Netflix Is Upping Its Attacks On VPNs: Here's How To Dodge The Blocks

Netflix bolstered its VPN and DNS blockade over the weekend, but all is not lost for Aussies trying to sneak into the US Netflix library.

Photo: Trusted Reviews

The cat and mouse game between Netflix and geo-dodging services continues and it's starting to bite Australians, with reports over the weekend that more people are locked out of the US service. Instead of being taken to the US library, affected users received the notification: "You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again".

The crackdown appears to be affecting a range of VPN services, as well as people using DNS-based workarounds like Getflix and Unblock-US, but the results are very hit and miss. It's not a total lockout, as Netflix is experimenting with different blocking techniques which impact on different people. The country in which your account is based might be a factor.

As with previous crackdowns, the geo-dodging services are quickly deploying countermeasures. Netflix seems to be primarily targeting services which market themselves especially as options for sneaking into the US library. Free services also appear more prone to blocking than paid services, but your mileage may vary.

I've tested two VPN services and one DNS workaround over the weekend which all continue to access the US Netflix library on a range of devices — despite complaints from other users. These services do seem to be taking longer to connect, perhaps a side effect of the new geo-blocking countermeasures.

Netflix knows it can never win the geo-blocking war, its aim is to make things difficult enough that your average person decides that it's too hard and throws in the towel, sticking with their local Netflix library.

People like to criticise Netflix for not making its entire library available globally, but a decision like that needs to come from the content owners. Netflix is actually one of the champions of global rights deals with its Netflix Originals content like Daredevil, but other content providers aren't so keen because they'd rather stick with regional rights deals in order to milk us dry.

If you want to weather out Netflix's latest crackdown then it pays to have a few geo-dodging options at your disposal so you can jump between them. Most services have a free trial so you can dip your toe in the water.

If you run into trouble, many VPN providers offer servers in multiple US cities. It's worth switching between them to see if you strike it lucky. Some DNS-based services also offer multiple Australian IP addresses, so it's worth experimenting with the different options to see what works best.

As I said in January, long-time Netflix users have survived many so-called crackdowns and know it will blow over with geo-dodging services winning out in the end. Are you ready to throw in the towel or have you beaten the Netflix blockade?

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This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    "Netflix is actually one of the champions of global rights deals with its Netflix Originals content like Daredevil" This statement does not ring true in Netflix Thailand where you can't get House of Cards at all.

    I assumed Netflix was the content copyright holders of House of Cards. They must have onsold the rights in Thailand to that series knowing full well they were taking their online model global.

    Netflix are not innocent in the global rights issue.

      You know Thailand has some crazy ass censorship laws. No drugs, alcohol, nudity, weapons being pointed at people etc. Could be a reason.

        You are correct on the strange laws here. Weapons on TV in Thailand is no problem. Guns are shown on every free to air nightly series (Thai versions of Home and Away or Neighbours). Graphic car accidents and the like are no problem on the news. Some nudity and cigarette smoking of all things is pixelated on TV.

        However, Better Call Saul and breaking Bad is on Netflix. House Of Cards isn't.

        Last edited 24/02/16 8:22 pm

          I can currently access US Netflix in Australia via Express VPN http://bit.ly/Express-Vpn with no problems. I've checked my Netflix audit logs and it correctly shows my IP address as US and the device I'm connecting with.

          Last edited 13/06/16 11:22 pm

      Also Germany (I think), where HoC existed before Netflix because officially available, so they did a deal with one of the local distributors there which extends past when Netflix finally became available there.

      But this is a good illustration of why the issue isn't as simple as "content owners baad, Netflix good."

      There are obviously existing deals in many countries that carry on well into the future, cutting Netflix out. It wasn't necessarily wrong - nobody could've known Netflix was going to be this big when the licensing deals were likely originally cut.

      Last edited 25/02/16 12:35 pm

    "here's how to dodge the blocks"

    Read article.

    No info on how to dodge other than "try various services and/or VPN locations". Not much help really.

    My SmartDNS works, but connecting via a VPN doesn't. I want to fix the latter (for different physical location than the SmartDNS location).

      This is the key bit: "If you run into trouble, many VPN providers offer servers in multiple US cities. It’s worth switching between them to see if you strike it lucky. Some DNS-based services also offer multiple Australian IP addresses, so it’s worth experimenting with the different options to see what works best."

    Hey do you think you could go get a lawyers opinion on whether geoblocking Australian customers is legal in Australia?

    It seems to me that it should be covered under the same laws that protect grey importing, I was under the impression those consumer protection laws were specifically designed so we could avoid regionalised pricing and prevent companies taking advantage of us as a region.

    But I'm not a lawyer and frankly don't have the money to get a direct answer on this, but would really appreciate it as an article.

    Edit: Mention @lifehackeraustralia to make it easier to see the request.

    Last edited 24/02/16 1:40 pm

      This article goes into some of these details: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/04/is-downloading-really-stealing-the-ethics-of-digital-piracy/

        It really doesn't.. I'm not suggesting any kind of illegal downloading, which while it may have an ethical standpoint doesn't have a legal one.

        We have laws that protect me if I want to import a camera from Europe or Japan in order to get a better price, it's illegal to prevent that kind of grey importing in order to have a protection against price gouging Australian customers and giving them no recourse.

        So I was asking if we could get an actual legal opinion on why that doesn't seem to apply to less tangible goods. Why can't I legally buy from Steam in the US? By putting a geoblock on the software isn't that literally preventing me from doing something protected under Australian law?

        It gets muddier with Netflix and I'm guessing some entertainment lawyer argued long and hard that digital goods can't be imported/exported but I feel like getting some professional answers on it would be helpful.

        Hence my suggestion.

          Apologies, I misread your comment. This is definitely a good topic for a followup article!

      The issue is not geoblocking. That is specifically LEGAL. It has been confirmed several times, by Turnbull, by the Dept. of Comms. (or whatever it's called - it keeps changing), ACMA, etc.

      There is also no IP law that covers digital distribution in Australia. None. Seriously.

      Therefore the legal basis on which this is covered is contracts law, and the enforceability of the Terms and Conditions. And when you sign up for Netflix you agree to a contract which claims jurisdiction in the Netherlands - a system that was obviously specifically selected for its... unique features (for want of a better term).

    Further to Netflix not showing their own shows internationlly, I saw here https://media.netflix.com/en/only-on-netflix#/new?page=2 That House Of Cards was now Global so I sign up again and low and behold, Global does not mean 'global' to Netflix. I have tried Netflix in Thailand and Malaysia since the 4th March. Season 1 - 3 on House of Cards is now available, however season 4 is not.

    I contacted Netflix in live chat and they were confused as to why Season 4 is not available. Apparently they sold the rights to others as I assumed. So much for forward planning.

    So I signed up again, can't watch what I want to watch, and Netflix can't tell me when I can watch it and is not bothering to change their media releases even though they are aware the release is incorrect.

    I'm finding it hard not to just go buy the DVDs at the street stall down the road for a few Ringgits.

    Surely the most effective message users can send to Netflix and their content providers is via their income stream? Ie, cancel your Netflix subscription immediately. If enough subscribers are lost in the first months only then willNetflix be convinced that this is a serious barrier to their business. Right now they're testing apathy and hoping the fallout in lost revenue will tail off as the punters get used to the reduced content. I'm cancelling now.

    Yes, Netflix working with VPN but not all VPNs. Here are some factors which you should consider before choosing a VPN like: how many Servers that provider have and it's location. It's Protocols & Encryption Levels etc.

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