Sorry, VPN users, Netflix is coming for you…

3 min read
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Netflix-in-SA

I’m sorry about this, but you can’t have your cake and eat it. Specifically, you can’t bake your cake and keep it, but also expect to eat it.

Some local Netflix users are coming to this realisation as Netflix announced it will be cracking down on VPN connections.

In the past Netflix was not officially in South Africa, which meant to access it required using a VPN service that masked your origin. It’s an old practice: back when the Xbox 360 service went online, you didn’t have to use a VPN – but you did need to fake credit card address details to fool the system.

It’s not just locals being targeted – Netflix has made this clear for all territories:

Netflix vice-president of content delivery architecture David Fullagar warned in a post on the subscription video-on-demand platform’s website on Thursday night that “in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are”.

Now the initial reaction is to cry foul. Surely it’s not right, especially since there are far, far, far more shows and movies on the US service than the recently launched South African version of the online streaming platform. It’s just not fair, right?

I can understand that and in terms of DVD region locking I’m actually a supporter of that logic. But what Netflix is doing isn’t quite the same. I’d put it down to three points:

1. It makes little sense for Netflix to keep ignoring VPN users when it now wishes to build local audiences. Technically what Netflix had been doing was wrong – it really had an obligation to block VPN users. But it exploited that to get footholds in new markets. Now that it has official presences, it must play by the rules.

2. Allowing continued VPN access is unfair to other competitors. When Netflix first began attracting local users, there was no Showmax, MaxVU, Vidi or similar services. But now there are. If Netflix fought them both locally and behind VPNs, that is the very definition of anti-competitive practices. It would eventually attract regulator scrutiny and other legal troubles.

3. Licensing is a big part of this and that, frankly, is bigger than any one consumer. I would love for someone to force HBO into putting their shows on Netflix, but that is not fair. It’s HBO’s choice. We shouldn’t believe that our rights as consumers invalidate the rights of those who own the content.

Yes, it’s not great for consumers. We want it all. But it’s not all just about us. Instant gratification is not the only thing that matters.

If you are still angry, write a letter to Netflix and urge them to release shows X, Y and Z here. But don’t be surprised because your VPN cord gets cut. That was inevitable.

Last Updated: January 15, 2016

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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