January 15, 2016

Netflix says it will clamp down on VPN access

As long as the major media companies still hang on to the archaic territory licensing deals of the analogue world, digital companies will continue to have to be forced to work within regional borders in the supply of licensed content.
The sad fact is that the profit-maximising mentality and content restrictions of the analogue media giants will continue despite global distribution being technically commonplace. And by sticking to twentieth century thinking and restricting content to territories piracy will inevitably continue to thrive.
In the UK, Netflix content is severely restricted by the all-encompassing deals Sky has secured with every major film studio and other major US content holders. If you want the newer Hollywood movies via streaming here and you don't want to pirate you have to use Sky's Now TV service, which is £9.99 a month for 720p movies, a notable cost increase and picture quality compromise from the services from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. So much for customer choice - where's OFCOM on this?
But there was a way around it, to use a VPN service or browser plug in like MediaHint. But that angers the media giants who Netflix and Amazon rely on for the majority of their content, so it's no real surprise to hear that, in the same month Netflix announces expansion to now cover 190 countries worldwide, that it has also posted the following:
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.
How they will actually block VPN/Proxy access is not explained - one can only assume it will be by blocking known IP ranges used by the 3rd party VPN services, a similar Whack-a-Mole game to that used by UK ISPs to block file sharing sites. That can affect legal users as these things often go wrong.
For those who access Netflix solely through TiVo this won't affect you, but if you watch Netflix on a laptop or tablet and access US or other overseas content you may find your access method blocked. One day maybe media companies will wake up and realise that we're now in the twenty first century and there are different ways of doing things, but until then, the customers will continue to be underserved and the pirates will profit.


lee mellor said...

I am one those people that uses a service to access the other regions in netflix, if this does happen i think i would seriously have to consider if netflix is worth it. The large media companies need to wake up, this will just send people down the torrent route. One thing netflix does have going for it is the continued investment its putting in to making there own content, there increasing year on year the money they spend in this area.

Tom Chiverton said...

NetFlix have to say this, the providers force their hand. They know if they try too hard, or are too successful, it hits their bottom line, so don't expect them to.
Like playing wack-a-mole has ever worked.