Remember when Rogers wanted the government to ban VPNs?

A quote by Rogers senior vice-president David Purdy at a Content Industry Connect conference in Canada in 2015 contained a quote that said we ‘need the govt to shut down VPNs, enforce copyright then [we] can have a viable business’.

He and Rogers later denied he said any such thing but those that were there confirm it was said. The quote came from a desire to stop Canadians using VPNs to access US Netflix and other streaming services. He also railed against piracy and wanted the government to take more action on it.

Suffice to say, VPNs were not banned.

Virtual Private Networks

VPNs, Virtual Private Networks have a vital role to play in digital security. They provide an encrypted tunnel through which data can be sent and received securely. Businesses use them, banks use them, I use them, everyone who wants to keep secure on the web uses them.

This blaming of the tool instead of looking at why it is misused is typical of big business and nothing new. Fortunately, nobody listened and the comment went down about as well as when John Chen of BlackBerry said every app maker should be forced to make apps for their platform. Blaming the industry at large instead of their own failings.

VPNs are not purely for Canadians who want to access the US version of Netflix.

If anyone is to blame for piracy and for VPN use to circumvent geoblocking it’s the people who control licensing.

If anything needs action, it’s the draconian licensing model. The reason people access content in other than prescribed ways is because the studios and license holders stick to an outdated licence model that penalises people who don’t live in the US. By charging more to some countries and not others, they penalize Canadians, Europeans, Asians and anyone who isn’t American.

Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and others have all proven that if you make content available everywhere for a fair price, the majority of people are happy to pay for it. Look at HBO Now. For years Canadians couldn’t legally watch their favourite HBO shows so used VPNs to watch them. As soon as Crave came along and we could watch HBO legitimately, we bought into it. It isn’t HBO Now but it’s the next best thing and has many of the shows we want from HBO.

VPNs have a vital role to play in IT security and aren’t just used by Canadians to steal US Netflix. I for one am glad nobody listened to that half-baked idea.