Netflix Blocking Foreign VPN Users is a Ridiculously Stupid Move
As far as business decisions go, Netflix’s unannounced new prohibitive stance against VPN services that allow overseas users access to the US site is a ridiculous one.
Netflix is a region-locked service, but ever since the streaming service was made available VPN services have created workarounds, that allow users in regions such as the UK to avoid geoblocks. However, TorrentFreak has reported that Netflix is blocking VPNs on its Android app by forcing it to use Google DNS, which may be a sign of things to come for the company.
This is the first time Netflix has ever demonstrated any kind of VPN blocking, though the company denies that there have been any changes to its policies, instead reiterating that VPNs violate their terms of service. Netflix Director of Corporate Communications and Technology Cliff Edwards said: “We say very specifically that VPNs violate the terms of our service, and we believe very much so that anybody who licenses content should get paid for their content.
“We hear a lot in every market about this, and what we tend to find too is that, after launch, these issues drop significantly.”
Though their policies remain unchanged, this is certainly the first time that the company has gone out of its way to prohibit the use of VPNs, an act which certainly would have been pushed by home entertainment groups looking to stop services such as Unblockus, UnoDNS and TorGuard, which currently allow users to circumvent the international restrictions placed upon Netflix. The Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA), a company which protects the home entertainment divisions of companies such as Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, has been pushing for Netflix to hit out against VPNs in the past when Australians were using services to access it, despite it not yet being available in the region.
What will this mean for international users of Netflix? For one, it will likely cripple subscriptions.
So if Netflix is going to be pressurized by rights holders movements and film/TV companies into finding ways to destroy VPN services, or at least make them much harder to use, what will this mean for its international presence outside of the US?
For one, it will likely cripple subscriptions in the impacted regions. People don’t like spending money, and that paid-for services such as Unblockus have formed a successful business out of simply allowing users to bypass geoblocks speaks volumes in regards to how lacking the current Netflix library is in regions such as the UK, and how ludicrous it is that the service hasn’t yet made its way to the likes of Australia. It will also inevitably lead people back to piracy in their droves.
As piracy becomes more prevalent the entertainment industry has inevitably had to change.
Streaming platforms such as Netflix and, in the music industry, Spotify are currently holding back consumers from illegally downloading movies and music, offering users services which combine ease with affordability. While no streaming service is perfect when it comes to its financial treatment of the creators of the content they provide, as piracy has become more prevalent the entertainment industry has inevitably had to change, and to look past these changes and insist that VPN services should be blocked is an example of the AHEDA, and other rights holders groups, trying to enforce archaic limits upon consumers who have grown tired of them.
Even the practice of region-specific premieres in this day and age is ludicrous, what with a multitude of sites offering free access to a myriad of US TV shows that would otherwise take a lengthy period of time to broadcast in other regions. The one show which has arguably done right by its viewers is Breaking Bad, which premiered on Netflix worldwide immediately following its US premiere. Taking great lengths to ensure that users cannot access these shows by legal means will inevitably push them down the road of downloading torrents of them/watching them using third-party, illegal sources on the web.
The pressure of standing up to the mega corporations must be a difficult one for Netflix to contend with, but if blocking VPNs is a route that they continue to go down, then not only will it spell bad news for the consumer, but for their own business, too.