Australian Broadcasters, Netflix Competitors Pout Because Netflix Hasn't Banned VPN Users Yet

from the give-the-people-what-they-want dept

Australia has a long and proud history of seeing higher copyright infringement rates, thanks in large part to the country’s failure to offer up legitimate, affordable streaming video options. With Netflix officially unavailable Down Under, many viewers there have taken things into their own hands and have started using VPNs to mask their location and subscribe to the service anyway. Cue the rising hysteria from both broadcasters and Australian Netflix competitors, who insist that something has to be done about this flagrant outrage. They’re helped by regional paper The Australian, which suggests that these paying users are “pirates”:

“Highlighting how the TV networks view these people, an article this morning in News Corp-owned The Australian went as far as labeling subscribers as “pirates”, even though they are paying for the service…”There is concern at local networks about the growing impact of the US company flouting international regulations by accepting payments from Australian credit cards, despite maintaining a geo-block that is easily bypassed by VPN manipulation or spoof IP addresses,” the paper said.”

Granted, if companies were delivering what users wanted, this wouldn’t even be an issue. In fact, that would seem to be a much easier solution to this “problem.” Instead, broadcasters and Australian streaming provider Quickflix (HBO is an 8% owner) seem to think it would make more sense to force Netflix to ban the use of a very common technology that has innumerable uses well outside of just skirting regional limitations. Some users, for example, are finding that VPNs are one (albeit sometimes inefficient) way to bypass some of the annoying new peering feuds erupting here in the States. Still, Quickfix thinks somebody really should force Netflix to start blocking VPNs before the country starts falling apart:

“Quickflix chief executive Stephen Langsford has accused US online streaming service Netflix of turning a blind eye to copyright infringement in order to get a free ride in Australia, as competition heats up in the TV and movie streaming market…”The studios have licensed Netflix to distribute content on particular terms in the US and other larger markets, they haven’t licensed Netflix for Australia. I have no doubt that the studios are in discussions with Netflix about VPNs because it is blatantly in breach of terms and Netflix is essentially getting a free ride into Australia.”

It seems like only a matter of time before proxies and VPNs see a renewed focus as public enemy number one by the entertainment industry. Most of the world’s graduated response programs, including ours here in the States, can’t detect users who are using proxies and VPNs at all. With Australia now contemplating a graduated response program of their own, you can expect the vilification of VPNs to ramp up quickly, even though any laws restricting their use would be met with swift and steep opposition.

Netflix hasn’t stated why they’ve yet to head to Australia yet, but it’s either because they want to prioritize larger international markets, or they’re having a hard time securing content licensing from Australian broadcasters. Until Netflix does show up Down Under, Australian cable operators like Foxtel are engaged in the kind of brilliant anti-piracy maneuvers we’ve grown used to, such as locking down HBO’s Game of Thrones in an exclusive streaming and download arrangement. Surely that will stop copyright infringement of what’s become the most pirated show on the Internet, right?

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Companies: hbo, netflix, quickflix

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Comments on “Australian Broadcasters, Netflix Competitors Pout Because Netflix Hasn't Banned VPN Users Yet”

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62 Comments
Rikuo (profile) says:

Somewhat similar situation happened to me. I was a paying subscriber to Crunchyroll, but I used a VPN to access their US catalogue, rather than the local one. One time, I went onto a popular Irish forum and asked questions about which VPN is best for streaming, since I was having problems with mine. The forum mods took down my post, saying that even though I had pointed out I was paying for CR, I was still committing some sort of “crime” by mentioning violating geo-restrictions.

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Geo-restrictions on the internet

The main problem is crap like this.

There is no (should be no) “US internet” or “Australian internet”, the internet is a… well, GASP international net.

It, and it’s infrastructure, maintenance and overseer organizations should be sovereign entities protected by the UN, NATO, whatever.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Geo-restrictions on the internet

the internet is a… well, *GASP* international net.

Incorrect. The Internet is a series of interconnected networks. A network of networks. It is not one gigantic network. It is made up of national (and other) networks that are themselves made up of thousands, millions of separate networks that all interconnect. Each ISP is its own, separate network that interconnects with other networks (this is where peering comes in, see the recent stories about netflix peering problems).

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Geo-restrictions on the internet

So you say you have to have the digital equivalent of passport and visa to access the “USA internet” from a far away location?

The infrastructure of the internet is (of course) owned by different countries, but the core design of the internet don’t support separation by countries the way you suppose.

You don’t normally know or have control over the route of the packets you send and receive, it can cross multiple countries on it’s way without affected by the fact (apart from apparently certain countries like to sniff everything…). It’s not like you travel by car from Germany to Russia.

If you want your network to be part of the internet, you must have to adhere to certain rules, and these rules and organizations should be independent from any country.

edpo says:

VPN's

Anyone attempting to criticize VPN’s in this day and age is clueless. I am on a VPN all day, for my privacy *and* because that is how my business is set up to work. I can be anywhere in the world and be sitting at my desk, working as I normally do and being productive. My personal interests (privacy and productivity) trump what some technophobe entertainment-industry lawyer thinks I should be doing to maximize his employer’s revenue. It’s absurd. If I were advocating for changes in *his* industry to help maximize my income at the expense of his employer’s interests, the absurdity would be even more obvious.

Anonymous Coward says:

This just further highlights the Media/MAFIAA wanting to control the internet. It’s no longer a case that there are people with money willing to pay to use the service but now more of a case of the Media/MAFIIA wanting the people to use the service when they say so on their terms because they feel that by restricting the service then it will generate more profit for them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, I had an argument with some idiot a while back on Reddit or similar. He, of course, started by totally jumping at the wrong type of argument (arguing that people who paid for VPN access were pirates wanting things for free – he kept at that argument for a while even after I pointed out that anyone doing so was paying more than anyone else since they had the VPN fee on top of the usual subscription fee. Sigh…).

Once things settled down, he literally couldn’t come up with a reason why accessing a US Netflix account was any different to importing NTSC VHS tapes, region 1 DVDs or region A Blus. Apart from vague notion of “entitlement”, nobody seems to come up with any argument other than “if the studios don’t want you to buy it, don’t buy it”, which sits rather uncomfortably with the “we’re losing money because people don’t buy our stuff” arguments. Actively spending money to prevent people from paying for content they otherwise cannot legally access does seem rather counter-productive.

But hey, now that the argument seems to be switching from people only getting things for free to people not spending their money in the right location, there seems to be some progress. Sadly, as ever, the answer is “fix your outdated business model that depends on market factors that no longer exist” – something that seems to take a decade to get across among all the lies.

Easily Amused (profile) says:

Aus bandwidth

Part of the reason Netflix isn’t servicing the Aus/NZ region is the re-goddamn-diculous charges for bulk bandwidth the ISP’s charge. Datacenter level peering connections cost 5x-10x what they cost in all other regions. If Netflix expands to this area officially, they would have to set up local infrastructure to support the massive amount of traffic it would generate, because the existing network links to Oceania are horrible with latency and packet loss a majority of the time, and downed links will sometimes stay down for weeks.

Given how much media Netflix would be exposing to Aussies for the first time, and the lack of any serious competitors, the market penetration for an official launch there would be huge. Adding something like 30%+ of additional traffic to US-based servers for streaming would rapidly bring the Oceanic ISP’s to their knees.

I couldn’t even place a guesstimate number on what Netflix would have to pay to offer any kind of reasonable quality of service in that environment, not even counting the new licensing deals for regional content that would have to be sorted out.

Easily Amused (profile) says:

Re: Re: Aus bandwidth

it’s not cross-pacific data that is the problem, it is the cost of the local Aus data warehousing and local bandwidth needed, on top of the costs of regional programming. Just renting Colo space in an Aus DC for game servers, etc is crazy expensive, obtaining rackspace and local peering bandwidth for Netflix-ish data volumes would be monumentally expensive.

DB (profile) says:

I see this as the same situation as importing low-cost textbooks licensed for foreign markets.

Large companies want the benefits of an open world economy, moving production freely to optimize costs. But they don’t want their customers to have the have same freedom to buy where the prices are lower, or the selection is better.

In this case the media companies want to buy their content on the worldwide market, while restricting their customers from doing the same. They want the government to effectively grant them a distribution monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In Australia many of the large Bricks & Mortar stores have been complaining that their previously ripped off customers have bypassed them and bought stuff via the internet. When they first went to the last Federal Government they complained that the exemption from paying GST (10%) on goods valued at less than $1000 was the reason for this snubbing of their B&M stores, however after a massive uproar from the public when they stated that they were saving up to 50% off their overseas purchases even if GST was added on, the B&M stores soon STFU.
However now a new business friendly LNP Federal government is is control we have been warned that GST may well be added onto these

vastrightwing (profile) says:

Sledge hammer

Yes, here we go: it’s not enough that we take the web away and make it a trunk based system. Next we’re creating geo location databases so we can limit information flow based on location information. But since people can circumvent that little problem, we now have to figure out how to determine if a user is using a proxy server or VPN? So we’re bent on the idea of taking a sledge hammer and systematically destroying the information super highway and turning it into a muddy dirt road?

Ok, the internet was not invented to make your business models make money for you. No it was designed to allow people to communicate. There was no thought about security, DRM, geo location, profits for record companies or film distribution. It was about allowing people to communicate with each other. And since it wasn’t designed to do what you want it to do, you want to destroy it! Is this correct?

Why can’t you guys create your own network called the entertainment network cable and charge people tons of money to access your network. I’m sure everyone will subscribe. Make it so consumers have no control over the content. Don’t allow consumers to record or time shift or place shift. Make sure to raise rates every 6 months and block programming every time there is a dispute over money. Now that will be popular. But stay the f— away from our network!

Anonymous Coward says:

News limited enjoy a monopoly on pay tv in Australia.
The cheapest package is $49/month and the most expensive being $124. For the price you pay the content is not great and riddled with advertising. Quickflix, netflix’s competitor in Australia is mostly a postal dvd service and has very little streaming content. They charge $9.99/month for a streaming only plan *but* You also have to pay extra for the latest content. For example Walking dead season 4 $42.99. high speed internet for homes is vehemently opposed my media corporations and liberal government reps due to the threat to the profit margins they pose.

mattshow (profile) says:

It’s cliche now to say that big content producers (movie studios, TV networks etc.) need to adapt to the new realities that the Internet has forced up on them. There are, occasionally, situations in which I don’t think that general principle is apt and in which I feel a bit of sympathy for the content producers.

But if there is one thing that content producers need to accept as something that is completely true and completely out of their control, it’s this: geographical restrictions of any kind are dead. People don’t just talk about TV shows and movies around the water cooler in their offce anymore. The true fans, the superfans, the fans who will buy all your DVD box sets and t-shirts and posters and will go to the conventions, the fans that, as a content producer, you desperately want to attract, are online talking to other superfans in other countries. And if you think the superfans in Australia are going to wait six months to watch the episode that all their American friends online watched last night and are talking about, you’re badly mistaken. If you don’t make it available to them through legal channels, they will find other ways to get it.

And they don’t care what the reasons for the delay are. They don’t care that back in the 90s, you signed exclusive distribution deals with some Australian TV networks because that made sense at the time and those TV networks haven’t got around to making the material available yet. They don’t care that you have a marketing plan that depends on staggered releases. They don’t care what your excuse is. All they know is that there is something out there that they want to watch, they’re willing to pay you to watch it, and you’re not giving them that option. So they’re going to take the other option.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1) It’s not hurting Netflix’s business, quite the opposite in fact, as VPN’s are allowing customers they otherwise would not have to sign up and pay them.

2) Why should anyone but the studios feel the need to help the studios? Netflix isn’t an employee of the ones complaining(no matter how much the one’s whining think or claim otherwise), why should they screw over their own customers just to appease those too stupid to make available what people are clearly willing to pay for if it’s made available to them?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“VPNs should be banned as they is no legitimate reason for them.”

If you ever wonder why people think you’re a clueless moron with no concept of the facts you’re trying to argue – here it is. Go away, do 5 minutes of research into what VPNs are and how they’re used in business, then try to deal with facts. I know real facts are more difficult than the AC fantasies, but there it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

It would be easy for Netflix to detect proxy and VPN usage. There are software programs that keep lists of all known IP addresses of proxies, VPNs, and anonimity services. Programs like Blocked.com (formerly blockscript), are very good at this.

I know this because I had to install a program on my website a few years ago to keep out one persistent and troublesome user who would not get the message that he was not welcome on my web site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, this new market in software is just getting started now, and Blockscript/Blocked.com has the most affordable solution, starting at $495, plus $20 each for any other domains you want to license, and no annual subscription after that. That is why I use it to keep that one troublesome user out of my web site. It is affordable, and it works.

If Netflix chooses to block proxies, VPNs, and the like, I think that is the way they will do it. All you need is a Windows Server, and Apache web server software, and PHP, and you are good to go.

Netflix would have to switch to Windows servers, since the setup is designed to run on Windows servers, and not Linux or Unix, as Apache is a Windows product.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Informative, though it rather misses the second point I raised, that of ‘Why should they?’

It wouldn’t matter if it cost them nothing at all to block all VPN users from their service, the point remains, doing so is stopping people who want to pay them from doing so, and intentionally driving away customers and potential customers is never a smart business plan.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Apache is a Windows product.”

Are you stupid, or do you just like to lie?

I can’t think of any other reason why someone would claim this kind of totally idiotic, totally wrong “fact”.

For the clueless: Apache is a free, open source piece of software developed by the Apache Foundation, is totally cross-platform and is one of the most popular solutions for Linux and UNIX web servers. While it does also run on Windows, you’d have to be particularly ill-informed to think it was a Windows technology.

Perhaps you’re thinking of IIS, Microsoft’s own web server technology. However, your utterly incorrect claim places doubt on anything else you say, especially since you claim to host web sites yourself. Perhaps you should educate yourself before claiming to know more than others.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Potential customers to studios: We really like the shows you put out, and we’d love to give you money so we could watch them in an easy, legal fashion, and not have to rely on torrents and downloading in order to watch them.

Studios: We don’t want your money, you filthy pirates!

-Later-

Studios to politicians/’employees’: Despite all we’ve done, all the laws we’ve bought, people still refuse to pay us the exorbitant prices we demand. Not only that, in the places where we don’t offer our product for sale at all, we’re losing literally billions of dollars each year due to people pirating our products.

Politician: I thought you said you aren’t offering the products for sale in those areas, how can you lose money from piracy when you were never going to make a sale in the first place due to your decision not sell there?

Studio rep: Here’s a five grand ‘campaign contribution’, now what were you saying?

Politician: Like I was saying, obviously those filthy pirates are costing you billions each year, which can only be stopped by more and harsher laws introduced here, and then crammed down the throats of the other countries.

Studio rep: Better.

Kronomex (profile) says:

Of course Rupert is complaining bitterly about naughty Australians using VPN’s (which reminds me to keep looking for a good VPN) to watch overseas product, it means his literal stranglehold on cable here is being, gasp, shock, horror, threatened. I fully expect Rupert will lobby his puppets-in-power to ban VPN’s because they are anti-competative. Rupert would like to see free to air, the ABC and SBS destroyed, Rupert doesn’t like the word “free” because it means he doesn’t control it. I’m looking forward to when Rupert carks it because then the fun will start as News Corp, hopefully, self destructs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Rupert’s mum lived to 97yo so sadly it’s a long wait for the parties to start yet, as Rupert is only 82yo. He’s already outlived his father who passed away at 67yo.
If the world thought that the Thatcher parties were big, just wait until this old fossil goes!
Funnily enough Rupert hates the publicly funded BBC yet bought up the Australian broadcast rights to most of their shows, but then he only did that to stop the local publicly funded ABC to broadcast them after a 50? year run.
He so reminds me of greedy Daffy Duck, – it’s mine, mine, mine, all mine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You never know. When people get to that age, the two most likely things to kill him will be either pneumonia or a “silent” heart attack.

As far as “parties” go, wait until the day Dianne Feinstein goes. I have the Fifth Element cover of “Ding Dong the Witch is dead”, ready to play on my online radio station when that happens. When Feinstein goes, the parties will be bigger than those of Murdoch or Thatcher will be.

charliebrown (profile) says:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

Otherwise known as the ACCC, has said, in regards to Australians being forced to pay unreasonably higher prices for software, including songs of iTunes, that if Australians know how to work around a geo-block, they should!

http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/computers-and-online/networking-and-internet/shopping-online/navigating-online-geoblocks.aspx

Anonymous Coward says:

One thing about outlawing VPNs in the US could be a constitutional question, which is one of the unintended effects of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

When the court legalised abortion, they bascially said that that there is a constitutional right to privacy, and that applies to just about anything.

So Roe v. Wade would likely have the unintended effect of making any law against proxies, VPNs, or other privacy tools, unconstitutional.

Of course the IP chapters of TPP, ACTA, TAFTA, and the like are all designed to override the constitution, which is why we will likely see VPNs and other privacy tools outlawed after TPP comes into force.

Anonymous Coward says:

they haven?t licensed Netflix for Australia

Nor do they need to, technically we (I’m in Australia) have parallel import laws with the US, meaning we are within our rights to get content from the states instead of local prividers. If anything the geo-blocking should be illegal as it prevents “parallel import”.

Our top consumer group actually recomended the use of VPN to get around this sort of geo-blocking. This is all just a case of some-one not wanting to compete, so demanding that the competition be removed.

Anonymous Coward says:

If think if anyone really pushes for VPNs to be banned, it will be the cell phone companies. Some providers block “tethering” in the phone, by blocking port 80, but than can be circumvented with a VPN.

When I had to move last year due to bed bugs, and did not have internet right way, I used my VPN subscription to bypass their tethering block that is in the phone, rather than at the network level.

The only problem with that was that I could not use my Netflix subscription, since none of the VPN providers I was using, had US-based servers. All this NSA spying business has some VPN providers spooked, to where they have pulled their U.S. servers.

Anonymous Coward says:

I could see Britain banning VPNs in the near term. This is because it is illegal, in Britain, for a foreigner to access their work Email while there as a tourist. Since one YouTube video points that out among their 25 illegal things most people do on the Net, it is very likely that foreign tourists will start using VPNs to hide it from the British government that they are accessing their work emails, while there on vacation, and I think that will prompt Britain to ban VPNs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t have one, but engaging in work while in the country on a tourist visa is probably banned even if the work is for a foreign company. However, it does seem surprising that an exemption hasn’t been introduced for work which is substantially less than full-time and for which the worker’s presence in the UK is irrelevant, or for business transactions of low value incidental to permitted work (i.e. paying for postage etc.). People taking work with them on holiday is not new, so someone must have spotted that omission by now.

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