It’s official: Netflix says it plans to crack down on license-infringing proxy users

Patrick O'Rourke

January 14, 2016 2:24pm

It looks like accessing U.S. and international Netflix in Canada could get significantly more complicated in the near future.

Despite stating last week in a Globe and Mail interview that it’s already doing everything it can to curb VPN and DNS region switching, Netflix now says it has plans to block the use of proxy technology entirely.

David Fullagar, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery, writes in the company’s blog that over the next few weeks, region-switching users that take advantage of services like Unblock-Us, SurfEasy, TunnelbearPrivate Internet Access, and Hola, will be locked to the country in which they’re physically located.

“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,” writes Fullagar in a recent blog post.

Fullagar doesn’t explain how Netflix intends to kill the use of region-switching services but mentions that he’s confident the shift won’t impact Netflix subscribers who don’t use these platforms.

It’s unclear, however, exactly how Netflix plans to stop the use of VPN and DNS services. Blocking specific IP addresses is a possibility, but to avoid this method, all geo-locking platforms need to do is switch to a new DNS/IP range, effectively creating a game of cat and mouse between Netflix and region-switching providers.

In a recent interview with Variety, a Netflix representative said that the company “uses a variety of technologies to properly geolocate members and to avoid attempts to circumvent proper geolocation.”

A cottage industry of startups has evolved around the use of proxy services that offer virtual private network and DNS switching services. These platforms allow someone in Canada to watch content that is normally geo-blocked in their country. Since Netflix’s U.S. library is more expansive than other regions in the world, many subscribers in other countries turn to these services in order to stream U.S. content. Taking advantage of these services is a direct violation of Netflix’s terms of use.

On a positive note, Fullagar also says that it has plans to begin licensing content on a worldwide basis, but says that this process is difficult and slow moving.

“We are making progress in licensing content across the world… but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” said Fullagar.

Netflix’s crackdown on geo-unlocking services is likely linked to its recent 130 country global expansion, as well as increased pressure from movie studios. Since all VPN/DNS service users are still paying a monthly subscription fee, and in some cases, have possibly even opted to do so because they are able to region switch, it’s in Netflix’s best interest not to block proxy services.

But Netflix still needs to avoid the ire of content licensers on the television and movie side, and coming out against these proxy services is a good way to stay in their good graces.

  • Lexcyn

    They can’t realistically block all VPN providers, as there is a perfectly legitimate use for VPN clients, aside from skirting geolocation. This could turn out pretty bad for Netflix depending on how they plan on blocking users (my guess is they will start by blocking DNS/proxy users first).

    • Frederick The Great

      Yes, I agree. Netflix should be leading the charge to make content available everywhere because people are still paying for it regardless. Given the nature of the Internet today I find it laughable that content providers and creators are creating barriers in how or where you can watch the stuff even while still paying for it. It’s outdates and archaic way of doing business and really who cares where the stuff is being watch as long as its not being pirated for free.

    • cartfan88

      Well, they are making a great case for going back to piracy…

    • danbob333

      “Netflix should be leading the charge to make content available everywhere because people are still paying for it regardless.”

      Actually they aren’t paying for it. Maybe Netflix would need to charge canadians twice as much for the full US catalog. They prefer to charge less and offer less content.

    • MassDeduction

      Canadian Netflix is not necessarily less content anymore. Or at least not less of the popular content. There’s fiercer competition for content in the U.S. thanks to big players like Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, among many others. As Netflix’s competitors grab exclusive U.S. rights to content, sometimes Canadian Netflix retains it. Shows like “24” that U.S. Netflix has lost, Canadian Netflix has. Canadian Netflix will get Star Wars the Force Awakens later this year, but U.S. Netflix won’t. Recently Americans have begun talking about using VPNs to access *Canadian* Netflix in forums. Netflix presumably plans to stop them from doing that too.

    • mola2alex

      I agree it is archaic but if Netflix only bought the rights in some small country, I think the content creators would be pissed if they allowed access globally. People making and selling the content are trying to maximize revenue by selling it for different rates in different areas. No different than how other products are sold. I wish the content owners would bypassed the middle men and go direct.

    • rick

      No – I believe they will block content based on your billing location. Meaning even if you are in the US, you’re account will only allow you to see Canadian content. They will control access on the back end. You will need to have both a US based subscription and a VPN. This will be similar to how Apple store makes it pretty hard to get access to US stuff. Still ways around it with vanilla credit cards and fake addresses – but at some point it becomes a burden.

    • xanth18

      They explicitly stated in the past that they’re not willing to do that as they want people to be able to use their account in a different country and access that country’s catalog. So I can’t see them adding this particular restriction.

      I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but I just doubt they would as that is one of the big selling features.

    • Chris G

      Good theory. I would assume though that they wouldn’t care about the VPN and allow you to access the content anywhere.You’re an american customer in germany? heres your US content! At best the VPN would be needed for setup though.

    • Yup! I use my VPN for various other reasons, if they block me… they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot. Err… feet.

    • mola2alex

      It really depends on implementation. Maybe they don’t block those at all but restrict by account. Billing address and phone number in Canada might specify the content you have access to instead of the network you are on.

  • Frederick The Great

    Well they could do what Hulu does and that is block the ability of anyone using an anonymous proxy from streaming content regardless of their region, in which case I’ll cancel my membership. A person in the U.S. or Canada could theoretically and frequently is prevented from streaming if they’re using any kind of VPN period so it seems rather discriminatory for those that choose to protect their privacy while online.

    Some of these sites need to remember that if people want to transact online while protecting their privacy it should be respected because there are greater reasons for doing so than merely streaming shows that aren’t available in some countries vs. others.

    • VLAN

      I’m not sure that is how Hulu blocks proxy users. I have been using Hulu with a VPN service for almost 2 years now without any kind of issues.

    • Philosoraptor

      I have a Hulu Plus membership with no issues.

    • I’ve been a Hulu subscriber for the last three years, they don’t block proxy services, whether they’re DNS or IP based.

  • Kyolux

    Don’t forget the TPP. That has to have played into this as well.

  • yadeed

    gees first world problems, damn it guys, do you need to be glued to the damn tube,,, go out for god sake, meet some people, visit your parents, go out with friends et al, damn it read a book, go to the gym etc etc… you know TV just came after 1950 make a guess what people did before 1950 for entertainment, … you guessed damn right there was no TV or PC in the living room or sleeping room before 1950 and people used to walk too.

    • Mo Dabbas

      “make a guess what people did before 1950 for entertainment” — sex?? lot and lots of it??

    • Jesus McDongswoggle

      Dont forget fighting in wars and battling dysentery

    • grantdude

      Do you turn on the lights at home at night? You do? Geez guess what people used before the invention of the light bulb? Candles. Why don’t you go back to candles too.

    • yadeed

      In fact I have a rural home with no electricity, you should try the experience too and go to bed when the sun is gone and wake up when the sun rises. Smell the flowers and get your head unglued from the tube. You will even see the stars above you. I use candles too, you should try it. it is not that hard, you know like walking.

    • Philosoraptor

      I do lots of outdoor activities and get up and move many times a day.
      Yes I still enjoy technology daily. You should try not judging others.

    • yadeed

      judging others?, No need for it. the reality is that most people waste their life in front of the TV, Tube, Facebook, social media et al …. just look at the statistics. ….. I know, I know people feel threatened when thinking in the remote possibility of reducing the consumption of social media et al. Consumption ueber alles follow the herd and do not think differently, do not dear to see or think in the possibility of a different option.

    • When one is forced to disconnect (power outage), your view of life takes center stage fore sure and it brings me back to my child hood. Simpler times for sure but our society has changed/is changing. For better and worse. George Hotz was recently interviewed and he made a comment of how the end goal for us is to have robots do everything for us so we don’t have to work. We can then spend all our free time exploring VR worlds. He then went on to mention that we are half way there because most of us are looking down at our phone for a big chunk of the day.

      I was a bit saddened by that thought because I grew up before smart phones and remember what it was like and I try to balance the two lifestyles as they are both appealing.

      Hotz’ comment also reminded me of Asimov’s novel – The Naked Sun and how messed up that society is yet I can see a future where we live that like that because of our changing lifestyle (e.g. facebook “friends”, VR, lower birth rates, robot developments). Oh well, + 1 for idle Thursday afternoon thoughts.

    • kEiThZ

      Rural home with no electricity, yet have free internet? Apparently, your rural lifestyle doesn’t come with a sound education in logic…..

    • Rimtu Kahn

      You misunderstand…he said he has a rural home, not that he’s living in it and scouring the internet to post comments on. Lol
      He’s probably a narcissistic aristocrat, lives in one home with all the modern flairs and has another one as a weekend getaway.
      Never trust people who boast about all the nice qualities about themselves.

    • yadeed

      let me guess you are poor and never been out of the basement of your mother. Have you ever own property beyond your bicycle?

    • TrueNorth00

      Troll harder. 15 years of military service. Flew jets.

      Do you ever get off that couch on which you just watch your fireplace?

      My CF service could explain my comfort with tech. Still don’t get your luddite views.

    • SycloneRob

      Yet, you are here, again and again….. Go smell some flowers or read a book instead of staring at that screen posting on mobilesyrup eh!!!. Kettle meet pot………

    • Lori

      Curious? How did you post this with no electricity?

    • cartfan88

      Yet here you are exercising your fingers on comment boards on the internet. Awesome!

    • yadeed

      The internet I get it for free in my place, I chop cable and TV since 1995 no need to waste my money on that like all of you, whose life revolve around that. And I write occasionally to guys like you who love and are addict to TV, Cable, tube, netflix et al and find it unthinkable to live without watching the tube …

    • Ulfredsson The Vanquisher


    • yadeed

      you see what happen when you have 12 y/o commenting, very idiotic your great comment, I guess you have added a lot of your personality to the discussion. please go to sleep, and wash your a*s before going to bed.

    • kEiThZ

      You don’t watch, read on the internet or watch any cable, and you think others have no life? Laughable. I use the internet to find out what’s going on around town (and the world), which restaurants to try out, where the farmers market is at, etc. I use my smartphone to trade stocks, translate when i travel, and read my Economist on my bus ride.

      If you think the internet is useless, you just might be the low functioning individual in the conversation.

    • cartfan88

      You get internet in a yurt?

    • rick

      What if you’re watching a movie with your parents, friends, kids. What if you watch Netflix while on the treadmill? What if you’re part of a movie club (vs book club). What if you can’t go out due to financial constraints and your 7.99 netflix fee is your monthly entertainment budget. What if its winter and its f’ing cold out. What if you’re school course (secondary or post secondary) necessitates you to study art and or film. What if after volunteering at the shelter for 8 hours you just want to come home and watch some netflix or what if after serving peace operations in some war torn country you’re back home and just medically need some mindless down time. I find your comment irrelevant to the discussion.

    • yadeed

      gees what a sad life if you can’t go out due to financial constraints and your 7.99 netflix fee is your monthly entertainment budget. I guess having friends, a girlfriend, thinking and walking is not even an option, how old are you? 12 y/o.

    • Frederick The Great

      Tell you what yadeed. Why don’t you lead your life the way you want and let others do the same with theirs. It’s clear you are rabble rouse and nothing more.

    • yadeed

      Did I hurt your fragile consumerist sensibilities? Do not feel threaten homie, nobody is taking away nothing from you, remember this is the internet, do not let the opinions of others hurt your fragile unstable soul. Be happy in your consumption ueber alles lifestyle.

    • kEiThZ

      Sad trolling. If you have to troll a tech blog with a Luddite POV, that says a lot about you.

    • Nadefrenzy

      I’d rather live such a “sad” life, than be like you and rant and judge people on a random online technology board. Be the example; don’t try to manipulate others into doing the same due to some unfulfilled need for control.

    • yadeed

      lol, let me guess you are a 12 y/o childless singleton and have daddy issues…

    • Roy Trenneman

      You know if he’s 12 years old I would certainly hope he’s childless as I would otherwise be very concerned about hormone levels in milk.

    • Nadefrenzy

      If I were 12, i’d obviously be childless. What kinda absurd comment is that? But yea…err.. great comeback bro.

    • Can I use a record player?

    • Kyolux

      Only for pre-1950s music.

    • yadeed

      what you ask says a lot about you, my guess is, that if you are that stupid… you better do nothing; it may hurt you.

    • Mr_Smoosh

      You’re only going back to the ’50s? Frikkin technocrats like you make me sick. What’s wrong with steam and coal? You probably even use utensils, poser.

    • dougo13

      Hello, it’s -24C where I am typing this right now. Going out is not an option I care to think about…

  • grantdude

    If I’m in Canada paying Netflix US to watch something, at least I’m paying for it.

    They cut that off, I’ll just go back to torrents.

    • Kyolux

      They might simply be doing it to shut movie studios, etc. up. Another way to access US Netflix will surely creep up and then they’ll probably turn a blind eye to it until movie studios, etc. once again whine. Rinse/repeat.

    • rick

      go the kodi route. no violation warnings from your isp

    • Karl Dagenais

      Quality of the streams from Kodi Add-ons like Genesys are mostly terribly low bitrate though, and rarely have multichannel sound…

    • rick

      Streaming is streaming. I don’t think people go to Netflix or Kodi for the quality. If you want quality you’re likely already torrenting or buying disc. ONE DAY people might do 4k on Netflix, but I find the quality of netflix and kodi on par. I think most general consumers would as well.

    • barrist

      > I find the quality of netflix and kodi on par.

      Yeah no. Not to mention the 60 second + wait for it to find a working source for some shows on Genesis

    • Chris Box

      The quality of Netflix is a lot better compared to any Genesis stream. Its more of a satisfactory quality compared to low maybe 480p streams that you can get on Genesis.

    • rick

      You guys do realize that Kodi does not equal Genesis right. Have you looked at others. Phoenix. You can also search for us content only.

  • rick

    Oh well……….guess i’ll invest money in Kodi over Netflix then. Region blocking is ridiculous at this point. I’m not putting it all at the feet of netflix. Content owners negotiating by region when we live in a digital world without borders is stupid when the mechanism for consuming this content is solely digital.

    • barrist

      what money are you investing in Kodi?

    • rick


  • Bok Choy

    I’m guessing they are enforcing term 6c on the TOS. What if I’m travelling in the US? Does that mean I can’t log in to and use Netflix using my Canadian account? I’m not using any VPN or anything.

    • dirtyKIMCHI

      That should not be blocked. Having done this in the past, you get access to the local catalog when logged in. (So US account logged in in Canada, gets Canadian catalog and Vice Versa).

    • Nadefrenzy

      That’s so arbitrary and archaic. It’s silly.

  • Ken

    Netflix should be working for their customers in getting rid of the territory limits that are in place as opposed to wasting time in putting up barriers to the different libraries. They certainly have no hesitation in taking my monthly premium. Netflix’s attitude in this article indicates they are not working for their customers. Time to look around for other alternatives in movie selection websites.

    • James P

      It’s not on Netflix to determine what content is available and where. That lies on the studios Netflix deals with.

    • Ryan

      Do you think Netflix isn’t pushing hard for this? It’s one of the reasons for them making their own content.

      Media providers are just playing the “I’ll take my ball and go home” approach and it’s working. Netflix needs them more than they need Netflix.

    • FlamesFan89

      I agree that Netflix needs them more than they need Netflix right now, but I think that is changing. Perhaps not fast enough, but Netflix has had a great deal of success with their in-house content like Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards. I don’t think anyone is signing up solely for those titles yet, but if they reach a critical mass of titles to entice consumers, they will be the ones in the drivers seat.

      What I hate hearing, is all the studios talking about each of them having their own streaming service, to compete with Netflix. No one wants that I don’t think. I don’t want to have to sign up for 8 different services, then if I want to watch one show, I sign into this app, then a different show, I sign into a different app. No, I want a version of Netflix (or whoever) that has content from all the studios, in one place, without the border restrictions.

      I guarantee that if all the studios (including you HBO, get your head out of your behind) could strike up a mutually agreeable deal, to remove border restrictions, and offer everything in a single service, and they could even charge more for it, like $20 a month instead of $7.99, they’d have more than enough customers. Cable companies would be scrambling, but consumers would love it.

  • Tyler McIntyre

    Restricting because of an invisible line is pretty ridiculous but most of the content on US Netflix is also available on shomi for almost the same price.

    • James P

      I’d rather go through countless hurdles than use the poorly designed Shomi by the worst provider in North America. Comcast or TWC at its worst has got to be better than what Rogers provides.

    • awhite2600

      Bingo. That’s the problem. Shomi might negotiate a higher fee with the studio for exclusive rights to a certain piece of content. That prevents Netflix from legally allowing Canadian subscribers to watch that content in Canada.

  • awhite2600

    I have a client that is in the media content and licensing business. All negotiations are based on old school principles. Content is often licensed down to the individual title / episode level for very specific regions, purposes, etc. It’s mind bogglingly complex.

    I can see how locking your subscription to your region could also be a violation. If I’m a Canadian subscriber then the media companies don’t want me watching certain content if I’m physically on US soil. If Netflix does lock based on region then I can see a whole industry forming that allows you to use foreign Netflix credentials for a fee.

    There is no solution that won’t upset users, media companies or both.

  • I used to understand regional block of tv shows for advertising purposes but why the hurdles for digital content with no ads?

    I know why Netflix is doing this but its a shame they have to because everyone I know does this. Crave might have just launched at a very good time.

    • vn33

      My understanding it’s more because the licensing from content providers which differs in different regions .. ??

  • James P

    One of the greatest things about technology is no matter how much blocking a company may do, there’s also someone else who will figure it out in no time.

    Even if they backend it (tie content location to your billing account), there will obviously be ways around that as well, enough that even those who aren’t tech savvy will still be able to use.

  • RjPiston

    What exactly is the purpose of restricting movies in certain regions if its streamed online? who controls that?

    • flower_petals

      i believe it’s the studios who make the content. It allows them to sell it to different companies in different regions. They probably make more money that way.

    • RjPiston

      This should be classified as anti-consumer and the FCC or CRTC stepping in to stop this sort of thing. It in no way benefits the consumer.

  • Nachotech

    I don’t see much future in Netflix anyway. Sooner or later every network will have it’s own streaming service that you’ll have to subscribe to to get their content. HBO has already gone that route, and others will likely follow. If NBC, ABC, FOX, AMC et al all start their own streaming service, where will Netflix get their content from?

    • Tim

      NBC, ABC and Fox already have Hulu

    • Dexaw

      To counter your point though, as consumers, people are not going to like the idea of having to subscribe to a whole bunch of different services for each channel. I still think there will be a competitive advantage to services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon that offer consumers access to content from different content creators. Not to say channels won’t do what you’re describing, but it won’t necessarily be successful for them to do so.

    • FlamesFan89

      I just said something similar in another comment on this page.

      If the studios and networks all could see the forest for the trees, and come up with a single service, that they all provide content to, and removed the invisible borders, they could easily charge a premium, and consumers would lap it up happily. I’d cut my cord in a heartbeat, and I’m sure I’m far from the only one, and spend that budget on this one, all encompassing, service.

      But that’s too easy, makes too much sense, and will therefore, never happen. They all want 100% of a much smaller pie, instead of X% of an enormous pie, even if that X% represents far more actual dollars in the long run. Logic be damned.

  • danbob333

    Why don’t they just offer content based on credit card / home address?
    I’m sure content providers would be happy with this simple solution.

    • Bray

      What happens when you’re visiting US and want to watch Netflix? Licencing is different there.

  • hardy83

    I don’t blame Netflix. I blame companies like Rogers and Bell who think in this international world that outdated content rights systems is something that we should be forced to use.

    They drop millions for the rights to shows, and they want to flex their legal muscle to be the only options.

    It’s not like Netflix will be able to fully bloc all VPN people, especially if they US a US address and CC or something similar.
    Then there’s the easier and cheaper method that is just as easy as Netflix.

    Good luck world media trying to strong arm consumers into doing what you want. It worked so well with the music industry.

  • GPman

    My guess it’s not people just trying to access USA. In fact it is USA accessing other regions. USA NF is the biggest but most crap. You can get huge big hits in other regions like guardians of the galaxy in Netherlands and other countries. So big pressure to stop them from getting access to these movies.

    But they will lose massive amount of customers. Big time, including me.

  • Laer

    All I can say is be vocal saying , “If I can’t pay for it I’ll just pirate it.”

    Someone will clue in eventually.

    • Dexaw

      Money speaks louder than words. Withhold it and companies start listening or get replaced by ones who heard you.

    • FlamesFan89

      Exactly. The Oatmeal (a web comic) did a great strip where he explains how he wanted to watch Game of Thrones. I think it was after the first season. It’s one of those little angel and devil on your shoulder type scenarios, where the devil is saying to pirate it, and the angel is suggesting legal alternatives. He couldn’t stream it, he couldn’t buy it, he couldn’t get it in any legal manner, so he ends up pirating it.

      I swear, sometimes it seams like the movie, TV, and music industry WANTS to lose money.

      If things like Netflix, and iTunes have shown us anything, it is confirmation of what Kevin Spacey said: “give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.

    • abc123

      Best comment of the day.

  • xStokeRx

    What if i am really a us citizen in a foreign country what then…..

    • Stuntman06

      It’s not about citizenship. It’s about where you are located when you are watching.

  • MR D

    Get Kodi on a little Android TV box. A few plugins and you will not miss Netflix.

  • Tracydeanne

    If they do this, does that mean if I travel to another country, I’ll lose Netflix? If my account is locked to my home coordinates, travel would in theory block me out.

  • J.S.Bach

    Sounds like a cat and mouse game… Netflix is going to crack down so the VPN’s will just figure out a way around it or people will just use popcorn time or some other service to get the content they want.

  • aaron

    Have they realized how pitiful the Canadian Netflix looks like compared to US? Well we have the internet and piratebay so unsubscribing would be the best choice.

  • HatInTheRing

    Netflix better watch their step. They became successful based on people being sick of the greed in the TV industry. They capitalized on a cord cutting movement because people wanted less rules and more content for a more fair price. Now they’re following in the footsteps slimy networks are. Costs keep rising and rules are sneaking in. It’s a slippery slope.

  • Lori

    I travel for business to China and other foreign countries, I want to see my US Netflix when I am away from home; this is one of the reasons I subscribe. Where is my incentive to subscribe if they take this action? When I am at home I have so many options I don’t need Netflix.


    If the content owners and Netflix can’t work out a model to do global licensing, people with move to other alternatives, namely torrenting. This reminds me of the music industry steadfastly refusing to accept that their business model needed to change.

    Stating that this “process is difficult and slow moving” isn’t an acceptable excuse. This is just proof that the industry isn’t taking this seriously and is turning a blind eye to torrenting.

    • MasterofTech

      The fact is that Netflix is a whale in its own right. Seems to me the studios and content creators need Netflix more than Netflix may need them but that reality isn’t setting in here.
      Fact is that geofencing content is a joke in the 21st century inter-connected world we live in and the sooner that reality hits home the better off we will all be. Both the consumers and the creators alike because as long as people are paying for the stuff who gives a rats a*s whether you’re watching it in Timbuktu, Nepal or New York City.

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  • BizNetClub

    They did block many, they blocked SurfEasy. god forbid we download the moving pixels into your brains to make us feel and form a memories.

  • I am a US citizen abroad and was using Tunnelbear to watch the US content on Netflix. It is now blocked and Netflix is likely to lose my business. It’s not worth it if I cannot watch what I want.