, aired last Wed in the US), so basically something possible to just from the US site, SouthParkStudios.com.
First try: with little success I tried the standard Google Translate hack which was nicely detected by the SouthParkStudios, and still the blondish Cartman blocked me.
The way too easy win:
Looking a bit closer to the type of regional check, I noticed than, upon detecting an access to the .com site from a non US IP address, a grayed out foreground DIV was overlaid on the pre-loaded (and fully functional) underlying .com page.
Well, then, why don’t try with a simple Firefox plugin like Firebug which allows me to point and click the web page and edit the live rendered DOM?
And the game was done: as you can see in the second pic with Firebug open on the SouthParkStudios.com page, I was easily able to identify the DIV which caused the geoblock (search for ‘geoblock’) , and using Firebug DOM editing features I could remove the guilty DIV (apologies to the dutch Cartman and the black DIV).
Of course you need to re-do the edit at every click you do, but you understand how easy would be to automate this using tools like Greasemonkey or successors. This way I could easily browse the .com site from the Netherlands and send the proper Mysterion link to my friend
Now, get me straight, the intention of this post (and of this author) is NOT TO ANYHOW SUGGEST to use this hack (and anyways this was so simple that calling it a hack would be a unique case of overrating), but more to send a message to website writers all over the world, a message which goes something like DON’T INSULT OUR INTELLIGENCE
Please, in the undesirable and potentially not agreeable case that you really need to perform this kind of blocks, take into account that the Internet public is growing in maturity day by day, and you don’t have to be anymore a computer science geek or an engineer like me to actually being able to break such a poorly designed and coded geoblock.
And with specific reference to Matt & Trey: I love you guys a lot, and if you knew me you would know. But you also know (or I think assume) that to watch and appreciate South Park your need a proper level of self irony and a decent IQ … also I know lots of real geek friends of mine which die for South Park, as yes let’s be honest there’s a geek irony component in the series … then please hire (or tell the Network) to hire some serious guy to run you online video publishing, as with these ***ppy solutions “pre-existing contractual obligations” are doomed to a dark oblivion
I know “someone” who would be definitely interested to spare a hand