So Netflix has banned people using VPNs in Europe from accessing their service. This move can be kindly described as “moronic”, for a variety of reasons. To start off, we’re talking about shutting out your paying customers.
The Reddit thread about Netflix’ action is positively fuming. It’s currently unclear exactly what countries are affected by this – there are reports coming in from many places in Europe. Other places do not seem to be affected. This is particularly dumb, as a weak Net Neutrality regulation is waiting to be signed into law in Europe, which has been described as – and I’m not making this up – “mandatory roaming rights for Netflix”.
It’s conceivable that Netflix doesn’t want it this way, but is coerced by Hollywood and other backwards actors that still think they run the Internet. If so, they’re shooting themselves in both feet and reloading. The same Reddit thread is full of people drawing a mild sigh and basically saying “ohwell, back to torrenting”. (Which is illegal, just like cannabis, which pretty much everybody under 40 does anyway, just like torrenting.)
Therefore, let’s make that observation again: shutting out VPN traffic does not deter pirating. It shuts out paying customers who want to access the service they paid for in a form they prefer. This move deters paying, and shifts usage to torrenting. This kind of dumb behavior has been consistent from the copyright industry since the advent of the cassette tape, so it has their fingerprints all over.
Further, this fearmongering around VPN users is counterproductive to civil rights. Especially in Europe, which is still plagued by ghost of the Data Retention Directive, people have a very legitimate reason to thwart the governmental attempts to constantly track all their behavior – what news articles they’re reading and in what order, their dating habits, what they’re buying, what they’re thinking of buying but end up not buying, and so on. Punishing your users for caring about their basic rights seems… well, again, moronic.
But even if this were aimed at peer-to-peer technologies and unauthorized manufacturing of copies, that war was lost a long time ago. We’re now in a time with Bluetooth version 4 where mobile phones have between 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage. This means that a person can carry what amounts to all music currently listened to, and constantly share it in a mesh network – with everybody in same the subway car, on the same café – completely untraceably. While such tools don’t exist today, it’s merely a matter of necessity – should the need arise, they would be coded in weeks, and then, most copying would happen in visual range.
So how bad would that be? Not very, actually.
Before the Internet, when people were copying using floppy disks and walking to each other’s homes to make copies, it took three days – 72 hours – for something desirable to reach everybody who wanted it. I know, because I was there. This is the best somebody trying to prevent the Internet’s utility can ever hope for, and it seems, again, moronic.
Privacy remains your own responsibility.