Netflix has been forced to deny rumours that it is cracking down on customers who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to watch shows which aren’t licensed for their country reports The Guardian.
Various people outside the United States who hold accounts with the streaming video giant use VPNs to get around the geo-locking and make it appear they are accessing the service from an IP address within the United States. Doing this allows someone with a Netflix account living outside North America to access the same Netflix titles the average U.S. resident sees.
The reason people opt for VPNs with Netflix is usually for reasons of accessibility and pricing – the selection of titles available on both Netflix and other SVOD services in other countries is often only a small fraction of the range of titles available on U.S. Netflix. Using VPNs for such access is not illegal, these users pay for the service like everyone else, however it is a violation of Netflix’s terms of service.
This is not an insignificant audience we’re talking about either. In Australia alone, it’s estimated between 50,000 and 200,000 people (in a country of 23.7 million) have active U.S. Netflix accounts despite the service not being available in that country until this coming March. As Netflix pushes hard into global markets, many have feared that pressure from major studios and distributors may force it to close the loopholes that have allowed people living or traveling outside the United States to access the streaming service’s U.S. content.
Reports emerged on TorrentFreak and Variety over the weekend that Netflix is starting to block subscribers who access its service using VPNs and other tools that bypass geolocation restrictions, and is reportedly testing a variety of blocking methods. At least one service has seen some of its clients lose access, and they along with various other providers are fighting back and suggesting workarounds to their customers.
EnGadget got in touch with Netflix who says there has been ‘no change’ in the way it handles VPNs and that “Netflix simply uses industry standard methods to prevent illegal VPN use”.