Netflix announced that it is going to take action to prevent people from logging in through proxy servers.
“In coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are,” David Fullagar, Netflix’s VP of content delivery architecture, wrote in a blog post. “We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies. Source
I understand that Netflix has a problem here. Intellectual property rights are territorial in nature, and thus a movie company can sell the U.S. distribution rights to a film separately from the French distribution rights. I agree that content producers have a right to be paid for their efforts. But, situations like this make me understand why people pirate content. It really seems like a misuse of copyright.
I frequently log in to my Netflix account from an Italian VPN. I like to watch movies in Italian. I am teaching my kids Italian, and I like them to watch their cartoons in Italian. The same cartoons that are on my Netflix USA account are also available on Netflix Italy. But, for some reason, Netflix does not give me the option to change the language to Italian, as it does if I log in through an IP address in Europe. Netflix could easily offer the same shows with the Italian language option in the USA, but for some reason, they would rather not.
Zone shifting is a legitimate use. I can understand that Netflix would rather not let me access “Better Call Saul,” from my proxy server. They don’t have U.S. distribution rights to it yet, so technically, if I were to access Better Call Saul on that proxy server, I’m violating someone’s rights.
I have a completely untested legal theory here, that “region shifting” should be considered to be “fair use.” Lets look at it this way, what if someone is in the United States, but they only speak French. Should they simply be out of luck when it comes to watching movies, if the providers refuse to serve up the movies in French? I could forgive them if they didn’t make the movies in French, but if you log in to Netflix from a French IP address, you get the movies in French if you want them — including with French subtitles.
The greatest threat to content producers’ profits comes from torrents. When a movie gets into the torrent stream, all bets are off, and all profits are gone. Sure, some people torrent because they’re too cheap to pay for the content. But, a situation like this makes it pretty clear that the copyright owners are creating a hell of a legitimate argument that torrenting, to watch in your preferred language, is a legitimate activity.
I am not sure if anyone has ever been sued for torrenting a film in order to language-shift, but if they did, I’d be inclined to defend such a suit pro bono.
This post originally appeared on Popehat. View it here.