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Media The Internet Movies Television

Netflix's Doomed Battle Against VPNs Begins (venturebeat.com) 159

An anonymous reader writes: Australian unblocking service uFlix recently announced that Netflix has begun implementing its plans to block users who take advantage of web proxies and VPNs to get around location restrictions on content. Shortly afterward, the service rolled out a fix to restore service, despite Netflix's efforts. The article makes the case that Netflix is probably just fine with this: "Netflix, ultimately, is caught between a rock and a hard place. The company has gone on record many times criticizing the way content licensing deals are negotiated globally. Of course, Netflix would love to be able offer a consistent library of content around the world. But it also has to stay on-side with those who hold the rights to the content, otherwise they may threaten to pull shows and movies altogether. The result is that Netflix is going through the motions of blocking VPNs, even though it understand perfectly well that these measures are doomed to fail."
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Netflix's Doomed Battle Against VPNs Begins

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  • You can't fix stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:39PM (#51352615)

    And by stupid I mean the licensing deals. We're in 2016 and there's still idiots out there who can't understand that people can't subscribe to 10+ services to watch everything they want.

    That's why I'm staying with Netflix. Either they get the deals and also my money, or nobody gets it. This is entertainment, we can live without it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:55PM (#51352767)

      The current crop of media tycoons are too old to figure that out. They are stuck in a prior generation's way of managing content, and they are doing everything they can to keep the rest of the world trapped in it too, to their own detriment.

      Eventually they will die off and be replaced by a new crop of tycoons who, though just as evil, have a better understanding of how data moves and breathes, and so they will get on board with a more reasonable (and ultimately more profitable) plan. Of course...by the time they get that worked out, THAT paradigm will be technologically outdated, so people will be having this exact same conversation.

      Policy always lags a decade or two behind tech.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This isn't that different in my mind than Apple's preventing copying music directly off an iPod or their original iTunes protected music files. There were very simple workarounds (for the iPod you could access a hidden subfolder and copy off the files which were all renamed to a random string but otherwise contained the needed attributes to load correctly in iTunes on the destination computer, for the iTunes store protected tracks all you had to do was burn them to an audio CD and re-import them... although

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by darkain ( 749283 )

        The problem isn't "policy" though. Dealing directly with content publishers, the problem more often then not has to deal with regional laws. This is the same reason why games are region locked with slightly varying content between regions. It comes down to censorship laws as well as copyright and trademark laws in particular regions. This is why names of games or shows or movies are often times different between each region, or certain scenes which may either up the rating of the content for that region or

        • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @04:41PM (#51353105) Journal
          Thankfully the Pirate Bay has none of those issues.

          I rather liked the policy long held by Dutch legislators: "We don't like piracy, but until there's a reasonable legal alternative, we're not going to do anything about it". This held for a good while for downloadable music and still held for movies when this policy sadly was abandonded. And it seems that at least a few politicians are getting increasingly pissed off about DRM, regional licensing and region codes. I'd like to see the old policy revived and applied per work: if certain content is available in other countries but not here (at similar prices), it's ok to pirate it. Sadly international agreements probably preclude such a policy, and if TTIP is implemented, publishers could sue the Dutch government for this in secret court.
          • There is a reasonable alternative, don't watch/listen to the content. That can actually do a lot to convince the content creators. Many of them are entirely convinced that they have a captive market who "must" get the content somehow and if they can't pirate it that they'll be forced to pay. It's not like this stuff is food which is necessary for survival. We can turn off the TV for a year and actually end up being better off for it.

            • Most people in smaller markets will most likely continue to overpay to get their content later than anyone else. And even if enough of us stop watching and listening to hurt their pocketbook, they will just blame it on piracy anyway. Better that a government reminds them in no uncertain terms that intellectual "property" is not a natural right but an artificial privilege granted by society, and that society can revoke that privilege if it is abused.
              • "And even if enough of us stop watching and listening to hurt their pocketbook, they will just blame it on piracy anyway"

                Revenue for music (in particular) has been falling for decades. Albums overtook single sales in the early-mid 1970s and by the time CDs came along, revenues were declining at about 5% per year(*). CDs kicked that for a while as people restocked their collections but by the early 90s things were falling again (and faster than before).

                (*) This is one of the reasons labels tried charging TV

            • That is not a reasonable alternative. Opting out of social pop culture indirectly opts you out of popular social circles as well. I always feel sorry for the random person who's unable to laugh at a table full of people who just mentioned a funny scene from some popular movie everyone has seen. It creates an awkward situation.

              Piracy on the other hand is a great alternative.

        • This is the same reason why games are region locked with slightly varying content between regions.

          Do you mean consoles? I thought that the current generation (I'm counting PS4, Xbox One, Wii U) weren't _all_ region locked. I'm actually not sure if any of them are. I thought the Wii U _wasn't_, I'm less sure of the others.

      • by invid ( 163714 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @04:42PM (#51353113)

        I'm afraid of what the new crop of tycoons will do to manage content. I'm imagining the following nightmare scenario:

        Mr. McMoneypants: I know there are people out there watching my intellectual property for free and it frosts my balls!

        Prof. Techflunky: You know, if we monitored everything everyone watched then we could send them a small bill every-time they enjoyed your IP. We could make the fee small enough for them to afford it, but have a huge penalty if they refused.

        Mr. McMoneypants: Is that even possible?

        Prof. Techflunky: It's all just engineering. The first step is to eliminate anonymity from the internet. Since this will lessen hacking and terrorism I'm sure we can get the necessary government backing.

        Mr. McMoneypants: Holy Christmas! As it just so happens I own a few politicians! Here's a billions dollars! Put together a team!

        Prof. Techflunky: As you wish master.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "The current crop of media tycoons are too old to figure that out."

        There are a lot of smart people out there and flexible despite their age. The reason why the move is so slow is because the old system can still be milked some more.
        They're not fighting a losing battle, merely stalling to get even more money. When the well is dry, they'll go online and unlike Netflix and others, with a full portfolio of media everyone wants to watch. They hold the content, they make the rules. We're ... just spectators.

      • It's not like "have more content" is some revolutionary business model that requires young people to understand. It's just not licensed cheaply enough to really make sense. And no reason to license it at super-cheap prices, when there's other streaming services willing to pay.

        Really what has to change is consumer attitudes. It's not going to happen for $10/month, and many subscribers wouldn't pay $60/month due to cost expectations/competition.

      • I think the CBS service is hilarious. Watching Big Bang Theory on the computer and it says "Watch 4 episodes for free, or subscribe to All Access and get 7 episodes for free!" Woo, three extra episodes! I laugh imagining that there's some executive over at CBS who honestly thinks that is a good deal.

      • The current crop of media tycoons are too old to figure that out. They are stuck in a prior generation's way of managing content, and they are doing everything they can to keep the rest of the world trapped in it too, to their own detriment.

        Eventually they will die off and be replaced by a new crop of tycoons who, though just as evil, have a better understanding of how data moves and breathes, and so they will get on board with a more reasonable (and ultimately more profitable) plan. Of course...by the time they get that worked out, THAT paradigm will be technologically outdated, so people will be having this exact same conversation.

        Policy always lags a decade or two behind tech.

        What do you do if you are the owner of "Crown Royal" whiskey, a cash cow, and you are bored, but want to get into the entertainment business? You sell that cash-cow for the right to buy into movie, DVD and video cassette distribution business. Well, "cash cow" is still pulling in prize money, and DVD and video cassette have vaporized. So you do your very best to protect your millions. Millions that are slip-sliding away.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @04:02PM (#51352847) Homepage

      It's not idiots, It's scumbags that are the scourge of society.

      Call them what they are, It's malice and greed, pure and simple.

    • And by stupid I mean the licensing deals. We're in 2016 and there's still idiots out there who can't understand that people can't subscribe to 10+ services to watch everything they want.

      That's why I'm staying with Netflix. Either they get the deals and also my money, or nobody gets it. This is entertainment, we can live without it.

      Boy you've got that right.
      It really is interesting when this topic comes up with people I know. Most people out there DO subscribe to multiple services so they can watch whatever/whenever. I don't, and never will. I also just go with NF.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      And by stupid I mean the licensing deals. We're in 2016 and there's still idiots out there who can't understand that people can't subscribe to 10+ services to watch everything they want.

      No. They could subscribe to 10+ services to get everything they want, it's just very few people would do that because of the hassle of dealing with 10+ companies and the price for doing so.

      Consider the Roku and its customized "channels". There's no reason someone one couldn't have 10+ non-free channels on their device. If they want to search for a specific item and aren't sure where it is, like other streaming devices, the Roku will tell you which service has it of the ones you have.

      The real problem is ever

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot.worf@net> on Friday January 22, 2016 @06:47PM (#51354091)

      And by stupid I mean the licensing deals. We're in 2016 and there's still idiots out there who can't understand that people can't subscribe to 10+ services to watch everything they want.

      Actually, they're intentionally doing it.

      Because they don't want another Apple to happen.

      Remember way back, over 10 years ago when Steve Jobs started eslling music online? And how iTunes grew to become THE source for music? And how Apple managed to bully the music industry? And how every attempt by the music industry to dethrone Apple failed?

      Well, it took them a long time before they took the nuclear option - DRM free. To which they granted it to Amazon so Amazon could sell music for iPods, and actually compete.

      And how because of this, the music industry regained control - neither Apple nor Amazon could dictate terms to them.

      Well, the content industry observed, and realized that movies and TVs were in the same boat. They could give their content to one big player and let the smaller players wither away, creating a monopsony (monopoly, the other way - many sellers, one customer). Or they could try to distribute as far and wide as possible, as well as ensuring that not everyone gets all the content so there will be no big player who can dictate the terms and conditions.

      Though if you really want stupid - you should ask why a show created by a provider like Amazon is not available where Amazon is available - I mean, Amazon created the show, so they have distribution rights. Why do they keep it within the US only? Everything Netflix produces is available on every Netflix site...

      • "Remember way back, over 10 years ago when Steve Jobs started eslling music online? And how iTunes grew to become THE source for music? And how Apple managed to bully the music industry?"

        And how did this come to pass? The music industry spent 5 years fighting MP3 downloads and trying to bankrupt their customers for 'piracy' when they could have spent the 5 years building their own online music store and dictating to music player manufacturers. They would have found thay instead of having to take their custo

    • Same here, Netflix or it doesn't exist in my house.
  • Just enough effort (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:40PM (#51352619)

    Netflix needs to make just enough effort to make the studios happy

    The studios need to make just enough effort to make it a pain to circumvent, but not impossible (meaning that 99% of people won't bother).

    The consumer needs to make just enough effort to see the material they want to see.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Exactly. Netflix has never considered it's PAYING customers to be pirates. And that's who this will affect, paying customers. No pirate will be affected by these changes, only paying customers. It's the same with DRM protection on software, this only affects legitimate customers, pirates get the DRM removed for them before they download the software. In fact.... I'll admit to legally purchasing software then proceeding to use cracks released for the pirated version, to remove some of the nonsense DRM.
      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        While I agree with the sentiment, the reality is that all this nonsense does manage to make the vast majority of 'common folk' not know how to circumvent or to even find infringing content. It also makes it more straightforward to identify distributors of infringing content, sending ominous legal threats, and discouraging those that at least know where they could go. As much as we love to point to how quickly people *really* invested in not paying to get things, if you pick out a random folk on the street

      • I think it would be funny to make a film of someone watching a video only available in the US and stepping over the Canadian border and saying whoops, now I'm in violation, then back and forth a few times. Visualize the madness.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The studios need to make just enough effort to make it a pain to circumvent, but not impossible (meaning that 99% of people won't bother).

      Not exactly. You only need 1 person to productize an easy way to circumvent then every joe sixpack can do it.

  • Not doomed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:40PM (#51352625) Homepage Journal
    It isn't doomed to fail. VPN blocking works. Sure, you can get around it, but for most people that is going to be a hassle. Just like Internet censorship, or fighting piracy. It isn't going to fail for most people.
    • Re:Not doomed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:43PM (#51352641)

      Most people use a paid VPN service. Those services will be the ones to go around the problem.

      • Most people use a paid VPN service. Those services will be the ones to go around the problem.

        I imagine there'd be less risk using your own VPN service, ie renting a cheap VPS somewhere in your target country and setting up your own VPN.

        • Re:Not doomed (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Aaden42 ( 198257 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @04:01PM (#51352827) Homepage

          This type of VPN usage isn’t risky right now. You’re thinking of downloading bad stuff over VPN and trying to prevent nastygrams from your ISP. In that case, you’ve got a copyright owner or a LEO with subpoena power who can follow the paper trail back to you with minimal effort.

          This is people paying for VPN’s for paid Netflix subs to stream content that’s not normally available in their market.

          Is there law breaking going on? Probably, but thus far it’s not something that content providers have made the effort to send copyright cease & desist or whatever the local equivalent of DMCA letters for this type of stuff to end users. As for the VPN providers (where the money’s going), they’re arguably doing nothing wrong. They’re just moving packets from A to B, with ‘B’ being a frequently moving target, for Reasons.

          Sure there’s a paper trail, things could get messy some day, but for the time being, paying for this service on your own credit card and accessing Netflix is a very low risk activity.

          The VPN services getting paid have all kind$ of incentive$ to make sure they keep working with Netflix. It’s whack-a-mole with well funded & highly motivated moles. Not likely that any blocks will suceed for very long.

          I’ve little doubt some law or top-secret treaty will attempt to add legal clout to close the loophole; but for now it’s not something that’s likely to get in you trouble. Enjoy it while it lasts...

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            Is there law breaking going on? Probably ...

            Depends on what you mean by law breaking. If you mean criminal law, probably not, actually. Copyright law (as upheld by the SCOTUS in Kirtsaeng, DBA BlueChristine99 v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) doesn't recognize any right to block the import of something that was legally manufactured for sale under license somewhere else. It might, however, qualify as breach of contract, which brings the possibility of civil liability.

            • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

              If you mean criminal law, probably not, actually.

              In Australia there seems to be no legal problem, to judge by

              Film studios and TV companies should not use legislation that allows them to get piracy sites blocked in Australia to "inappropriately threaten" to block access to geoblocked services, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims has said.

              The ACCC is an official government body but they appear to be firmly on the side of the consumer even when you feel the government isn't comfortable with their stance. For example, the ACCC seems to positively encourage consumer grey-marketing of books and DVDs/BDs (i.e., buying them from places like Amazon) as well as the use of VPNs to fight both the old and the new forms of geoblocking.

          • The problem isn't the piracy, or the VPN, or cable vs streaming. The problem ultimately is the moronic idea of time/location based restrictions, which for some reason seems to be a major focus of the content owners. There would be a drastic cut in movie piracy if the DVD/blu-ray/whatevers were all released at the same time all over the world. No one would need VPN workarounds if Netflix were allowed by the content owners to show the same stuff in all locations.

            • by Ramze ( 640788 )

              The problem isn't even that -- the root problem is the entire reason for the market segmentation is to extract as much money as possible from individuals around the globe who have different disposable incomes in terms of US Dollars. The content creators/distributors would be happy to release everything globally simultaneously if it meant that they'd still get the same amount of money or more from the deal. Thing is, they won't. People in Russia, China, and other various countries in Africa an Asia aren

              • However note that they don't do this within a country. Netflix has same content and prices for California versus Alabama, Texas versus Alaska, even though those regions have different abilities to pay. And yet gasoline sells for different prices in different regions. DVD sales however tend to be pretty much the same price across the country, barring differences because a local store can change prices. That's because it's a pain to adjust prices regionally when you're a centralized company, and partially

          • Is there law breaking going on? Probably,

            Negative. There's a breach of terms of service but ultimately you as the end user and the VPN provider are not doing anything against the law. There's no law requiring you to view licensed content from only your own country.

          • Sure there’s a paper trail, things could get messy some day, but for the time being, paying for this service on your own credit card and accessing Netflix is a very low risk activity.

            Erm...who uses their personal credit card to pay for VPN services?

            I thought that's what those nice, anonymous VISA and MC gift cards were made for...and yes, my name really is Tom Jones (no relation), zip code 90210 (just a coincidence, really) ;-)

      • Doubtful. Netflix will target the biggest paid VPN services first.
    • And more to the point, all Netflix usage is linked to a Netflix account with credit card information and residence, and you use netflix software on your end to receive the stream and display it. Netflix does not have to expend any effort at all to region lock their content. They know where you live, they just have to stop accounts set up in Canada from accessing American content.

      • by Strider- ( 39683 )

        They know where you live, they just have to stop accounts set up in Canada from accessing American content.

        Ahh, but what if I travel to the US and want to watch netflix? What content are they going to show me then?

        • Well, why would they offer you any coverage if you are travelling? It is not like they would have to make accounts cheaper if their was a clause in them that they would only work in the country of purchase. Then they can offer special travelling packages, which are extra expensive because of the extra effort required to verify your location.

        • I would assume they would show you US content. I am assuming they do it by IP, not what country you setup the account in. Might be wrong.
      • by B1 ( 86803 )

        This would be much simpler than using a GeoIP database and trying to play whack-a-mole with VPN providers. I'd be surprised if Netflix hasn't already considered this and decided against it. Usually if a company is not using a technically obvious and simple solution, it is because there is a business reason in the way.

        It's possible that content providers want the content controlled by viewing location, rather than the subscriber's billing address. Today, if you are a US subscriber and you visit Canada, Ne

        • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

          I think you're correct. Mostly, Netflix doesn't geoblock by credit card address because they don't really want to win this battle. Also, having made this decision long ago, it's hard to change policy now without seriously annoying a high percentage of customers. While it is possible for people for obtain credit cards in other countries to work around such a block it's substantially harder than just buying a VPN service. The first sign that content providers are winning will be when selected new content

  • by the_other_one ( 178565 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:44PM (#51352649) Homepage

    Let me pay to have your product streamed into Canada. Otherwise I will just get the shows free by other means.

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:45PM (#51352651)
    Does the credit card reside in the same country as their IP address? THE END.
    In fact, take their credit card billing address and just use that for zone licensing and ignore their IP address. It's rather difficult to get a credit card with a billing address in a country you don't reside in and aren't a citizen of.
    • Re:no it isn't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @03:55PM (#51352769)

      In fact, take their credit card billing address and just use that for zone licensing and ignore their IP address. It's rather difficult to get a credit card with a billing address in a country you don't reside in and aren't a citizen of.

      This.

      • I would love this.

        Steam recently started doing this and it is great. I am in Germany and I can still buy US games on my US account in US prices.

        All I want from Netflix is to watch the USA version with my USA account.

      • by saikou ( 211301 )

        You mean any prepaid bought-in-a-pharmacy card?
        Those allow any physical US address to be used as a "billing" address.
        Though I suppose they could try to block prepaid cards in their billing system

        Or a Netflix "gift" balance (one of those "Buy Galaxy S6 phone, get free Netflix for a year")

        I presume primary way to beat VPNs are "is this a retail ISP block" and "are there more than N streaming connection request for distinct users coming from the same IP address". If both are "true" - voila, you have a VPN that

        • You mean any prepaid bought-in-a-pharmacy card?
          Those allow any physical US address to be used as a "billing" address.
          Though I suppose they could try to block prepaid cards in their billing system

          Or a Netflix "gift" balance (one of those "Buy Galaxy S6 phone, get free Netflix for a year")

          I presume primary way to beat VPNs are "is this a retail ISP block" and "are there more than N streaming connection request for distinct users coming from the same IP address". If both are "true" - voila, you have a VPN that is masking Netflix users.
          And while VPN could theoretically get an IP address for each user, it would be quite expensive for them (for IPv6 this would also work, as you have one routable block exhibiting requests from a bunch of random users with vastly different billing addresses)

          They could easily get an IP per user. IPv6

          The 'VPN' provider could just act as an IPv6 tunnel broker.

      • Not everyone is geographically static. People travel, that includes international travel. The challenge is blocking VPNs, while not blocking paying customers that are travelling. They are certainly doing this to appease the local distributors, but it is a fine line they need to tread. Hopefully they don't resort to the cell phone model, where you get charged extra for roaming time.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Why do you think that anything would be unfairly blocked by selecting content by the user's billing address? In fact, nothing would change when I travel to another country - I would get the same content as at home.

          • You may be right, though there may be other issues, such as where the files are stored geographically (for both lag and limitation defined by content companies) and local laws defining what content is available, based on rating and content type?

      • No, then people would cancel their Netflix subscriptions when left only with their country-of-origin content. Netflix doesn't want that, and I think they're putting up a false fight.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      Not really the end. Do you hate the military? Because their credit cards are usually in the US but they are overseas.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        A friend of mine (and family) was stationed in Korea. Here's what they did:

        1.) Military family network - provided by the Army to the families - it was (I believe) a VPN through a US ISP. When using this link, they were US as far as NetFlix was concerned.
        2.) Korean ISP - normal ISP in that country - this looked like a Korean IP so they could be blocked from US content streaming.

        Important not though... In Korea, it wasn't illegal to pirate stuff. So, not showing on US NetFlix? No problem, switch back to

    • by Aaden42 ( 198257 )

      You’ve heard of pre-paid debit cards perhaps? Easy to buy a US-based one over the interwebs and send to your address wherever. Sure, you can block those providers, but you risk pissing off legit in-country customers who use them. They’re also about as plentiful and quickly created as new VPN services, so you have the same whack-a-mole problem if you try to police which credit card prefixes you block.

      Also, odds are good you can find a US friend willing to pay your sub for you on their credit

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So travelling abroad, I should be locked out of my Netflix account? Short-sighted "I have the solution" thinking like this is what's causing problems, not solving them.

    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      When you do this you get intermediaries who subscribe for you and send you your login info. In Spain there were a few satellite people who did this +vpn.

    • by mocm ( 141920 )

      They cannot do that, because you are not allowed to watch US content when you are in Canada, even if you live in the US and are just on vacation. So they have to show you Canadian content or nothing, and guess how world travelers would love the latter.

    • It's rather difficult to get a credit card with a billing address in a country you don't reside in and aren't a citizen of.

      You've never tried this have you? There are whole companies who offer exactly this kind of service. I remember using it years ago to get around Google Wallet's arbitrary restrictions and use it in Australia. Naturally my billing address included the only post code anyone in Australia knows Beverly Hills, 90210. Google did exactly that kind of check and I had to get a .... fake is the wrong word .... credit card (prepaid of course) in America to link my wallet to.

  • >> Of course, Netflix would love to be able offer a consistent library of content around the world.

    Attribution needed.

    Most businesses would prefer to slice-and-dice their prospects so that each pays the absolute maximum that they would be willing to pay for a particular tier of service (e.g., India and US customers would have different rates since $8/mo means different things to them). Furthermore, Netflix "for India" should have different content than Netflix "fer 'Merica" (e.g., you have to be high

    • by Aaden42 ( 198257 )

      Nearly all of that slice-and-dice is driven by US producers. It’s not reciprocal.

      Considering the US market is generally the highest paying and also the largest amount of big & copyright region restricted content, if Netflix was able to get world-wide customers to pay the US price (which it would seem they can to some degree), it’s likely they’re making more money than if they try to offer a tier more suited to local markets in India for example.

      I doubt most Bollywood producers wou

  • If they insist on restricting content based on location, just use the friggin' geographical location of the subscriber's billing address. If the subscriber happens to be in another country than their billing address, so what? That's still where they are billed, so it shouldn't matter. As a marketable feature, this also gives subscribers access to all of the same content that they would enjoy at home while they may be visiting another country. Note further, that I say *BILLING* address, not mailing address. While getting an out of country mailing address to send stuff to for drop shipment or even for out-of-country pickup is quite common (I have one myself), that's not at all the same thing as a person's billing address.

    While this won't stop people who explicitly decide to try and get a credit card with an out-of-country billing address to get around this, I do not think that such conditions should hardly be considered the norm until proven otherwise, and it might even be easier for them to police anyways, if they are so inclined.

    • This would still violate their distribution and licensing agreements with the content producers - you can't "ship" the streaming video outside the licensed area.

      And it's not hopeless. When there's enough money involved, solutions WILL be found.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        This would still violate their distribution and licensing agreements with the content producers - you can't "ship" the streaming video outside the licensed area.

        I would argue that this is no different from shipping a physical DVD to a customer in the U.S. who then chooses to carry it with him or her to watch while on vacation overseas, other than the need to carry a physical object around. You're shipping it to a customer in the U.S., and whether that customer chooses to then take the content outside the U

        • DVDs are region-coded. Streaming services aren't. So your comparison is really off.

          Next you'll be arguing that they don't have a right to region-encode DVDs, when they clearly do.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            DVDs are region-coded. Streaming services aren't. So your comparison is really off.

            I was thinking more along the lines of "carry a DVD and watch it on your own laptop". Region-coded DVDs will still play on your U.S. laptop even if it isn't physically in the U.S.

    • they could do this, but it will cost Netflix more money to send more content over backbone networks than locally
    • Most credit cards will let you add fake addresses that if queried will report as valid. This works because you can't ask the credit card company for the billing address, you can only ask them if the billing address you were supplied is correct.

      The card companies do this because they recognize that there are some merchants that won't ship to anything but the card company verified address so the credit card companies have provided a work around in the form of a "fake" address that they will verify is correct

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Most credit cards will let you add fake addresses that if queried will report as valid.

        Name one that Netflix accepts.

        • every major bank card in the USA does this for people who want to ship stuff to friends and family with no fraud alerts. it just puts the customer on the hook for any fraud purchases made online and shipped to that address
        • Visa, Mastercard, American Express. I'm not sure about Discover card or Diner's Club and some of the more fringe ones.

          I've done this on all three I listed. It's extremely common and trivially easy to do.

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )
            The first few (I think it's 6) digits on the card will still indicate which country the issuing bank happens to be in. Getting a credit card from a bank located in another country from where you actually live tends to be rather complicated.
            • I'd be surprised if you could reliably pin down location by the number, as there are a large number of banks that are multi-national and operate out of dozens of countries.

              The first digits indicate the issuing bank, but if the bank is multi-national that's utterly worthless as a reliable indicator of location.

              • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                The first digits indicate the issuing bank, but if the bank is multi-national that's utterly worthless as a reliable indicator of location.

                That assumption is incorrect. A bank may be multinational, but barring jumping through a lot of hoops to get a card from a bank outside of the nation where one lives, the card will still be issued from a bank in the user's own country and reflected in the first few digits of the card.

                • Given that you are the same idiot that claimed you can't add any address you want to your account you will have to prove your statements You lied once, I'm not going to take anything you say as truth without backup. I don't believe that the first digits of a credit card number indicate country of origin. The numbers on a card are two things, they are a bank identifier and an account identifier. The bank identifier is in no way tied to any country unless that bank only exists in one country.

                  I could call my b

                  • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                    I think that you failed to notice the point that I had made in my very first remark, where I explicitly said that it may be easier for Netflix to police situations where people are using fake billing addresses out of country in cases where it *DOES* happen, if they are so inclined.

                    So to the matter at hand, I didn't lie, I really made an overbroad generalization. It may indeed be possible, as you have asserted, but it is almost certainly detectable for any card issuer I've heard of, and as such, impracti

            • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

              The first few (I think it's 6) digits on the card will still indicate which country the issuing bank happens to be in.

              Back when Netflix was a US only thing, I used a pay as you go credit card to setup a Paypal account a and random US addresss. Then I would periodically send myself money from my 'real' paypal account to pay for Netflix.

              • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                Pay as you go credit cards are also easily identifiable as such from the first 6 digits. Oh and the country of origin is still identifiable. Sure, you can buy a pay-as-you go credit card while in another country and use it to your hearts content from somewhere else, but then you are talking about doing something that requires doing real work.

                Right now, people watch out-of-nation Netflix because it's easy to do, when something is inconvenient enough you won't stop the people that are determined to st

                • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

                  Pay as you go credit cards are also easily identifiable as such from the first 6 digits. Oh and the country of origin is still identifiable. Sure, you can buy a pay-as-you go credit card while in another country and use it to your hearts content from somewhere else, but then you are talking about doing something that requires doing real work.

                  As PayPal verifies this, I actually had to order a pay-as-you-go card from the States despite living in Europe. I remember searching online and ordering it was relativ

                  • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                    Again, however, pay as you go cards are verifiable as such by the merchant. I have seen places that will refuse online processing of pay-as-you-go card that are not tied to any particular billing address, although this is usually done by merchants that are not immediately billing for the full amount that may be expected to be paid. While certainly entirely legitimate use exists for pay-as-you-go cards, the arguments for genuinely needing such a card to pay for absolutely everything, especially utilities
                    • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

                      Again, however, pay as you go cards are verifiable as such by the merchant. I have seen places that will refuse online processing of pay-as-you-go card that are not tied to any particular billing address, although this is usually done by merchants that are not immediately billing for the full amount that may be expected to be paid.

                      Being someone that has worked on payment systems before, I never saw any merchant APIs that revealed this information on this side of the pond.

                      when other payment options may exist

  • Looks like Netflix is doomed to get paid by people who officially shouldn't be able to pay them.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @04:08PM (#51352905)
    Let this colonial commoner pay a 'license fee' and access your far superior content in a timely fashion, FFS! Cash on the table! Pick it up and get the Torrie scum off your back!
    • Sadly, the beeb allowing non uk residents to pay a license fee would have the exact opposite effect on the Tories. They would scream unfairness that the beeb is directly competing in a market and use it as an excuse to close them down. The only way they would get away with it is if the BBC were virtually given away to the Murdock family, then the Bbc/sky/Fox Conglomerate could do what ever they want with the backing of the Tories.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Boss: Implement a system to block VPN
    Me: Sure boss. What are the requirements
    Boss: It has to look like it works, but it is better for the business if it doesn't work. You won't be rated badly if the project doesn't work and your stock price will probably go up if your project fails.
    Me: .... so basically, write docs and look busy?
    Boss: sounds about right.

  • Just make users prove their location via billing and if you don't have a US verified account you don't get US only programming, if they cared, but they don't, it's just smoke and mirrors for them to claim they were duly diligent in their attempting to uphold their contractual obligations... and that works for me. They cover their ass and we all continue to laugh at content restrictions.

  • You end up encrypting and decrypting traffic when all you really need is a proxy server. I think I need to go into business selling the use of proxies ostensibly for the use of geolocation testing but actually for this type of purpose. As long as the proxy can rewrite the requests sufficiently, the VPN encryption doesn't really add anything but it must chew up an insane amount of CPU time somewhere. It's a testament to modern hardware that this can even be done in realtime for an HD stream. Of course I
    • As long as the proxy can rewrite the requests sufficiently, the VPN encryption doesn't really add anything but it must chew up an insane amount of CPU time somewhere.

      Given how easily modern CPUs can handle encrypting/decrypting VPN traffic.. it's really not a big deal. Overkill? Sure, but I personally love seeing the internet's tubes flooded with lots of encrypted traffic. The more the better. Keeps the spooks busy.

  • I understand why Netflix is doing this. I don't understand the logic of the companies that license content to Netflix and force them to do that. Someone who's tech savvy enough to use a VPN service, and who gets cut off, what do you think they are going to do? Go buy a DVD in their local store or go torrent what they want? What's more likely? I know what I would do. So the goal of the studios, who could be getting some money from Netflix, to get zilch point bupkis dollars for their content? What's the logic

  • I often use public wireless here in US. As such, I subscribe to a domestic VPN service. So, I get an IP address that is in SF area for my tunnel. Can Netflix tell if a VPN user is from US or international? If not, then they are denying service to valid Netflix subscribers in the US. My option would be to stop the VPN and allow my traffic to go across wireless network "not encrypted". Hopefully, I will remember to restart VPN when finished with Netflix streaming. Hey, I'm almost 70, so good luck on m
  • Why the need to block VPNs? If Netflix wanted to deal with the 'problem' they would allow content based on the street address of the credit card.

  • Consumers are being had, a large single entity controlling distribution is not a good thing for you. If you look at how Dell buys components it shares its component sourcing among a variety of manufacturer, it buys more cheap ones than expensive ones however it ensures that competition remains.
    From a technical perspective Netflix can limit content based upon your location. No if or buts. Netflix don't limit your content for a couple of reasons.
    1 It makes their service more attractive.
    2 Technically it may re

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