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Netflix Not Cracking down on VPN Usage ... Not Yet

Photo of PS3 XMB with Netflix App
Sean Fang Wed, 07/01/2015 - 22:07

Media reports of Netflix cracking down on VPN usage may be over the mark, as the company continues to deny it has taken new action against those using the streaming service outside of the service's intended geographical regions, including those that are using in countries that do not yet have access to the service, such as Australia, or those using it to access other regions to gain access to more titles.

The story picked up when the latest version of Netflix'a Android app hard-coded Google DNS settings into its app, preventing certain VPN and "smart" DNS services from working (there is a workaround, if you have the right router). While this does seem like Netflix's solution to stopping people from using these geo-unblocking services, the actual reason for the change may be much simpler.

In fact, these changes have been on the cards for a long time now, ever since the PS3 Netflix app, considered the "flagship" app for Netflix where it receives all the major new changes first, also had its DNS settings changed many versions ago, which at times prevented the app from working when using a smart DNS service (although not always, as the app's algorithm apparently only chooses to use the Google DNS servers when an unknown set of conditions are met). Netflix have always said this change was to help improve the performance of the app, using Google's DNS servers which are normally more reliable and frequently faster in performance than other public or ISP based DNS servers. For this latest change, Netflix again re-iterates that performance improvements was the goal, and it is not related to enforcing geo-restrictions (even if it does achieve this goal, at least some of the time).

“Virtually crossing borders to use Netflix is a violation of our terms of use because of content licensing restrictions. We employ industry standard measures to prevent this kind of use. We have not recently made any changes,” the official Netflix statement reads.

Note that the statement refers to "virtually" crossing borders, as your Netflix subscription actually allows you to "physically" cross borders and continue using the service, accessing your current region's library. Some VPN and smart DNS services have taken advantage of this feature and allow users to virtually change regions any time they wish (for example, allowing Canadian Netflix users to access to more updated US Netflix library, or the content rich Mexican Netflix library, at the click of a button). It is this, along with people accessing Netflix in countries that Netflix has not been officially rolled out in, that has angered movie studios, who feel that they are not being allowed the chance to maximize their profits via regional licensing.

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