Streaming service will prevent those using proxies and VPN services such as Hola from watching content licensed for other regions
Netflix has announced plans to crack down on subscribers who use tools such as proxies or VPNs to watch video from other countries.
Doing so gives users access to a much larger selection of titles, but breaks Netflix’s terms of service – as well as breaking the agreements Netflix has with the content providers.
In a statement, Netflix vice president David Fullagar said: “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.”
Proxies and VPNs are tools which route a user’s internet connection through a third party before eventually connecting to the internet. They are commonly used to mask the IP address, and thus physical location, of a web user’s computer.
The services are popular among Netflix users, particularly those outside of the US, because they allow access to video that Netflix has licensed for other countries but not their own. Sometimes, the motivation is to access media that Netflix hasn’t licensed for multiple countries due to a lack of demand (for instance, a Korean émigré may want to watch shows from their home country, which haven’t been licensed for British audiences due to a lack of demand); but more commonly, the drive is simply that the US version of Netflix, thanks to its larger market, has a significantly better selection of English-language media than other regions.
The use of proxies was also particularly popular in countries where the service hadn’t officially launched, such as (until recently) Australia and New Zealand. But part of the motivation for Netflix finally cracking down on the use of proxies seems to be its announcement this month that it would be launching worldwide, to every nation other than China, Syria, North Korea and Crimea.
Fullagar wrote that “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.”
Last January, Netflix was forced to deny rumours that it had launched a crackdown on users of VPN services after reports of blocked access. At the time, the company said it was using “industry standard methods to prevent illegal VPN use”, and the vast majority of VPN users continued to be able to watch region-locked content without issues.
But increasing pressure from content providers, who only grant Netflix the rights to stream certain content in certain locales, could be the reason for the change in policy. While Netflix has historically benefited from income from users who paid to access locked content, it now has to play nice worldwide in order to build up large libraries in its hundred-plus new nations.
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