Anyone who’s ever used Netflix will be aware that you can easily access foreign catalogues by using VPNs and browser extensions to fool servers into thinking you’re somewhere that you’re not. If you do that on a regular basis then I have some bad news, because reports say Netflix is going to try and put a stop to it.
According to TorrentFreak, Netflix has started blocking a number of services that get around the service’s geo-blockers. It’s not clear which ones have been affected so far but any service that spoofs your DNS or uses a VPN to tunnel traffic through a specific location could be facing problems in the future.
TorrentFreak specifically mentions the paid-for service TorGuard, whose users have been receiving VPN blocking error messages from Netflix since mid-December. Other services like Hola still appear to be working, but I’ve found that Netflix is now aware that I don’t usually access the US Netflix catalogue.
Despite TorrentFreak’s report TechRadar does point out that only a small number of TorGuard’s users have experience the error messages, and according to Engadget Netflix has denied it is changing the way it handles users to access foreign content via VPN. So what actually caused the TorGuard error messages isn’t clear, but a number of outlets have pointed out that Netflix could be testing VPN blocks ready for a future policy change.
If Netflix does implement a block, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Leaked information from the recent Sony hack indicated that the studio was pressuring Netflix to deal with so-called ‘VPN pirates’, even going as far as suggesting that Netflix had no interest in preventing users from access overseas content. It is a logical step to take for rights holders in their battle against copyright infringement though, because ‘VPN-piracy’ is easy to detect and relatively simple to deal with.
What this will actually achieve is unclear, and even though users might be accessing content from another country they are at least paying to watch it. A lot of very angry people on the internet are declaring that if VPN blocks are put into place they’ll just cancel their subscriptions and revert back to torrenting content. Frankly that’s an even worse prospect for rights holders.