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VPN Providers Laugh Off Netflix's New Futile War On VPNs

from the Whac-a-mole dept

Last week, we noted that the press spent much of the week hysterically claiming Netflix was waging a massive new war on VPNs and proxies to crack down on out-of-region viewing. Of course if you bothered to actually read Netflix’s blog post on the subject, you’d note that Netflix wasn’t actually implementing anything new. It was simply taking the same, modest attempts to block VPNs it has been using for several years into the 130 countries it just expanded into. These are, it should be noted, the same systems that Netflix’s Neil Hunt just got done telling CES that they don’t actually work:

“It?s likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game. [We] continue to rely on blacklists of VPN exit points maintained by companies that make it their job. Once [VPN providers] are on the blacklist, it?s trivial for them to move to a new IP address and evade.”

So yeah, Netflix knows a war on VPNs and proxies is futile, it’s just trying to placate broadcasters in new partner countries. Those broadcasters are (quite correctly) nervous about Netflix coming to town and utterly demolishing the kind of power and influence they’ve enjoyed for a generation or more. As we saw in Australia, many of these companies aren’t really familiar with what competition looks like and don’t really understand how technology works, so they’ve been pressuring Netflix and governments to wage war on VPNs — as if this is going to somehow save them from the looming Internet video revolution.

And, right on cue, VPN providers are noting that what Netflix is doing may be annoying, but it’s relatively trivial to bypass, since they can simply switch IP ranges and avoid Netflix blacklists:

“TorGuard is monitoring the situation closely and we have recently implemented new measures that can bypass any proposed IP blockade on our network. VPN users who encounter Netflix access problems are encouraged to contact us for a working solution,? he adds.

SlickVPN takes a similar stance and says that the static IP-addresses they offer are less likely to be blocked.

?We work tirelessly to ensure our customers have access to the entire internet. If we find that our IP addresses start to become blocked we?ll migrate to new IPs as needed. We also offer the option of static IPs which eliminates the problem entirely,? SlickVPN?s Greg Lyda says.

So in short, Netflix isn’t really engaging in a massive new war on VPNs. It would be more accurate to say it’s making a token effort to thwart VPNs it knows won’t work, to appease necessary broadcast partners who don’t really understand the technology they’re whining about. None of this is to say that what Netflix is doing is good for the Internet or for its users, but it’s a temporary hiccup on the path toward Netflix’s eventual goal: uniform, consistent content licensing that looks the same in every country, instead of the bizarre, fractured content availability many of the new Netflix launch countries experience today.

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Companies: netflix

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Comments on “VPN Providers Laugh Off Netflix's New Futile War On VPNs”

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28 Comments
Violynne (profile) says:

…but it’s a temporary hiccup on the path toward Netflix’s eventual goal: uniform, consistent content licensing that looks the same in every country…

*pulls out the Magical Editing Internet Pencil™

…but it’s a temporary hiccup on the path toward Netflix’s eventual goal: owning 100% of its own content while flipping off Hollywood’s RICO law breaking tactics, known as licensing, to deliver what people actually want to see…

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Piracy!!! Thieving, stinking pirates!

… to deliver what people actually want to see…

… and are, oddly enough, more than willing and happy to pay for (“Argh! Gawd damned pirates!”). Are you listening Hollywood? No, I didn’t think so. You can’t hear much with your head buried in the sand. I guess it’s time to bribe some more politicians who I’m sure will happily assure you they can fix this hiccup legislatively. Ha, ha, ha.

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Working perfectly as designed and intended, despite what those idiots wish might be the case. We reject your interpretation of reality, and substitute our own working version. Your move, and HAND.

Rock on, Netflix. Ignore that kafuffle coming from the peanut gallery. Definitely not your problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Hulu has more of a motive to get serious about blocking VPNs. It is owned by old-media Hollywood companies who have a lucrative business licensing content to overseas distributors. Netflix doesn’t do business with those distributors, since it handles it’s own distribution. What side of the VPN fence you sit on depends on whether you are an ally or foe of the overseas distributors who get cut out of the equation when you let people VPN content directly from America.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Stopping VPN use: Pros vs Cons

Netflix

Pros:
-Incumbent companies whine slightly less about people ‘stealing’ content by paying for Netflix in one country and having access to the content list from another country.

Cons:
-Less customers.
-Less value to the service.
-Less profit.

VPN providers:

Pros:
-Less bookkeeping.

Cons:
-Less business to do bookkeeping for.

Incumbent content and/or broadcasting companies

Pros:
-Drastically less competition.
-Much better position to get as much money as they can from ‘exclusive’ deals.

Cons:
-None

Both Netflix and VPN services have lots of incentives to either encourage or look the other way regarding VPN use, the only way the incumbent companies are going to be able to stop that is the legal route, and even that’s doomed to failure, making this yet another fight they’re going to lose, with the only question being how much money they want to waste fighting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stopping VPN use: Pros vs Cons

You forgot a BIG Pro for Netflix: Not getting sued by distribution competitors whose customers they are stealing. If they kept up a cavalier attitude, they could open themselves up to legal action. Making noises and activity about VPN use fends off the lawyers. if this noise and activity is futile, so much the better. You can’t sue Netflix for winking at VPN use if they can’t stop it anyway…

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stopping VPN use: Pros vs Cons

… they could open themselves up to legal action.

I think it’s a safer assumption to accept you can’t “open yourself up to legal action.” Anything and everything is always open to legal action. Any litigation professional can tell you that. The trick is whether that action has any chance of prevailing, but the lawyer will be happy to encourage you for ever and a day as long as they’re getting their billable hours paid.

Yeah, it’s a con job and people have been complaining about it at least as long ago as Shakespeare’s day, but with the help of politicians it still works despite what anyone with sense may want. They’re supposed to advise clients away from frivolous actions, but they needn’t care if the client ignores such advice, as long as they get paid.

Anonymous Coward says:

VPNs: Make the Internet Great Again!

I had to use a VPN the other day *to get back* to content that was recently geoblocked on youtube. I watched it once and then, poof, it was gone.

It is somewhat ironic that I have to protect myself from “them” on two fronts. First, I run a proxy so that I can strip out advertising in general and other bad stuff. Then, secondly, I have to run a VPN so that I can get to content that I want to see which shields me from the “mother may I” stupidity.

lars626 (profile) says:

Plug the dike

Netflix has to accept the regional licensing dike to offer content. The VPNs keep poking holes in the dike. Netflix pounds corks into the holes they find. They know it is a futile effort but they must do it to please the technically challenged suppliers.

The fun part comes when one of the creator/suppliers figures it all out and drops the regional foolishness and releases worldwide on the same day. How the rest react to the heresy will be interesting. Bring popcorn.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hate to tell all these companies that are making money by separating the globe out into regions, BUT the internet is GLOBAL. They need to stop trying to control “who gets what”, and treat it as a “release to everyone”. Same thing with the video game industry, oh Europe gets the game first is BS, Release it to everyone at the same time, The internet is a “tool” that gives us all equality regardless of where we connect from. Get on the band wagon, or get off the internet.

nerdrage says:

Netflix knows this “war” is futile. It’s counting on it to be futile. Netflix is just making a big show to placate content owners it needs to keep friendly for licensing purposes – and to fend off lawsuits from distribution competitors whose customers they are stealing by winking at VPN use. All Netflix needs to do is be SEEN to be trying to do something, and establish a track record of statements and activity that will pass muster with some judge who doesn’t understand VPN stuff anyway. If they do their job right, this will never get in front of a judge because the lawyers will realize Netflix has given them no case to pursue. None of this has much to do with reality or anyone’s actual VPN use.

Whatever (profile) says:

I have to wonder if Netflix will ever try a more nuclear option, serving the VPN providers with a cease and desist?

I would say normally it wouldn’t fly, but clearly the VPN providers would be making changes to get around blacklists and blockages created by Netflix, and do so in order to help their clients avoid such blocking. At some point, does the VPN company become a defacto partner in getting around the blocks (and thus, “pirating” in a way)?

I think the companies are not wise to come out with such clear public statements as to their actions in regard to Netflix specific action. It would seem to create liability for them.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have to wonder if Netflix will ever try a more nuclear option, serving the VPN providers with a cease and desist?

What would be the upside for Netflix? Why would they want to screw over their paying customers? Because their suppliers are complaining? I’d rather lose the supplier than lose satisfied paying customers. If the supplier wants to lose market share or go out of business all together, just keep complaining. It’s not like they’re selling life sustaining pharmaceuticals that people can’t live without.

There’s plenty of others out there offering entertainment for dollars, or for free. Lots of people are sick to death of the whole business and just pirate, enriching no-one. Netflix customers want to pay for content. They just hate the stupid terms of the deal the MafiAA insists on using which they know they shouldn’t have to tolerate.

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