Since this January, super streaming service Netflix has been cracking down on pirates. Canadian pirates. No, we're not talking about parrot-loving bearded guys who go, "Arrrr". We're talking about Canadians who use fake internet addresses to use the American version of Netflix.
So, yeah. Not this guy.
Still, this is an interesting example of how the internet has turned us from a bunch of separate countries into a world where information is universal. Today, we can read headlines from Sydney to Tokyo to Berlin, all at the exact moment that they are written. A family in New Zealand can post a video of frolicking penguins and you can check it out wherever you live. So when Canadians see that Netflix Canada offers only around 4200 programs, while Netflix USA offers nearly 7000, they say stuff like, "Hey!" "What gives?" and "ARRRRRR!" (Okay, maybe not that last one...). And when something called an "unblocker" comes along that allows Canadians to pretend to be Americans and access their show selection? It can tempting for some viewers.
This piracy (in this case, theft of American content) is what Netflix is cracking down on, meaning that in the last few weeks many Canadians who used unblockers are getting shut out of their subscription. It's making these people pretty upset, most of whom feel that Canadians are simply getting a poorer version of what Americans do for the same price. It's unfair, they say. But is it?
What's right about rights
To really answer the question of what is fair and what isn't, we need to look at rights. For every single show that Netflix gives its subscribers access to, it needs to purchase (or secure) the "rights". This just means that the company that owns that show says to Netflix, you pay us this, and we'll let you stream the show to your viewers. Makes sense. Where it gets tricky for Netflix is where those rights allow something to be streamed. "Universal rights" mean that a show can be streamed from anywhere around the world. "North American rights" mean that it can be streamed in Canada, the U.S.A., and Mexico. But for many of the shows, the companies have only sold Netflix "American rights".
So what does this all mean? Canadians who use unblockers might feel that Netflix is simply being unfair about not letting Canadians views certain shows or movies. But the reality? Netflix doesn't have the right to add those shows to the Canadian version. The companies would only sell them the American rights. In fact, if Netflix tried to place those shows on Netflix Canada, they would be the pirates.
Working toward universal content
Netflix says that they're working to change how their content is placed across platforms in different countries. "We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere," they said in a statement. "Over time, we anticipate being able to do so."
What do you think about issues of online rights for content like movies and TV? Is it fair that each country is different? Or should we all be allowed to watch the same things?