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If VPN use is theft, then Bell’s CraveTV is extortion

New Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke says Canadians accessing U.S. Netflix are ‘stealing’

CraveTV, bell, VPN use

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It looks like Mary Ann Turcke, Bell Media’s new president, is picking up where her ousted predecessor Kevin Crull left off, at least when it comes to hurling provocative invective. In a speech this week, Turcke labelled Canadians who use circumvention software to access Netflix’s U.S. catalog as thieves. Oh the irony.

Turcke related a story of how her 15-year-old daughter was using a virtual private network to do just that. “She is 15 … and she was stealing,” she said. “Suffice to say, there is no more VPNing… We have to get engaged and tell people they are stealing.”

One would suspect that the daughter of the president of the biggest media company in the country shouldn’t have any need to use a VPN to access U.S. Netflix. Surely the Turcke household is subscribed to Bell’s highest-tier TV package, with all manner of channels, shows and movies flowing like water, which kind of makes the anecdote sound a little fishy.

The irony lies in what is a now-accepted principle of digital goods: that when they are made easily available at a reasonable price, people usually end up willing to pay for them. Netflix has said BitTorrent use in Canada has been cut in half since the company set up shop and independent studies have found the same – that legal services such as Spotify curb use of shadier ones wherever they pop up.

Anecdotally, I can attest to that. I’ve used a VPN to access U.S. Netflix over the past few months specifically to access three shows not on the Canadian service: Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Louie. That’s it. I’m otherwise happy with Canadian Netflix.

I’m in the process of testing out Shomi – Rogers and Shaw’s streaming service – ahead of its wider Canadian launch this summer (full review coming soon). Wouldn’t you know it, all three of those shows are there.

Guess what? I’ll be subscribing to Shomi just as soon as it’s extended beyond just Rogers and Shaw customers. It’s easier than using a VPN and it’s reasonably priced.

I’ll wager many Canadians will do the same and, just like Netflix lowered BitTorrent’s popularity, the greater availability of content via legitimate streaming options will lead to a corresponding decline in VPN use.

So here’s a question for Turcke. If using software to access content that isn’t available in the format desired is theft, then what is forcing people to pay for things they don’t want just to get the things they do?

At the risk of verging into provocative invective, most people would call that extortion. And yet it perfectly describes the cable system so far, where for decades people have been forced to pay for channels and shows they don’t want just to access the handful they do.

Extortion also perfectly describes Bell’s own streaming effort, CraveTV, which is only available to those who also pay for one of those expensive TV subscriptions. CraveTV is the only legitimate way for Canadians to get some highly sought after streaming content, including HBO.

In the same speech, Turcke stopped short of announcing that Bell will follow Shomi’s lead and open CraveTV to all Canadians without a TV subscription. The belief is the company doesn’t have the rights to do so – either Bell hasn’t been able to wring those rights away from the likes of HBO, or HBO is too smart to give them up.

Either way, accusing someone of stealing when you’re guilty of something potentially worse isn’t likely to garner sympathy for your cause. If Bell really wants to stop thievery, the company may want to consider cutting out the extortion.

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9 Comments on If VPN use is theft, then Bell’s CraveTV is extortion

  1. El Quintron // June 4, 2015 at 9:29 pm // Reply

    The emperor has no clothes.

  2. The end user is not a thief . Period. They are paying for a product, and using the resulting product. If it turns out that Netflix is not paying the proper royalties when a Canadian watches US Netflix because of their licensing agreements with the studios, then the only possible thief is Netflix itself for keeping the royalties to themselves.

    For Bell to put the blame on the user is getting close to slander. Netflix is a far superior product to anything that the Canadian media companies are offering (Shomi / Crave / etc) , as Netflix is the same regardless of ISP, whereas these other products differ depending on who one is connected to. Rogers/Bell/Telus/Shaw would do much better to form a single consortium to provide a competing service to Netflix, in the same way that the Canadian banks have a single Interac which is far superior to debit card processing in the U.S.

  3. CAL VEDDER // June 5, 2015 at 1:24 pm // Reply

    Judging by the less than truthful comments of Ms. Turcke it seems that she has the correct bullying attitude to be the top “TURKEY” at Canada’s biggest corporate bully Bell Canada. Just cancelled eight services of Bell at home and my office and I couldn’t feel better. True freedom, feels great.

    • Rick Duffield // June 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm // Reply

      I am with you Cal! I will be canceling my Bell TV service asap! Good on you, fellow consumer!!!

  4. Since I live right on the border with the US, so close in fact I can see 2 US TV towers from my bedroom window. it’s a very simple matter to stick up any old cheap antenna and get most of the major US networks and not pay a dime. Is that also theft by her standards? I’m sure it is according to the CRTC. It’s a way around not getting CDN content, including the commercials.. I can get 22 US network channels but can’t get any CDN channels. I expect the CRTC police to be banging on my door anytime

  5. Same kind of garbage that comes out of bell and their cohorts, they get away with legalized theft in the cell phone market and believe they have the right to keep on raping us with whatever crap they put out. well bell I recently open a att cell phone account that gives me unlimited usage across North America for $30US soon others will discover you can use ATT roaming in Canada far cheaper then you can buy the Bell, Rogers crap for here.

  6. 🙂

    Canadians caught stealing American Netflix to be punished with 3-year Bell contract – The Beaverton – North America’s Trusted Source of News

  7. VPN use if theft??? No it’s not… As a VPN user, I use them for work and for business. I even use them to unblock places like Netflix, HBO, Hulu and other… This not only hides your identity, but also makes it appear as though you are in the country where the server is.

  8. I am more fed up with Bell than I can properly articulate without turning to rather unpleasant language. I am currently paying over %50.00 more for the same services I had three months ago. Why? Because they can. Well, they think they can. I said ‘currently’ because I am in the process of looking for a better provider. And I’ve been a loyal Bell customer – all the way back to the 70s. I’ve never forgotten a conversation I had back then when I was informed, upon advising Bell of an upcoming move to a different city, that I was going to be charged for the privilege of taking my equipment into a Bell office and getting replacements for my new phone number. When I challenged this, asking the rep why I should have to pay a sizeable service charge when it was my time, my car and my gasoline that would be used to make the change and that all THEY would have to do would be pull some switch, the reply was (and this many years later I can quote it close enough to verbatim to justify quotation marks), “Well, don’t do it then. But what will you do for phone service?” They were the only game in town back then and they knew it. Despite the change in that aspect of service provision, it’s clear that Bell’s attitudes toward their customers has changed not one bit. Well, except for this: they now adopt a polite tone while gouging.
    So long Bell.

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. ‘Socially unacceptable,’ ‘stealing’ or not, VPNs aren’t going away – The Wire Report Blog
  2. Get with the program, Bell | Angelus Novus
  3. Stealing American Netflix can benefit creators - AlphaBeatic
  4. Tell the CRTC: All Canadians Deserve Faster, Cheaper Internet Service – BREAKING NEWS

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