Has Netflix Dug Its Own Grave by Banning VPN

20Jun - by msp - 0 - In Technology


When you’re at the top, even a mere stumble can initiate a swift and bumpy fall. From the looks of it, Netflix seems oblivious to this fact as it continues to turn a deaf ear to the voices of tens of thousands of users pleading it to overturn the VPN ban it instituted at the start of this year. The crackdown followed the company’s announcement to go truly global, a move that was welcomed by thousands, if not millions. Has Netflix shot itself in the foot by blocking VPN? Or are people overreacting to the VPN ban needlessly?

Unfortunately, there’s no way of answering this without taking a closer look at the perspective of both the parties.

Giving Due Respect to the Rights Holders

If you’ve ran into VPN reviews on tech blogs like www.techomag.com, then you’re probably already aware of how they enable users to bypass geo-restrictions in order to access content that isn’t otherwise available in their country. This kind of freedom wasn’t appreciated by rights holders because their arrangement with Netflix clearly specified the countries in which the latter were licensed to stream their content. With the help of VPNs, subscribers were allegedly making a complete mockery of this arrangement and accessing content that was meant to be exclusive to certain regions.

Netflix resisted the pressure from rights holders to ban VPN for quite some time, but finally succumbed to it after it realized that a transgression was indeed being committed. According to the streaming service’s CEO Reed Hastings, it is the company’s obligation to respect the content rights and not just stream the content on its platform in all countries without acquiring proper licensing first.

To further emphasize on its commitment to this new-found respect for rights holders, Netflix has hardened its stance against VPN users and warned of permanently banning users found guilty of spoofing their location.

Forced to Choose Between Netflix and Privacy

Netflix subscribers affected by the ban on VPNs have argued that the streaming service has been bullied into submission by the big media companies and initiated a crackdown that is sucking them in as collateral damage.

This argument is not completely without merit. It is an established fact that internet is far from safe and one of the most effective ways to make it relatively secure is by using a VPN. The encryption provided by the service is particularly useful when sensitive data such as credit card information and bank account is to be transferred across the cyber space. Some Netflix users feel more at ease while using the streaming service in a secure digital environment and are accusing the company of promoting an insecure internet by banning VPN and blocking legitimate users in a bid to appease the rights holders.

Access to Complete Netflix Collection

Of course many Netflix subscribers were compelled to use VPNs because the streaming service has a rather modest collection of titles on offer in their country. They felt very much within their right to virtually shift to another location to access the films and shows available in only that particular region. The arrangement seemed to be working really well for both Netflix as well as its subscribers, especially those residing in countries such as China where government-imposed restrictions made it otherwise impossible to use such a service.

The Inevitable Fallout

Neither Netflix nor people requesting the ban on VPNs to be lifted are ready to budge from their current stance. This impasse is unfavorable for all stakeholders. Netflix faces the risk of losing thousands of its frustrated subscribers, though the company is claiming to have experienced little to no such affect so far. Companies holding the rights to content available on Netflix continue to find themselves vulnerable to losses of millions despite pressurizing the streaming service into bowing to its demand. They may have pushed VPNs out of the scene, but little has been done so far to combat piracy. Torrent sites are just as active as ever, presenting disgruntled users with a tempting alternative. As for the users themselves, they are currently left with no choice but to play by the rules set by Netflix, or else find their accounts getting added to the ban list.

It won’t be a stretch to say that the biggest loser in all of this is Netflix. Despite rampant privacy, it was still managing to stay afloat and very much relevant. However, it’s decision to ban VPN is likely to push people away from legitimate means of acquiring access to digital content and instead push them to sites that offer high-quality pirated content.

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