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Netflix fires first shot in battle with VPNs

Netflix fires first shot in battle with VPNs


Cracking down on users accessing geo-blocked content

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A cat and mouse game between Netflix and its users over geo-blocked content has begun in Australia. Last week, Netflix announced it would be cracking down on customers who use software to watch content only available outside their own country, blocking proxies and virtual private networks (VPNs). Now, an Australian VPN named uFlix says that the video streaming service has indeed started blocking some of its users, with Netflix apparently delivering this message to infringing customers: "You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again."

It's music labels vs torrent sites all over again

Netflix has never explained exactly how it will combat VPNs and proxies, but this news suggests it's simply identifying and blacklisting IP addresses associated with these services. VPNs and proxies work by routing users' internet traffic through computers in different countries: blocking the addresses of these routes stops users accessing content, but it's a time-consuming and laborious process — similar to the running battles between copyright holders and online pirates. Netflix might block certain IP addresses, but VPNs can simply change the servers they're using.

Australian VPN service uFlix advertises itself as a way to access American Netflix content. (Image credit: uFlix)

One VPN named TorGuard even assured users that the crackdown will be futile. "For those of you who rely on TorGuard VPN service to unblock Netflix content unrestricted, you don’t have to worry," wrote the company on its blog. "Netflix will be pushing this plan forward soon, and when that happens, TorGuard will immediately deploy new server IP addresses so users can still bypass blocks." And the recently-blocked Australian VPN service uFlix — which specifically advertises itself as a way to access US Netflix content — noted that it was also "working on a solution" to Netflix's block.

However, analysts have suggested that Netflix needs to show license holders that they're at least trying something to curb this copyright infringement — especially as the company launches in even more countries internationally. Still, this is what happens when you try to come between people and their favorite show.