After years of waiting, Netflix officially launches in Australia today.
As a result, the tens of thousands of Aussie “VPN-pirates” who already used the U.S. version through a loophole, can now use it legally in their home country.
While Netflix’s rollout is a step in the right direction, the content selection will also be somewhat of a disappointment to those who are used to the U.S. offering. Because of complicated licensing agreements Netflix has a much more limited content library Down Under.
For the movie and TV studios geographical licensing agreements are a core part of their business. However, it also means that many Aussie pirates won’t be canceling their VPN subscriptions just yet.
Speaking out on the controversial VPN use, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that the problem can be fixed if the industry starts to offer the same content globally, without artificial barriers.
According to Hastings the VPN issue is a relatively small problem compared to traditional forms of piracy, and relatively easy to make obsolete.
“The VPN thing is a small little asterisk compared to piracy,” Reed notes. “Piracy is really the problem around the world.”
According to Netflix the ‘VPN pirates’ are willing to pay, they just can’t get what they want through their local Netflix.
“The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to [use a VPN]. Then we can work on the more important part which is piracy,” Hastings says.
The availability issue is fixable, Hastings believes, although it’s questionable whether Hollywood is ready to switch to global licensing deals.
Lacking availability is at the root of both traditional and VPN piracy and Netflix hopes that the industry will address this problem. If that’s done, they can focus on those pirates who simply don’t want to pay.
“The key thing about piracy is that some fraction of it is because [users] couldn’t get the content. That part we can fix. Some part of piracy however is because they just don’t want to pay. That’s a harder part. As an industry, we need to fix global content,” Netflix’s CEO says.
Hastings’ comments are in line with the stance of Europe’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip. The EU commissioner previously called for the abolition of Netflix’s geographical restrictions in Europe, labeling them as “discrimination”.