The boss of one of Australia’s most prominent independent production houses has argued the government should tighten up regulations around Australians accessing content from overseas using virtual private networks (VPNs) as it is hurting the production sector.
Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder managing director Nick Murray told Mumbrella the current arrangements are only benefitting international players like Netflix because under the current production deals content is sold by territories.
Asked if it should be illegal for Australians to access overseas platforms using a VPN he said: “It should be. It should absolutely be regulated somehow to make it so people in Australia shouldn’t use VPNs.”Murray defended the arrangement of selling content by territory saying “that’s how we get our money” adding: “The people people who say we should get rid of the geo-blocker, it’s just bizarre, as that is how content is sold.”
CJZ produce shows such as House of Hancock, The Checkout, Gruen Planet and Go Back Where You Came From.
“Unless you decide to do a deal with NatGeo, as we have with Bondi Rescue, so it spreads across 70 countries in the one deal, normally you sell it territory-by-territory so the geo-blocker is very important,” Murray explained.
“When we sell to a broadcaster in France they can’t put it on their catch up un-geo-blocked because it defeats the fact we’ve only sold it to France.”
Figures released by finance company Pocketbook to Mumbrella last year suggested around 200,000 Australians were already using VPNs to access Netflix in the US. While it is not illegal to access content this way it is against the company’s own term of conditions user agree to when signing up.
A Netflix spokesperson confirmed this, telling Mumbrella: “The use of VPN to avoid geo-filtering violates our terms and conditions, and we employ industry standard methods to prevent cross-border use of Netflix.”
Murray said the only people who benefit from Australians accessing the US version of the streaming platform is Netflix.
“If someone has sold a show to Netflix in the US, if Netflix picks up an extra 200,000 subscribers in Australia illegally as they have been doing through VPNs, the people who made the show aren’t getting more money,” he said.
“Netflix are getting more money and the VPN supplier are getting more money.”
Murray said Netflix knows this is happening and must be “breaching their own license agreement with their suppliers”.
“As soon as they see an Australian credit card they know it’s an Australian subscriber,” he said.
Murray used US ad funded streaming service Hulu as proof Netflix could easily block users paying via an Australian credit card.
“If you try and sign up for Hulu, even if you’re in America and on an American server, so there’s no VPN, you go in and you have to put your credit card in, they go this is not an American credit card you are not able to sign up for this service,” he explained.
“It’s incredibly simple to stop people from outside the country by accessing a service you have to pay for.
“You can’t stop people who’ve gone to the effort of getting an American credit card,” he admitted. “As soon as you have to use a credit card then Netflix can stop Australians signing up and they should.
“They are the only ones profiting out of that, the content owners are not profiting from Netflix getting more members.”
The Netflix spokesperson rejected the notion that it is as simple as blocking an Australian credit card, saying other methods of payment could allow Australians access to the US platform.
“There are often legitimate uses for Australian credit cards (ex-pats etc). If we employed local credit card crackdown as a method to prevent VPN usage, people can easily turn to PayPal and other forms of payment,” the spokesperson said.
“As we continue licensing and releasing more and more content on a global basis, such as Marvel’s Daredevil, the Netflix original series that launched last week at the same time around the world, the use of VPN will fade.”