What is Netflix thinking, blocking VPN traffic?

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 by Rick Falkvinge
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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.

About Rick Falkvinge

Rick is Head of Privacy at Private Internet Access. He is also the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. Additionally, he has a tech entrepreneur background and loves good whisky and fast motorcycles.

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12 Comments

  1. davecb

    The movie companies are still living in the era when one literally shipped reels of film by ship, and had to translate and redub their movies for countries who didn’t natively speak American English.

    They covered the costs by selling their products on a country-by-country basis. This would be an utterly illegal restraint on trade if done between states in the United States or provinces in Canada, but between countries, they get away with it… until several countries create a free-trade area.

    Sound like any continent we know?

    3 years ago
    1. John Reviewit

      Companies can charge different prices for the same product in different locales, that isn’t restraint of trade.

      3 years ago
  2. nutterboxer

    United States is also affected by this, I was unable to watch Netflix on Sunday and I live in US. PIA needs to start rotating IP’s…

    3 years ago
    1. davecb

      Complain to your state’s attorney general about illegal restraints on interstate commerce
      –dave (only slightly tongue-in-cheek) c-b

      3 years ago
  3. Lunartemis

    Australia is affected. I currently have 3 more months worth of credit in my account but as soon as they are used up, I will be cancelling

    3 years ago
    1. Ricky Martin

      You have no need to cancel your subscription. I am still accessing Netflix from Hong Kong. It is true that Netflix is blocking VPN Netflix is detecting users real IP with some DNS-browser trick like WebRTC, which caused one of my VPNs to stop working. Finally got it working again using “HIDE-MY-IP” VPN and a settings called DNS protection (that must be turned on) which blocks Netflix from seeing your real IP… now I can watch US/UK Netflix again from Hong Kong without any issue. One of my friends is using this VPN from Australia and it is working perfectly for her too. You may also try this one.

      3 years ago
  4. Patrick Polish

    Ya ok. So this article is a rewrite of 100′ s of others. Where is the “PIA is working hard to keep its customers from facing Europe’s faith by…” whick btw is not true because my us netflix is non working for 2 weeks. I get it, its a cat and mouse game but at least it would have been nice to see something related to a solution or at least a step in the right direction

    3 years ago
  5. Joe

    It is very disturbing to me to read that the spokesman for my VPN service thinks that practically everyone smokes weed. Am I really entrusting my privacy to a bunch of pot-heads?

    3 years ago
    1. Leonardo Goes

      Dont like? Leave

      3 years ago
    2. Qi

      i hope that is not the only thing you extrapolated from this blog, that you find disturbing. If so, maybe you MAY like to partake in the spiritual journey… just once. lol

      3 years ago
  6. Eric

    Canada is a very large country and only has server locations in eastern Canada. We in the west would like to have the same server service in the west just like the USA has.

    3 years ago
  7. a disc is round

    Dear Netflix:

    I shall continue paying you to ‘license’ content but I shall use USENET to fetch appropriate-hd-bitrate matroska containers for the movies I wish to watch on whatever hardware I please in whichever location I happen to be.

    I will not tolerate your abusive micromanagement.

    3 years ago