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Netflix Finally Clamps Down on VPN Using Broadband Subscribers

Friday, January 15th, 2016 (7:57 am) - Score 1,919

Internet video streaming giant Netflix has finally followed through on last year’s controversial change to their Terms & Conditions by limiting access for broadband subscribers that make use of Proxy Servers or Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which circumvent regional content restrictions.

People typically use VPNs or Proxy Servers either for added security, to access work networks while aboard, to avoid Traffic Management measures imposed by their ISPs and often also to keep their connections private (anonymous) while surfing the Internet.

Essentially related services sit on their own layer between you and your Internet connection, effectively providing the user with a virtually anonymous Internet Protocol (IP) address and often also allowing you to pick an IP from a different country. The latter option allows you to avoid some of the annoying geo-blocking restrictions that content providers often employ, which is responsible for some irritating block messages (e.g. “Sorry, this content is not available to your country!“).

Geo-blocking of online video content is perhaps the signature of a somewhat out-of-date copyright licensing model that still hasn’t been updated for the Internet age, but it’s one that content providers are often forced to respect. Netflix is no different and their catalogue of content will thus change depending upon which part of the world you live in.

Last year Netflix changed their T&C’s in order to restrict, without compensation, any accounts that made use of VPN or Proxy Servers to circumvent their regional restrictions, but at the time they didn’t fully enforce those changes. Unfortunately all that has just changed.

David Fullagar, Netflix’s VP of Content Delivery Architecture, said:

If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in. 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.

Over time, we anticipate being able to do so. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.

Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.

We look forward to offering all of our content everywhere and to consumers being able to enjoy all of Netflix without using a proxy. That’s the goal we will keep pushing towards.”

Admittedly this situation is somewhat of a catch-22 for both Netflix and Rights Holders. On the one hand imposing new restrictions will keep Rights Holders happy, but on the other it risks driving legitimate paying customers back into the arms of Internet Piracy so that they can access the content they want.

Some parts of the world, such as Europe, are trying to tackle this through the introduction of more flexible licensing laws, which means that legitimate subscribers wouldn’t have to take out a different subscription for the same service when they swap country. But many other parts of the world aren’t even thinking about such a change.

However even Netflix will have to acknowledge that trying to impose geo-blocking restrictions against VPNs will not be easy because such services don’t always identify themselves in an obvious way. Time for another game of whack-a-mole, but this time paying customers seem to be the enemy.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Steve Jones says:

    There is, of course, the nuclear option of Netflix amending their terms and conditions such that persistent users of VPNs/Proxies could be deemed to be in contravention of their contract and find they are hit by loss of service and an expensive termination fee. It would not be necessary to keep lists of proxies up-to-date as just the risk of being detected might be sufficient to deter a number of people.

    To be honest, I doubt Netflix care at all about this issues, it’s the content right holders that will be pushing this. Being able to sell rights separately to different parts of the world at whatever prices the local market will bear is a way of maximising revenue. Premier league rights cost vastly more in the UK than, say, India.

    1. rogTM says:

      Well, they did it by accident last year and concluded they would lose over 15M subs.

      I guess they don’t care about that either.

  2. Richard says:

    People moan about repeats on terrestrial tv. Netflix only seems to show old stuff with the odd exception.

    1. dragon says:

      Yep mostly old stuff although some of their Netflix original series are quite good and at least they make it easy to cancel if you do feel you’re not getting your monies worth.

  3. rogTM says:

    Is this smart DNS also? if sp they would lose around 5M customers just like they did last time.

    Stil working for me ATM with tunnelbear chrome extension.

  4. hmm says:

    most of thes netflix amazon payview poor content there is no real alternative to so called piracy

  5. Bob2002 says:

    Apparently about 54 million people access Netflix via VPN and there is a lot of account sharing – including 21 million in China where there is no Netflix. A lot of people to lose.

  6. onephat says:

    i wonder how this will be policed. Will netflix just do one sweep of the internet blocking various VPN providers who will in turn adjust their services or will they actively continue to police it.

    1. rogTM says:

      Well I tried to connect on the US VPN and got told this was not available for my region.

      Yesterday I had the “travelling with netflix?” dialoge

      Even my smart DNS has stopped. so goodbye Netflix and hello Prime, which is fine I want top gear anyway (and other benefits)

  7. Jonathan Roadley says:

    Smart DNS still working, no issues. Soon as it does stop working, sub cancelled.

    1. rogTM says:

      Well smart DNS is no differerent to the chrome extension Tunnlebear uses – and that just stopped working.

    2. Jonathan Roadley says:

      Pretty sure this easy to get round. Just checked again, and can still switch to any region fine.

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