Netflix is one of the most universally adored services out there. Where as most companies have as many outspoken critics as they do fans, heaps of praise are constantly shoveled Netflix’s way by customers. Since it’s so rare to see users upset with the company, it’s definitely a change of pace when nearly 45,000 people band together and demand that Netflix change one of its policies — but that’s exactly what happened earlier this week.
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In an open letter dated May 11th and signed by nearly 45,000 people as part of a petition, a group of people addressing Netflix CEO Reed Hastings laid out all the reasons they believe Netflix should stop blocking VPN users.
For those who might be unaware, Netflix users in many regions use VPN services to appear as though they’re streaming Netflix from inside the United States. The US has a much larger catalog than most other regions; Netflix has to license content in each individual market, and it licenses far more content in the US than it does elsewhere.
You can see how other regional catalogs compare to the US right here.
Netflix used to turn a blind eye to subscribers who used VPN services to spoof their locations, but pressure from content owners recently forced the company to change its policy. So, beginning in late January, Netflix began actively blocking VPN users in some regions.
“Watching quality content, and knowing that creators are being compensated in the process is great,” the letter to Hastings reads. “But we also love our privacy. And lately, as your subscribers, you just haven’t been treating us well. Over the past few months, Netflix has begun blocking VPN users from accessing any content in the Netflix library, as a way to enforce national licensing restrictions. This is a huge problem for our privacy-conscious supporters, who use VPNs as an essential, user-friendly tool to protect their privacy in a post-Snowden world.”
The letter goes on to suggest that Netflix change the structure of its deals so that content is licensed globally and the company isn’t forced to use geoblocking solutions. That… isn’t going to happen.
Privacy issues are a valid argument. Of that, there is no question. But there is a word that describes the act of using a VPN service to access content licensed in a region other than the one you’re in: stealing. Netflix pays to stream content to certain regions, and those agreements are not global. If you live in Australia and you stream a movie licensed only for viewers in the US, your monthly subscription fee doesn’t cover royalties paid to the owner of that movie.
45,000 people is an impressive number and we’re not trying to belittle their concerns. But the bottom line is that nothing is going to change anytime soon.
The full letter, which was posted by TorrentFreak, is embedded below.