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Netflix VPN crackdown complaints striking the wrong tone

Some subscribers are vowing a return to piracy now that they can’t access everything in the world.

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Netflix subscribers outside North America could watch Better Call Saul episodes the day after they aired on TV.

Netflix VPN Crackdown:

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CBC had a story about the great Netflix VPN crackdown a couple of weeks ago that I still haven’t been able to get over.

With the headline suggesting that Canadians are “ready to return to piracy” now that they can’t border-hop to access Netflix’s vastly superior U.S. library, the story focuses in on one particular subscriber and her woes.

“I think I might be saying goodbye to Netflix and go the truly illegal route,” she told CBC. “It just really annoys me someone out there is censoring and telling us what we can see.”

Those are some head-shakingly bad statements to anyone who has a modicum of understanding for how movie and TV licensing rights work. Netflix having different content in different countries is to censorship as watermelons are to interstellar travel – it’s not analogous at all.

If Netflix were bleeping out swear words in its movies or shows, then we might be on to something. But having different content is just a function of how copyright works, for good or for ill.

Despite that, there are a few valid takeaways to be gleaned from what seem to be ignorant comments about the situation – and in this sense, we’re using “ignorant” in the true meaning of the word, not pejoratively.

Key among them is the fact that the general public doesn’t appear to care about copyright and licensing. People just want their shows and movies, and they want them now.

In this day and age, that’s not necessarily an egregious demand. With piracy an easy option, all content really should be available through simple and inexpensive legal means.

It is, however, presumptuous and screaming of entitlement to assume that one source should be able to deliver everything anyone should want at a very low price.

The alternative to streaming – television – does indeed offer up everything, but it costs and arm and a leg. No one should really expect Netflix to duplicate TV at just a fraction of the cost.

That said, there is perhaps a price argument to be made, as in: if Netflix offers a lot less content in Canada, shouldn’t it be priced a lot less than its U.S. counterpart?

Still, the give-me-everything-for-next-to-nothing-or-I’ll-pirate argument also doesn’t do any favours for the real problem with the Netflix VPN crackdown, which is that it’s potentially exposing subscribers to internet miscreants.

As I wrote before, there are good reasons to use a VPN while watching Netflix beyond just circumventing geographic restrictions. Watching while on sketchy public wi-fi is perhaps the best one.

If you’re in a hotel somewhere, for example, you now have to choose between catching up on your shows and risking potential infections and hijacking.

That’s a tough and unfair choice Netflix is forcing, not to mention an unnecessary one. As many observers have pointed out, the company could instead use a payment-oriented system to keep subscribers from hopping geo-fences.

Blocking VPNs is the overkill nuclear option, complete with requisite side effects.

It’s no surprise Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings is pooh-poohing the issue as “inconsequential.” The company really should change its approach to enforcing copyrights, but entitled complaints such as those in the CBC story are sending entirely the wrong message as to why.

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