Netflix to Crack Down on Proxy Streaming

January 19, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Photo of remote control with Netflix button
Photo credit: Brian Cantoni/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

No more watching content from another country.

The Internet is one of those amazing things that crosses borders and levels the playing field around the world. The sites that some users can visit are limited by their governments, but other than that, the Internet is universal. Anyone with a computer or smartphone can access free information.

However, copyright law sometimes gets in the way. Not all licensing agreements are valid across borders, and companies like Netflix have to respect that when they sell the ability to watch certain shows and movies. Thus, the Netflix content available in different regions around the world varies immensely — a viewer in Australia or even Canada will not be able to watch the same content as an American viewer.

This can get frustrating, so many consumers get around the barriers by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a proxy service. Both of these tools work by convincing the sites you visit that you are located in a different country. That sounds fairly harmless, right? After all, you could be traveling. Netflix isn’t convinced.

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After expanding their availability to more than 130 countries in early January, Netflix has now announced that they will be cracking down on the use of proxies, and that they will be taking measures to insure that viewers can only watch content that is available in their region.

“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,” said David Fullagar, vice president of Netflix content delivery architecture. BBC reports that those using VPNs should not be affected.

Netflix told BBC: “Our terms of service state that you are not allowed to virtually cross borders because of content licensing systems." This is not something new.

"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," said Fullagar. But that isn’t the case. They are continuing to work to try to make content more widely available — it is to their advantage if people watch more shows on their site and continue to pay for the service — but universal content won’t happen overnight.

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