Paid video-streaming website, Netflix, will reportedly halt service for residents outside North America and Europe. Though officially, Netflix only services to those two continents, sneaky tv and movie enthusiasts abroad have found a loophole into binging on their favorite shows and movies through Virtual Private Network or VPN.
The best VPN systems allow a secure network connection through public networks. With so many hack jobs happening everywhere, most people have turned to using VPN, not just in containing the likes of corporate secrets but also containing those private photos you may actually want to shamefully delete in your harddrive one day. However, for those that live abroad and maybe even have firewalls to bypass, VPN is a great resource tool to connect to the internet as if you are located elsewhere. In fact, in countries such as China where the Great Firewall of China exists to block many users from Facebook, Twitter or even searching on Google, both foreign expats and locals have turned to using VPNs to access blocked websites. This is done so by “changing” the location of your internet source to an American city like Atlanta instead of your actual location of Beijing for example.
While there are many benefits into using VPN domestically and abroad, Netflix is definitely one of best perks for people who have to wait months until their show is aired in their country or have no access to such tv shows at all due to censorships. This is especially so in Australia, where Ubergizmo reports to have “one of the biggest non-US and European markets” for Netflix. Unfortunately, rights holders are now up in arms into having their shows and movies being accessed outside their limitations and have now pushed Netflix into doing something. Fortunately, it may take awhile to effectively do this.
While Netflix can possibly block the biggest VPN providers first, it also pushes local American VPN users out of reach. As it was previously said, VPNs are becoming more and more widely used even in the US and in Europe for a boost of private online security. In addition, it will also cut off thousands of subscribers ($$$); therefore, Netflix will need to think twice about doing that. It will also be interesting to see how Netflix will combat the many, many VPN providers as they seem to be also constantly growing from those available to use for free to the really expensive ones. In fact, perhaps the IT of the Greatwall of China will be watching how Netflix acts as the censorship vs. VPN use in China has been an ongoing battle between the Chinese government and the people.
Personally, I think that a Netflix-VPN collaboration would be godsend. It would mean that access rights will be amended and may cost more for Netflix, but I am sure that American and European expats as well as other foreigners would be more than willing to fork out extra cash to be able to access Netflix abroad. While there are VPN users who settle for the free providers, I know for a fact that there are many who pay for their VPN service, so if Netflix could strike a deal into selectively allowing paid users abroad for another $3-$8 through VPN, I think it could pay off. In this way, it would be beneficial for both Netflix and users, especially for those that have absolutely no other way of accessing shows. With that in mind, an offer like this would be better for the rights holders as they will have better hold of paying users rather than users who scurry for free questionably illegal sites online to access their shows and movies. Still, this would clash with domestic VPN users, so if Netflix were to collaborate with a VPN, at this point, I can only think of Netflix having its own VPN service to be able to cater to domestic users. However, this is outside Netflix’s range of simple video streaming and goes through a whole new market of cyber security.
Alternatively, Netflix being forced to take action may only be a response to the increase of international demand, so perhaps rather than a VPN collaboration, they can just simply extend their service to other countries, increasing their subscriber base abroad. Netflix has already recently been available to many European countries, and as of Friday, Netflix has said its been in talks of streaming in Belgium. As Netflix currently meanders through Europe, it will hopefully give other countries, like Australia, some much needed attention.
I sincerely hope there will be a better solution than completely cutting off VPN users. There are thousands who walk on broken glass blindfolded to find something to watch on questionable sites for free, but there are also thousands of paying subscribers through VPN demanding to watch their share of Netflix. I speak on behalf of the many expats abroad that find some comfort in coming home to watch something familiar after being bombarded with every day culture shock and language they may only half understand. From firsthand experience, since having only discovered the wonders of VPN while living in Shanghai last year, my only regret was not learning of the technology sooner, so that I hadn’t had to miss the series finale of Chuck while living in Seoul. Netflix, find another way.