Netflix has started to block users from accessing out-of-country versions of their accounts. This may come as a scare to Canadians who regularly tap into the US version of Netflix to access a larger variety of content. This action comes on the heels of Netflix’s big announcement that it will be expanding services to over 160 countries.
First of the Gate
The first country to be blocked from accessing content outside of their home country is Australia, where some users are already seeing the message: “You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.”
Netflix has yet to reveal how they will stop people from using VPNs and proxies to access their accounts outside of their own country, but it appears the site is blocking IP addresses linked to companies providing unblocking services. It is unclear how successful Netflix will be in blocking access to out-of-country services long term, as VPN providers can easily avoid blocks by switching IP addresses.
History of Netflix access (un)granted
This is not the first time the issue of accessing out-of-country Netflix has been raised within Canada, as over 25% of Canadian users have reported using a VPN to access the US version of Netflix at some point. Earlier this year, the President of Bell Media caused a stir by claiming that Canadians who use VPNs to access American Netflix are stealing. While subscribers might be breaching Netflix’s terms and conditions, they are not breaking any laws. Netflix is ultimately tasked with determining how non-local versions of Netflix through a VPN should be blocked.
One issue that is being raised by Open Media and other open Internet advocates is whether Netflix has the right to block content from the Internet.
Open Media has made claims that Netflix is not the group at the heart of the blocking request, but rather, Netflix is being pressured by large media conglomerates to block the consumption of out-of-country content so larger companies can maintain a foothold in the cable market.
For customers traveling abroad, another issue with blocked content is it prevents users from accessing their Netflix accounts, even though they are paying customers trying to access their subscribed account.
Open Media also argues that banning anyone who uses a VPN from using Netflix is unfair as a lot of users use a VPN for more than just accessing Netflix. Using a VPN has multiple uses, including privacy protection, which allows users to conduct more secure communications online. Blocking access to Netflix from other countries also renews the debate around the legality of an Internet with borders.
The Internet was originally designed to be open access, borderless network with a global reach. If Netflix were to permanently block access to Netflix in other countries, this could be the first instance of borders being created by offering limited access to content over the Internet, which most people regard as an abuse of rights.
The solution for Netflix might be to expand its global content, which will diminish the need for Canadians and other countries to hunt elsewhere for a wider variety of content. This seems like a win-win for both Netflix and its subscribers. The only real losers might be the cable companies, but who needs them anyway when reliable High-Speed Internet and Netflix go so well together…