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Netflix Unconcerned About Plight of VPN Users, Would Like Regional Restrictions Lifted Entirely

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We can all relate to personal struggles with the limits of Netflix’s streaming content library, but as the company expands its international reach, there are more users than ever who are cut off from portions of that content due to regional rights restrictions. Those customers may not be too happy that Netflix is making it harder to circumvent those restrictions using a VPN, but Netflix isn’t really the “bad guy” here. They just don’t have much of a choice.

Of course, the company didn’t make that any easier to swallow when CEO Reed Hastings recently remarked that those angry users basically don’t matter to him. The Independent reports that in a recent earnings call, Hastings said those angry VPN users are a “very small but quite vocal minority. So it’s really inconsequential to us, as you could see in the Q1 results.” Those Q1 results show the streaming TV giant’s subscriber numbers growing ever larger along with their international expansion. It’s worth noting that the company’s second quarter growth for 2016 is looking disappointing so far, but that likely has nothing to do with increased attempts to block access to region-specific content.

Still, people are understandably upset that they’re being denied some of the content that other Netflix users get for the same price just because of imaginary lines on a map, but it’s not really Netflix they should be angry with. For its part, Netflix would love for everyone around the world to be able to access the same content without the need for workarounds like VPN. Techdirt reminds us that their chief product officer even said as much at this year’s CES, and it makes sense, because Netflix only stands to gain from providing more content in the international market, where they have significantly more room for subscriber growth than in the U.S.

Really, it’s the rights holders that Netflix needs to negotiate with (and, to some extent, the realities of international business) who are to blame. It’s doubtful Netflix would have any interest at all in blocking regional workarounds without pressure from the rights holders to uphold the terms of their contracts, and their recent “crackdown” on VPN users is likely just a show to appease those contractual partners, which it’s hard to blame Netflix for putting on if you want them to stay in business at all. Some users have threatened to turn to piracy to continue to access content, but using a VPN to circumvent regional content restrictions is already piracy—though I feel for innocent bystanders who just use workarounds because of the limitations of their Internet environment and have been shut down anyway.

Such are the growing pains of a company that is using the Internet to tear down traditional content distribution. Unsurprisingly, those mired in that tradition aren’t handling it well, but they’re the ones we should be disappointed with.

(image via Netflix)

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