The Netflix Paradigm

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

Continuing with last week’s editorial, it remains a source of mass confusion as to why Netflix has taken steps to deny service to so many thousands, perhaps millions, of its international customers. I have spoken with Netflix customers in my area who are livid, and ask, “Why?” I wish I knew the answer. My personal view 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 over cyberspace. Movies and TV shows are bound by licensing restrictions tied to contracts negotiated years ago. A fragmented global assortment 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 that goes all the way back to the British “Statute of Anne,” promulgated in 1710. Around the world, thousands of intellectual property rights lawyers and movie studios’ legal departments have had three centuries to firmly entrench their positions.

Suddenly this year, in 2016, Netflix expanded to offer service in an additional 130 countries, as well as in the more than 40 already served last year. It is a problem that Netflix cannot legally offer everything everywhere. This has set up a battle between 18th century legal traditions and 21st century technology. Netflix has stated that the company would continue working to make more programming available to those outside the US, and to this end it is seeking global distribution rights for programs that are now available only in limited markets. Who could blame Netflix for wanting to have one worldwide agreement with a Hollywood studio rather than having to negotiate up to190 distribution agreements for different countries? Unfortunately, the latter is what our present patchwork of copyright laws makes necessary.

As to why Netflix would think it is a good strategy to alienate thousands of gringos in Mexico who are loyal customers, I cannot fathom. A virtual 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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