It might surprise you to know that I still own and use a multi-region DVD player to be able to play foreign movies in the US. With most commercial DVDs, it’s much more than just a derived PAL/NTSC standards issue. More importantly, it’s a poorly-conceived geo-DRM scheme, which unfortunately doesn’t even incorporate any expiration date in its silly, inadequate design. With worldwide distribution from services like Netflix, we have a more modern geo-DRM issue, which is gradually waining. In the most recent episode of my CapicúaFM show, Spaniard journalist Irene Jiménez Miragaya of Audiovisual451 describes how the international borders that have previously haunted our industry are fortunately starting to disappear. Ahead you’ll see the exact quote from Irene; another from Netflix, and one more from the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission.
Original quote from Irene Jiménez Miragaya of Audiovisual451, in Castilian. (English translation just ahead.):
Sin duda, todo está cambiando y de hecho, en España, sobretodo los canales de televisión de pago están emitiendo las series un día después de su estreno en Estados Unidos. Eso es un claro indicativo de que las fronteras se están rompiendo y que a lo mejor la piratería ha tenido mucho que ver. El hecho de que recién emitida una serie en Estados Unidos, tú puedas descargarla y por arte de magia y comenzar a verla sin pagar y sin ningún filtro intermedio ha hecho espabilar a las televisiones en España y en todo el mundo. No creo que sea algo que solamente que está pasando sólo en España. Con las películas, está pasando lo mismo.
My English translation of Irene’s quote:
Without a doubt, everything is changing, and in fact, in Spain, especially the pay TV channels are now broadcasting series the day after their premiere in the United States. That is a clear indication that the international borders are breaking down and that perhaps piracy has had a lot to do with it. The fact that you can download a just-broadcast series from the US, watch it without paying anything and without any type of filter has been a wakeup call for the TV industry in Spain and worldwide. I don’t think that this is happening only in Spain. With feature films, the same think is happening.
Listen to the complete CapicúaFM episide containing Irene’s interview above.
Netflix’s recent statement
For Netflix, things are also improving, although slower than what many users would like. David Fullagar, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, recently stated:
If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in. We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.
Over time, we anticipate being able to do so. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.
Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.
We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy. That’s the goal we will keep pushing towards.
From the tone of Netflix’s statement, it sounds like either the wake-up call hasn’t rung so loudly for the company, or the company will continue to play the cat and mouse game, officially blocking the older type proxies or “unblockers”, but passively allowing newer ones in attempt to satisfy savvy users outside of the US, and at the same time remain compliant with its content providers.
What Netflix calls a proxy or “unblocker”, others call a VPN (Virtual Private Network), and the Australian Government calls “circumventing geoblocking”, as you’ll read ahead.
Australian Government’s Productivity Commission preliminary report of April 2016
In April 2016, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission released its draft report regarding Intelectual Property Arrangements. In Draft recommendation 5.1, it stated:
The Australian Government should implement the recommendation made in the House of Representatives Committee report At What Cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax to amend the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) to make clear that it is not an infringement for consumers to circumvent geoblocking technology.
The Australian Government should seek to avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology.
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