It is one of the great bugbears of Netflix customers that they don’t always have access to the same things as those in other countries. Even though Netflix UK’s selection is not as big as its US counterpart, both libraries are, despite common misconception, very similar. They are both missing key titles – and they both have a similar amount of rubbish cluttering up the shelves.
For users in the UK, Mad Men is not available. Users in the US, meanwhile, had to wait for months until Breaking Bad was available – despite being added immediately after initial TV broadcast to Netflix UK. The bottom line? In subscription VOD land, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Of course, Netflix restricts access geographically: if you sign into Netflix in Norway, it will be different to signing into Netflix in the UK. Some users therefore use VPN services to bypass Netflix territories and watch things from other countries – a practice that, technically, is piracy, as Netflix does not have the rights for the content in every country. Some people use these services to sign into Netflix despite not having any presence in the country at all: in Iceland, for example, Netflix does not officially operate, but 1 in 4 between the ages of 18 and 29 have an account.
Netlix has never taken action against these users. Now, though, that may be about to change, as content providers call for a ban on pirate VPN users.
The move arrives ahead of a rumoured Netflix launch in Australia – where more than 200,000 people are thought to access the US site illegally.
Simon Bush, CEO of AHEDA, which represents Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony Pictures and other major players told CNET that some (unnamed) members are lobbying for a ban.
“I don’t know what Netflix will do around geo-blocking people using VPNs and international credit cards,” he said, “but presumably it would fit the business model — if they’ve got rights cleared in Australia…and [they’re] going to the effort — that they would want Australians to access their locally-based service. That is just a common sense assumption.”
Discussions “are happening now”, he added, but are geared towards action taking place before the Oz Netflix launch, if it does indeed take place.
“They’re requesting for it to be blocked now, not just when it comes to Australia,” Bush added.
If acted upon, these discussions would leave VPN users around the world unable to access Netflix, with some users accessing the service legally via VPN.
TorrentFreak notes that Hulu recently implemented a similar thing for its service, displaying the following message to users:
“Based on your IP-address, we noticed that you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S. you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”