Netflix cracks down on VPNs, Tor, and other proxies, to enforce region-blocking

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What’s that whooshing sound…

oh, it’s the sound of Netflix losing half or more of their Canadian market share, since they only offer Canada bullshit and not much of it except that we all view the “US” content. (and all the rest)

Some CBC talk the other day had 1/3 of canuckian customers acknowledging they view any damn Netflix content they want. I guarantee you it is more and that nearly all would consider Netflix totally worthless otherwise.

I know I’ll dump them within minutes of VPN not working.


If they were capable of blocking proxies, I am somewhat mystified as to why they haven’t done so already. Why would anyone agree to a content-licensing agreement at all if it was plain that it was being brazenly circumvented?

[quote=“xeni, post:1, topic:72363”]VPNs have perfectly legitimate uses related to privacy and security.[/quote]I find it a bit of a strain to think what those uses might be as far as Netflix is concerned.


"VPNs have perfectly legitimate uses related to privacy and security. "

Yep. Like me with horribly unreliable xfinity connection that stops working frequently during busy times, but I can connect via xfinity shared hotspot. Comcast still can’t figure out what’s going wrong, but anyway, I use my VPN to connect to my netflix account (and everything else) when I’m on the public hotspot that I’m entitled to use as an xfinity customer. So, yeah, even when I’m home, there are legit reasons I use VPN several times a week.


oh well, back to piracy.


It’s okay! You’ll pay them once they fix it!


It’s unclear whether Netflix is actually going to be able to enforce the block on VPNs, but it doesn’t have much choice other than to try. Its contracts with content providers demand it.

It’s basically the same reason e-books are often sold region-restricted, even though people living in those regions can happily import the physical version of the books (or the DVDs or Blu-rays of the movies Netflix streams, though those will have region-restrictive DRM on them). The content owners can make more money charging small amounts to license the stuff to small pieces of the world than they can by charging one large amount for worldwide rights. All those small amounts together add up to more than the large amount ever could.

As long as that aspect of basic economics remains true (and how could it ever change?), there’s going to be incentive for content stores to restrict sales and rentals to covering only those parts of the world for which they could get the rights—and to try to prevent their own would-be customers from working around those restrictions.


They already have region-exclusive licensing. But unless one’s use of a VPN violates this licensing, it isn’t their problem, and they don’t get a say.

As a customer, Netflix should already know where one is located, so their ignorance here is simply lazy,

Yeah, I expect Netflix couldn’t really care less as long as you are paying them, but they have to look like they’re trying to keep their content suppliers happy.


That’s the point–people are using VPNs to violate that licensing, by
watching programs that aren’t supposed to be available where they live.
That’s the whole point of Netflix saying they’re going to prevent people
from using them.

[quote=“DrXPsychologist, post:4, topic:72363”]I use my VPN to connect to my netflix account (and everything else) when I’m on the public hotspot that I’m entitled to use as an xfinity customer.[/quote]So, the reason you wouldn’t use a VPN on the public hotspot is because otherwise a malicious person could steal your Netflix password…?

I’m as bummed as anyone that Netflix are cracking down on VPNs but if your response is ‘Well, back to pirating! lol’ then you’re an asshole.

I use it to prevent lifting my password, and unauthorized use of my account. I also interrupt watching movies or tv shows sometimes to check mail or do other things with passwords or otherwise sensitive information. And at one of my offices, I’m on an institutional network, so I want to have as much security as possible to be hipaa compliant. I pay for xfinity, I pay for netflix (and Amazon Prime), I pay for my vpn and I use it all legitimately.

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In fact, I’m using a VPN reading and posting comments because I’m on the institutional network today. Nothing untoward about it. I work on contract, bill patient hours only, and in between do written work, or read or whatever I want to do. I’m self employed. I stay on VPN all day with this connection to be hipaa compliant, and I do want to protect patient privacy and confidentiality.


I’m in Canada, have used proxies to watch US and UK TV, and stopped because it really wasn’t all that bad to just stick with the Canadian list. Admittedly this was a year ago since I just went pure Netflix Canada, but it was quite reasonable. Enough so I’ve been considering that and perhaps Crave or Shomi to add on, do some minimal pirating, and get rid of my satellite TV service from Telus.

Thanks, I understand that. The problem is that the mere use of a VPN or proxy provides no evidence that a given user is infringing. So their practice punishes people who do something legitimate, in hopes of catching out others. And, as I mentioned, as a Netflix customer, they would already need to know where you lived for billing purposes.

So, if I am in Maine, and use a VPN to watch US content, they have no reason to complain. But if I pay my bills from Vancouver, and try to initiate a stream from Oakland, they could simply say: “No, you don’t live there”. They need to identify your stream with your account info, otherwise they would not even know whether or not you were a customer at all! That’s why I said it is a lazy solution.

They’ve got a point. These DRM-crazed companies put all of their attention where the big bucks are, and make other content practically impossible for even those who are willing to pay to access. I don’t watch much television, but most of the shows which have interested me have been from other regions, and the distributors have refused to help me at any price. Like my lifelong attempts to buy a UK television license in the US. It’s hypocrisy when these companies go for the jugular to prevent abuse - yet, don’t provide a legitimate means of access.


People using VPNs to bypass region controls is the primary reason VPNs get used for the service, and also the one that’s counter to Netflix’s contracts with its content providers. The articles discussing the issue don’t make the distinction between that and the smaller minority of people who use VPNs because they have to because of where they work or security matters. It’s the “illicit” use that draws the most attention.

Whether Netflix will try or even be able to tell the difference between these “illicit” cross-territorial VPNs and the kind that people just use because they have to is an open question. If they’re just going to tell from IP addresses, then there’s probably little or no reason anyone would add the IP of a VPN that’s not used for region-busting to it. But who knows?

[quote=“DrXPsychologist, post:13, topic:72363”]I use it to prevent lifting my password, and unauthorized use of my account.[/quote]Is it still particularly easy these days to steal things like password data from someone using an unencrypted wireless connection? I have no idea.

Anyway, it seems that it’s possible to bind a specific application to a particular network adapter (using this app, maybe, or a virtual machine if nothing else), so if one needs to use a VPN for other things, it should still be possible to access Netflix without the VPN at the same time.

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I think a probable answer to why Netflix hasn’t done anything about this to date is that it was gaming the system both with licensors and users.

Case in point, Thomas and Friends, probably among the most watched licensed material on Netflix. But Canadian Thomas is distinct from US Thomas which is distinct from UK Thomas etc.

So do Netflix competitors, often more regional like Bell for instance, get to license 20 offerings in one region, 20 in another, 20 in another, but with the wink wink nod nod assurance that all content is available? No. And they crushed it over their competitors, like Bell. Why else would Bell care that Netflix customers were “stealing”? Because Bell would have to pay to license all XX seasons of 30 Rock in it’s Canadian region to offer it to their subscribers… Netflix? Not available in Canada, but hey, ya know, it’s not a problem…

So why now? Why not? Netflix now dominates and with a huge market share can negotiate licenses (or not) with relative ease. Also, consumers are complacent. Already we see that many people are content with watching Canadian Netflix, which is admittedly settling. You like bad movie sequels that are cheap to license? Welcome to Paradise!

You’d think that market share could translate into better regional offerings, but why should it? Your spouse & you barely get to watch anything due to time constraints, your little ones want whatever Netflix Kids has, and your teens will find a way to steal it anyway. Why should it?


If they aren’t willing to sell their product to me, then they aren’t entitled to me buying it from them when I want it.