UPDATED (1/7/2015 11:50am ET): A Netflix spokesperson reached out to us and let us know that “Netflix has made no recent changes beyond using industry-standard methods to block virtually crossing borders in violation of our content licensing agreements.” He further indicated that the original Torrentfreak story, which we quoted for our original article below, is inaccurate.
In a bid to appease movie studios, Netflix is making changes to some of its applications in order to block subscribers using VPN and other tools which bypass geolocation restrictions.
While VPNs are commonly used for privacy and security reasons, they also allow users to circumvent digital borders and access content which is usually restricted by country. Netflix, and other streaming services, typically negotiate content contracts with studios based on geographical boundaries which results in different content being made available to users in different countries.
To get around this, some users utilize VPN services which are set up to mask your IP address, which identifies your physical location, allowing users outside of the U.S. (for example) to pay for and access the content library of the U.S. version of Netflix and other services which may not be available in their country due to licensing agreements.
According to a reddit thread, newer versions of the Android Netflix app are forcing the DNS server settings to use Google DNS, which then bypasses the DNS settings of the VPN service which in turn allows the Netflix app to accurately identify the application’s location and preventing it from accessing content from other regions.
Ben Van der Pelt, from a popular VPN service called TorGuard, told TorrentFreak:
“This is a brand new development. A few weeks ago we received the first report from a handful of clients that Netflix blocked access due to VPN or proxy usage. This is the very first time I’ve ever heard Netflix displaying this type of error message to a VPN user.”
While TorGuard users were able to regain access by logging in to another U.S. location, Van der Pelt suspects that Netflix is testing their blocking methods.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that Netflix may be testing these new IP blocking methods temporarily in certain markets. At this time the blocks do not seem aggressive and may only be targeted at IP ranges that exceed too many simultaneous logins.”
It will be interesting to see how successful Netflix is in appeasing the movie studios with these measures, and what VPN services will do to continue to be able to provide privacy and security services for other customers who may be inadvertently affected by the steps Netflix is taking.
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