Craig Sherritt

Netflix blocks unblockers

Craig Sherritt

19 October 2016

Copyright Licensing

In Australia it costs more and users get less when they pay for media streaming services such as Netflix.  Why do these services cost Australian users more for restricted content?  The answer is region specific content licensing.

‘But haven’t you heard of that program that tricks Netflix into thinking you are in the US?’  Yes, and so have Netflix.  VPN’s (or Virtual Private Networks) are connections that link your computer to a proxy server in another country to circumvent region specific content restrictions (known as geoblocking).

Netflix announced in January 2016 that it would crack down on the use of VPNs that ‘fool’ their geoblocking systems and breach their terms of service.  Since the announcement, Netflix have spent the best part of this year playing VPN whack-a-mole, blocking VPN services as they pop up.  To the dismay of VPN users Netflix has generally succeeded.

Netflix

But this decision is not to spite consumers (VPN users are still fee paying customers after all), this is a decision to appease rights holders.  The content licences purchased by Netflix are strictly region specific and, as Netflix expands, the owners of the content have started to get cold feet.

Not so coincidentally, the announcement to enforce geoblocking came within weeks of Netflix’s other announcement of its move to expand services into 130 more countries.  Negotiating licensing agreements with rights holders for these regions is far more difficult if Netflix is unable to show that region specific licensing is currently being enforced.

This leaves us questioning whether Netflix is having difficulty balancing the interests of consumers and the interests of the studios.  However, we should not be too quick to judge Netflix’s actions.  Netflix have done their part to produce original content by creating critically-acclaimed series’ including ‘House of Cards’, ‘Orange Is The New Black’, ‘Stranger Things’, and their most recent addition ‘Luke Cage’, which are available to Netflix subscribers in every region.

Netflix’s end goal is still to provide users with a global streaming service, even if that means enforcing geoblocks in order to achieve that aim.