U.S. content vanishes from Canadian screens as Netflix cracks down
Netflix move has prompted charges that the U.S.-based streaming service has caved to legacy content providers and rights-holders.
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Netflix has followed through on its plan to crack down on Canadian viewers who use virtual private networks to watch unlicensed content such as Degrassi: Next Class — programming which is available on the American version of the streaming service, but not its Canadian counterpart.
While few details are available on how many Canadian users are affected, error messages have been appearing on fee-based VPNs when Netflix customers attempt to establish a virtual address in the U.K. or the U.S., countries where the streaming service company offers abundant programming.
PayPal has reportedly begun denying payment services to VPNs that it believes violate copyright law and Canadian customers of Unblock-Us say the provider is the latest casualty of the aggressive Netflix action.
The homegrown teen drama Degrassi, along with such popular movies as Inglorious Basterds and Blue Velvet, are so far excluded from Netflix Canada, which offers some 4,209 movies and shows versus the 6,870 that are available on Netflix USA.
Netflix in the U.S. offers more content and more up-to-date programming than its service in Canada. Canada is an important Netflix market with an estimated four million users and as many as one third of a million having used a VPN to access content outside of the country.
Franchise creator and executive producer Linda Schuyler told the Hollywood Reporter that the Degrassi reboot debuted worldwide last January on the U.S. version of Netflix, as well as on Family Channel in Canada, because “that’s where the kids are.”
Observers say Netflix’s blocking methods are not entirely clear, but the company appears to cross-reference a customer’s IP address from subscription agreements against a blacklisted proxy IP list to deny access or only stream content available in the country of residence.
Along with user complaints, the Netflix move has prompted charges that the U.S.-based streaming service has caved to legacy content providers and rights-holders while walling off its own expanding catalogue of original Netflix productions.
Leading global provider NordVPN said Netflix’s action has the potential to undermine people’s effective and legitimate use of pro-privacy technology.
“One has to wonder why Netflix went through all the trouble (of) blocking a small number of users, and the likely answer to that is that the company has been pressured by rights-holders to do so,” NordVPN said in a blog post.
“Many Internet users feel their choices had been significantly limited. It is also unfortunate that they are discouraged from using VPN and proxy services, which indirectly discourages the use of security software that makes their Internet browsing secure and private.”
Following an expansion that saw its content become available to most nations, albeit with varied quality and quantity, Netflix on Jan. 14 announced a VPN and proxy service crackdown.
While the company had previously turned a blind eye, its obligation to rights holders and a need to protect its own content led to takedown requests to a number of sites hosting pirated versions of its shows, TorrentFreak reports.
Netflix has also begun to disclose links to Google search that it suspects are related to pirated material.