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


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.