The Netflix Paradigm

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

Continuing with the editorial started here last week, it continues to be the source of mass confusion as to why Netflix has taken steps to deny service to so many thousands, or perhaps millions, of its international customers. I have spoken with Netflix customers in my area who are livid, and ask “Why?” That is a question for which I wish I knew the answer. My personal view on this is that we are seeing the beginnings of a paradigm shift in how intellectual property rights will be governed in the future.

We as internet users idealistically think of The Internet as unrestricted and border-free; the reality is that copyrighted content is not free to roam all of cyberspace. Movies and TV shows are still bound by licensing restrictions tied to contracts negotiated years ago. A fragmented global landscape of licensing agreements for individual countries was created to serve Hollywood movie studios and network marketing strategies. This methodology has not kept pace with the realities of today’s information technology.

In spite of the fact that Netflix is ready, willing, and technically able to make all the latest shows available online, there are legal restrictions enshrined in a body of copyright law going all the way back to the British “Statute of Anne,” promulgated in 1710. Around the world, thousands of intellectual property rights lawyers and movie studio legal departments have had three centuries to firmly entrench their positions.

Suddenly this year, 2016, Netflix expanded to offer service in an additional 130 countries, added to the 40+ already served last year. A problem is that Netflix cannot legally offer everything everywhere. This has set up a battle between 18th century legal traditions versus 21st century technology. Netflix has stated the company would continue working to make more programming available to those outside the US and to this end it is seeking to obtain global distribution rights for programs that are now only available in limited markets. Who could blame Netflix for wanting to have one worldwide agreement with a Hollywood studio rather than having to negotiate possibly 190 different distribution agreements for each of 190 different countries. Unfortunately, the latter is what our present patchwork of copyright laws make necessary.

Now as to why anyone at Netflix would think it is a good strategy to alienate thousands of gringos in Mexico who are loyal customers, I cannot fathom. The image of an angry mob brandishing torches and pitchforks is what Netflix has on its hands now. I know this because I have been receiving calls from members of that mob asking what can be done to get their Netflix back on line again.

With the forbearance of my editor, next week I will fill this space with an overview of the technical issues involved in hiding your IP address in order to circumvent blocked content.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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