Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment

Stronger action needs to be taken against VPNs, proxy services

News that Netflix Inc. is promising to renew efforts to thwart subscribers who mask their locations in order to access content not available in their home country appears to be little more than lip service, says Toronto litigator Kevin Fisher.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Netflix’s vice-president of content-delivery architecture said that “in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are.”

Netflix uses technology to catch those who use virtual private networks (VPNs) or similar technologies to get around the country-specific locks that protect local content rights, the Globe reports.

“Until now, the company has mostly relied on blacklists of VPN providers that offer the location-masking services,” the article states. “Now, the popular streaming service says it will use newer technologies that should be noticeably better at preventing users from watching shows not licensed for their country, just one week after flipping the switch to make Netflix available in upwards of 130 more countries.”

Fisher, a partner with Basman Smith LLP, says: “Netflix’s suggestion that they have new technological methods to detect and block the use of VPNs and the use of proxy services is understandably being met with great skepticism and seems more likely to be both a bluff and a ploy.”

Fisher has developed an extensive practice aiding his clients in the protection of their intellectual property and acts for major Canadian and international broadcasters to protect and enforce against the piracy of their signals and proprietary programs.

He tells that after opening up the service in 130 or more countries, Netflix is likely having some concerns at the criticism that they are doing little about protecting territorial rights of other rights holders and broadcasters.

“This announcement is likely a bluff to potential users of VPNs and proxy servers to try and convince them that they might get caught by this new technology,” he says. “This also appears to be a ploy to suggest to the industry that they are actually doing something about the problem when, the facts are more likely that little more than lip service is being done.

“More does need to be done to put a stop to the practise, such as taking stronger action against the VPN and proxy service providers themselves,” Fisher says. “This is potentially a massive problem as OTT streaming becomes more popular and is displacing traditional TV platforms and could have a huge effect on the way programs and movies are distributed, priced, etc. If technology did exist to detect and block the use of these piracy strategies, it would be very welcome to the industry as a whole.”

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