When it comes to accessing media content, Australia is one of the most gouged countries in the world. Restrictive licencing deals force Australians to pay for high priced cable packages, rather than being able to use low-cost internet streaming services such as Netflix, which are widely available to users elsewhere in the world. Insult is further added to injury by the fact that Australia is often one of the last counties in the works to obtain (legal) access to popular TV shows and movies.
Unsurprisingly, many Australians respond by simply pirating the shows and movies they are otherwise prevented (or forced to pay through the nose for) viewing. Others, who prefer to pay for their content, see nothing wrong with using technologies such as VPN and SmartDNS to spoof their geographic location, so they can access Netflix.
Given that these people are actually paying the rightsholders for the content they view, you might think hey – what’s the problem? However, those who benefit from the tight monopolistic hold the entertainment industry hold over Australia are not happy about this situation.
Back in March we reported how The Australian (Australia’s bestselling newspaper), caused controversy by claiming (paywall) that the estimated 50 to 200 thousand Australians who use VPN to access Netflix movies are pirates. The fact that The Australian is owned by Newscorp, the Aussie media giant which enjoys lucrative deals for exclusive media content from Hollywood, perhaps explains the vehemence of its attack.
As the time, we mentioned that another company not happy with Aussies evading geo-restrictions on content is Quickflix, a Netflix-alike that has secured exclusive content rights for the Australian market. On Monday, Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford published an open letter addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, demanding that Netflix take more active measures to prevent Australians accessing its content,
‘Netflix not only knowingly collects revenues from subscribers with unauthorised access to your US service, investing nothing in the Australian market nor paying for Australian rights to the content you make available, but also tacitly encourages Australian consumers to inadvertently breach the copyright of the content owners.
Unlike yourself, Quickflix has obtained all necessary Australian rights to the content on its platform, faithfully meets all necessary security requirements, including geo-filtering imposed by the content rights holders, and continues to reinvest in its service with the goal of offering the very best service in the market to its customers.’
Langsford is also keen to suggest measures that Netflix can take to put its house in order,
‘So Mr Hastings, we challenge Netflix to play by the rules. It’s how we do it here in Australia. Stop turning a blind eye to the VPN services acting as a gateway to your service. Be honest and face up to the issue of unauthorised access to your US service. Have the courage to limit your service only to the territories where you have legally obtained the rights to operate by abiding by the geo-filtering obligations required by your content license agreements. And do so immediately.’
Netflix has yet to reply, but we can’t see many Australians, already fed up to the back teeth with being overcharged for content the rest of the world receives not only cheaper, but before they do, being too sympathetic with Quickflix’s position…