Online cloaking is a practice of adjusting your computer or smart device’s VPN / DNS codes so that online services will believe that you are in a different place than you actually are. It’s essentially a form of location manipulation and, whilst not quite piracy, major streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon are cracking down on the practice.
Say, for example, you want to relish in the delights of the BBC iPlayer archive, but you live in Sweden, where the service is not available. Alternatively, you might be in a country which offers Netflix, but you’re not quite satisfied with the selection and are envious of stories you’ve heard about the treasures which exist in the US version. Just a few years ago it was possible to do this only by means of an IP router, which would look a little suspicious to your ISP (internet service provider) and so was best avoided.
In recent years, however, the practice of online cloaking has become very simple, due to the availability of Unblockers, programmes and services which (usually for a small fee) will open up your device to any available platform the world has to offer. It’s worth noting that these services do not actually come with a subscription to any online streaming companies, and so they need to be purchased separately.
But if I pay for Netflix, what’s the problem if I use one from a different country? They’re still getting my money, right?
Sort of. In truth, companies like Netflix probably wouldn’t be too concerned were it not for one small thing; the legality of the broadcast rights which they have leased from the companies who provide them with content. Netflix creates a small handful of programming (House of Cards, Narcos, Orange Is The New Black and so on) but they still lease a huge amount of titles from studios across the world. Each time they do this, they are purchasing the rights to play that content in a certain country. To have people from other countries accessing this content would leave them open to legal action for breach of contract. Now, hopefully, the problem becomes clearer.
According to TorrentFreak, PayPal made contact to inform them of their measures:
“Under the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy, or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction. This includes transactions for any device or technological measure that descrambles a scrambled work, decrypts an encrypted work or otherwise avoids, bypasses, removes, deactivates or impairs a technological measure without the authority of the copyright owner.“
Up until quite recently, Netflix had been turning a blind eye to the practice and so the change has certainly come from somewhere. It will be interesting to see if they have the power to enforce this, as one thing is for certain on the internet; as soon as you tell people they can’t do something, they will find a dozen new ways to do it.