With the launch of legal streaming services such as Netflix, movie and TV fans have less reason to turn to pirate sites.
At the same time, however, these legal options invite people from other countries where the legal services are more limited. This is also the case in Australia where up to 200,000 people are estimated to use the U.S. version of Netflix.
Although Netflix has geographical restrictions in place, these are easy to bypass with a relatively cheap VPN subscription. To keep these foreigners out, entertainment industry companies are now lobbying for a global ban on VPN users.
Simon Bush, CEO of AHEDA, an industry group that represents Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony Pictures and other major players said that some members are actively lobbying for such a ban.
Bush didn’t name any of the companies involved, but he confirmed to Cnet that “discussions” to block Australian access to the US version of Netflix “are happening now”.
If implemented, this would mean that all VPN users worldwide will no longer be able to access Netflix. That includes the millions of Americans who are paying for a legitimate account. They can still access Netflix, but would not be allowed to do so securely via a VPN.
According to Bush the discussions to keep VPN users out are not tied to Netflix’s arrival in Australia. The distributors and other rightsholders argue that they are already being deprived of licensing fees, because some Aussies ignore local services such as Quickflix.
“I know the discussions are being had…by the distributors in the United States with Netflix about Australians using VPNs to access content that they’re not licensed to access in Australia,” Bush said.
“They’re requesting for it to be blocked now, not just when it comes to Australia,” he adds.
While blocking VPNs would solve the problem for distributors, it creates a new one for VPN users in the United States.
The same happened with Hulu a few months ago, when Hulu started to block visitors who access the site through a VPN service. This blockade also applies to hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens.
Hulu’s blocklist was implemented a few months ago and currently covers the IP-ranges of all major VPN services. People who try to access the site through one of these IPs are not allowed to view any content on the site, and receive the following notice instead:
“Based on your IP-address, we noticed that you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you’re in the U.S. you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”
It seems that VPNs are increasingly attracting the attention of copyright holders. Just a week ago BBC Worldwide argued that ISPs should monitor VPN users for excessive bandwidth use, assuming they would then be pirates.
Considering the above we can expect the calls for VPN bans to increase in the near future.