"Piracy will be the next step”: Expert weighs in on Netflix account-sharing crackdown

Feb 16 2023, 6:51 pm

Netflix is facing major blowback for bringing the hammer down on account sharing in Canada.

The streaming giant implemented “new features” for Canadian subscribers on Wednesday, February 8, officially limiting the use of a single account to just one household.

The news was met with anger and frustration from users, with many cancelling their subscriptions in droves.

And one expert says this is just the beginning.

“It’s not surprising that Netflix’s recent crackdown on account sharing…is being viewed as something of a ‘soft launch’ of further account-sharing limitations,” said Mo Harber-Lamond, VPN editor at TechRadar, in an email.

So, what does this mean for subscribers and the streaming service’s future?

Harber-Lamond weighs in on how this will affect users, how it will inevitably lead to piracy, how access abroad really works, and how Netflix will fare after this backlash.

A “hemorrhage” of subscribers

“While it’s impossible to put a figure on how many subscribers Netflix may have hemorrhaged due to this, it’s clear that tightening restrictions could kick-start an exodus of users from the platform – one that has already come under fire for providing less and less value compared to its closest rivals.”

Alongside the streaming platform’s strict account-sharing measures, it has also been under fire for dropping popular shows, including a slate of Canadian series like Schitt’s Creek (due to the CBC not renewing its licensing deal with the company).

“Piracy will no doubt be the next step”

Harber-Lamond says the streaming service’s error in judgement will inevitably lead to piracy.

“While the majority of Netflix users may be settled homebodies only streaming in their living room, the platform has undeniably underestimated the number of users not resident in their location of sign-up,” explained the editor.

“While that could simply be an individual on holiday or a business trip, it also includes students studying abroad, migrant workers, refugees, and those displaced by war or disaster.”

As a recap — the streaming platform’s new rules state Netflix accounts can still be shared, but you have to physically be in the same location — or what the company calls the “primary location” — as the people you share it with.

You’ll need to connect to your primary location’s Wi-Fi at least once every month, a policy to which one Canadian Netflix user has said, “F**k that.”

Harber-Lamond says the rigidity of these rules will encourage piracy.

“What’s more, Netflix’s sweeping measures to curtail account sharing appear to have very little scope to allow for exceptions – and if consumers can’t access what they want on the services they pay for, turning to piracy will no doubt be the next step,” he said.

Access to Netflix while travelling

In a now-deleted Netflix FAQ page, the streaming giant inadvertently shared new details for its plan to crack down on password sharing.

It stated that if you’re travelling, you have to request a temporary code to give you access to Netflix for seven consecutive days.

However, a Netflix spokesperson told Daily Hive in an email that there was an error on that help centre page, and this plan does not apply to the US or Canada.

Still, Harber-Lamond says this could be a sign that the company is also trying to reduce the use of location-spoofing tech like VPNs to access overseas content.

“This is evidenced by both the backtracked policy of limited watch time when abroad, as well as the streaming site’s previous move of blocking swathes of IP addresses linked to VPNs,” he explained.

“This is no doubt a priority of film studios that license their products to different distributors in specific markets, and it can only be assumed that Netflix is feeling pressure from outside influences to stop this practice.”

How will Netflix fair after this backlash?

“We can also expect Netflix to be making ongoing undisclosed changes under the surface, most likely to the region and VPN detection technology,” said Harber-Lamond.

“While opposing forces such as VPN providers are likely to be countering these at a similar rate, if users discover their Netflix account offers less than it historically has, there’s no doubt that their mouse will begin to hover over the ‘cancel’ button.”

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