Settling the Question of Netflix and VPNs

There are clumps of Netflix users all around the world who use VPNs to access the streaming service’s content. Whether it is because they have moved to another country where Netflix is not available or are dissatisfied by the content that is offered where they live, VPNs solve the problem quickly and easily. Netflix has said in the past that they are not going after VPN service access. But now they seem to have changed their minds. Their problem is that there is actually nothing wrong with using VPNs to access Netflix content.

At Least 29% of Canadians Use VPNs for Netflix

A recent poll conducted in Canada by Media Technology Monitor shows that there is a far greater number of people in the country who are using VPNs for Netflix. The group said that 29% of those surveyed admitted to connecting to a VPN to get a US IP address so that they could view US content. The content library of Netflix USA is a lot better than that of Canada, and Netflix users want to have the variety of TV shows and movies available in the US.

Netflix and the countries where they provide streaming services are not happy about the use of VPNs. Different countries have their own licensing agreements and policies regarding the media content that is offered within their borders. This is why the Netflix Canada library is stocked so differently than the US one, and the same is true wherever Netflix is available. But people don’t care about these decisions that are really only for the benefit of governments and corporations. They pay for an online service and there really should not be anything standing in their way of accessing its complete library.

The group of Netflix users who use VPNs is probably closer to 40% in reality, some not willing to reveal their secret weapon. We do know that 40% of Internet users use VPNs to access other types of content that is otherwise unavailable in Canada, based on another recent survey. They want the content, and they are willing to pay for it, so they don’t see why it can’t be provided to them.

Using VPNs for Netflix is Not Wrong

Because of the long standing tensions revolving around VPNs for Netflix, a lot of research has been done on the legality of their use. And Netflix has been on the fence about banning VPNs. Countries and media companies have been pressuring Netflix to do something about VPNs for years, probably because they feel that Netflix should take on the burden. Another reason is that they can’t. They don’t have the technical knowledge to block VPN use, and now it seems that they also don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

But why would Netflix want to block VPN traffic when they would stand to lose a huge chunk of their customers? Many Netflix subscribers who are not satisfied with the content offered in their countries would not continue their subscriptions if they couldn’t use VPNs to get what they want from the streaming service. It seems that these content owners and governments are also threatening Netflix’s potential earnings because the service is apparently prepared to penalize Netflix VPN users.

The questions on every Netflix user’s mind are, if this is really going to happen, and if Netflix has the authority to do it. An interesting article from the Canadian online newspaper Edmonton Journal in Canada, written by Cameron Hutchison, says not. Hutchison writes that VPN use is not illegal, either in Canada or in the US. He also writes that VPN use may not even be in violation of the terms of service of Netflix. If the service does begin blocking VPNs, they are going to face a firestorm from their Canadian users.

We hear a lot about copyright infringement and violations of terms, but the role of VPNs and why they are considered bad has never been clearly explained. First of all, The Netflix terms of service are vague. They say that Netflix users can watch content that is available in countries where Netflix is offered. Netflix is offered both in Canada and in the US. There is nothing there about VPNs. Furthermore, content licensing for the US library has been purchased by Netflix. The content can therefore be offered to Netflix users there. A VPN simply brings a user to the US virtually to access it. There is no violation.

Copyright infringement is also not an issue when VPNs are used to access media. The laws in both countries do not consider online content viewing to be an offense, and Netflix users are only viewing this content. It is Netflix, the uploader, who would be in violation of copyright laws, if they did not have their licensing agreements. Even if we go as far as to look at the laws on importation, says Hutchison, Netflix users would still be in the clear because video streaming is not covered by this. There is a Canadian copyright law that says people can’t use tools that circumvent technologies that have been put in place to protect copyrighted material. But this only pertains to Canadian content. And besides, IP addresses are not technological protection measures as defined by the law. The comparable US copyright law also does not cover VPN use.

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