Is Netflix Going To Ban VPN Users in Australia?

Streaming days for Australians might soon be over as Netflix is being pressured to block access to Virtual Private Network (VPN) users. More than 25 percent of media subscribers in Australia access the popular US streaming service through VPNs.


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This might change as the copyrights holders of US movies and tv shows are putting pressure on Netflix to prevent Australians from accessing the US version of its service through services like VPN. Even as Australia is preparing for the rumored arrival of Netflix, rights holders are putting pressure on the streaming service to have the American version of its service banned in Australia.

Regular Internet users in Australia cannot access Netflix because of the geo-block applied to the service. However, a large number of media subscribers in the country get around the geographical restrictions by using a VPN. The CEO of the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) said that local copyrights holders want to stop this as Netflix is getting ready to launch its dedicated Australian service.

AHEDA represents the Australian divisions of entertainment companies like Roadshow, Warner Bros., Universal Sony Pictures, and Foxtel. Simon Bush, the head of AHEDA, said that members of the organization haven’t asked AHEDA to push for this officially, but some member companies are doing so individually.

All Netflix users pay for accessing the service. Whether they live in the US or elsewhere, they are all legitimate users who are ready to pay for the movies and shows. It does not matter whether they use a VPN service or not. Most people are compelled to use a VPN service because of growing privacy concerns too.

Bush said that he didn’t know what Netflix would do to geo-block people using international credit cards and VPNs. Right now, all Australians using a VPN service can freely access Netflix. The company has no blocks in place to prevent international VPN users.

But if Netflix wants to put an end to this, there are some options. For example, Netflix can prevent access to users connecting from IPs associated with VPNs. This is not a foolproof system. Also, if Netflix attempts this, VPN users in the US will also lose access to the service. This will surely backfire because all of them have paid for the content.

AHEDA wants users in Australia to use the Australian version of the streaming service when it launches in the country. Bush said that it makes common sense and refused to name the companies that are lobbying for this. He, however, conceded that they all want to lock Australians out of Netflix’s US version.


Photo: Netflix

He added that rights holders will not wait until Netflix officially arrives in Australia to take their plea to the company.

He said that distributors in the US have already had discussions with Netflix about VPN users in Australia accessing their content. This bothers US distributors as well because Australians are not legally licensed to access this content in Australia. These distributors want the services to be blocked right now; not when Netflix arrives in Australia.

When Netflix launches in Australia, it will change the media landscape in the country. It is not clear what content will be made available. Pricing and availability are other issues because Australian consumers will certainly compare the local version of the service to what is available in other countries.

If the Australian version of Netflix is even slightly pricier than the US version and offers fewer movies and shows, Australians will certainly be up in arms. Bush does not rule out either of these possibilities.

However, he said that the local entertainment industry welcomes the arrival of Netflix in Australia. He added that they would welcome all legitimate services in a bid to cut down on pirated, illegal, or unpaid services. They are not concerned about the prices and feel that service providers should be able to decide that. Obviously, AHEDA wants people to choose legal rather than illegal options.

Quickflix head Stephen Langsford too welcomed the arrival of Netflix. Not so long ago, Quickflix had urged Netflix to block ‘back door’ access to Australians.

Bush, however, did not go as far as claiming that accessing Netflix using a VPN service was illegal. This is in contrast to Quickflix’s stand on the issue. However, he said that if Netflix knowingly makes its US service available to Australian users, it would violate the rights of local distributors of the content.

Bush certainly feels for Quickflix and said that it simply isn’t easy for a small Australian start-up company to compete against a global giant like Netflix.