Netflix Blocking Your VPN? Here's How To Build Your Own

Over the past few weeks, Netflix has been cracking down on Australians that use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the company's much larger US library. If you're one of the many customers who have been blocked, it's possible to build your own personal cloud VPN. Here are the steps you need to take, along with the legalities involved.

Netflix image from Shutterstock

Before we begin, it's worth noting that Netflix isn't really the bad guy here. Prior to its global rollout at the beginning of the year, Netflix has traditionally resisted pressure to implement geo-blocks on the grounds that it would inconvenience legitimate customers. Netflix is increasingly seeking global licenses for its content to avoid any geographic differences in its service, but most rights holders remain reluctant to relinquish the old model.

Last year, leaked documents from Sony Pictures revealed that the company demanded Netflix do more to stop VPN users from countries like Australia accessing their services. Prior to its official launch in Australia, Netflix was estimated to have had around 200,000 Australian subscribers, all using VPNs.

Are VPNs Illegal?

Yes and no. The problem with Australia's Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, is that it uses ambiguous language that is open to interpretation. In particular, it states that injunctions may be sought against online locations where “the primary purpose of the online location is to infringe, or to facilitate the infringement of, copyright”.

Organisations such as the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, have interpreted this as potentially meaning that ISPs could be forced to block sites that provide VPN access to consumers. Unfortunately, the media has taken this one step further by suggesting that VPN technology itself could somehow be banned.

Confusing the technology of VPNs with sites that provide access to VPN servers has only fuelled speculation and concern about what media companies will or won’t be able to do.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, has stated that the use of VPN technology by Australians to circumvent geo-blocking in the US, is not illegal under the Copyright Act. However, this is somewhat at odds with the view of the Australian Copyright Council who state that they believe it is “likely” to be illegal. The reason for the ACC’s view is that they see geo-blocking as a form of copyright technological protection mechanism. If that was the case, then circumventing them with a VPN could be considered illegal under the terms of the Copyright Act.

The concern for many is that if the Australian Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 is passed as is, the courts will be left to determine whether VPN services indeed “facilitate the infringement of copyright”.

In short, the jury is still out on whether circumventing geo blocks with VPNs is illegal in Australia. The legalities may become clearer — and more draconian — in the future.

How To Build A Personal Cloud VPN

Possibly posing even more of a challenge to media companies wishing to shut down VPN use to circumvent geo-blocking is the ability of consumers to build their own personal cloud VPN service. This has become a real possibility thanks to cloud services from companies like Amazon, and open source software such as SoftEther VPN from the University of Tsukuba, Japan.

The first step involves creating a server on Amazon’s cloud service AWS. This can be done for free for a year although data costs will kick in past the first 15 GB. The server can be run in a number of different locations but for the purposes of accessing US services, one of three US locations can be chosen. Installing the SoftEther VPN software requires following relatively simple instructions but getting a neighbourhood techie to do it for you would be better. Once done, connecting to the VPN from a laptop is as easy as putting in the address of the server and entering the username and password created during the installation of the VPN software.

The whole process of setting up a personal VPN takes about 30 minutes (the time it took the author researching this article). This would be slightly longer if setting up accounts on Amazon for the first time. Setting up a VPN this way has the added advantage that it is very unlikely to be blocked by services like Netflix because they are only looking for known VPN service provider Internet addresses.

Hopefully one day, taking such steps will be unnecessary and media companies will move to operating on an equal global basis. Until that time however, there are means of levelling the playing field.

Addition reporting by Chris Jager

See Also: How To Build Your Own VPN With Hamachi

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation.


Comments

    UPDATE:
    Have now confirmed that Amazon EC2 address ranges are blocked by Netflix.
    Here's a screen cap of a remote desktop session to an EC2 instance hosted on Amazon AWS http://imgur.com/cT8FDgv
    Soo basically this article is now useless.....THE END

    I posted this suggestion on one of your other articles about the netflix vpn saga. And unfortunately Netflix is blocking these IP ranges too! Scaleway and a few other cloud/vps providers. I haven't tried AWS yet but I bet it will be blocked too. It seems a lot of these cloud providers purchase or rent IP allotments from certain companies "Choopa LLC" being a big one. Choopa's entire IP block is well blocked. I might give AWS a go tonight and will post my findings here.
    I'm really at the end of my rope with netflix now. If I can't find a way to watch US content then I will definitely be canceling my subscription and resorting to the old ways. +1 for piracy :(

    To my knowledge the only POSSIBLY working commerical VPN provider left is TorGuard, and they are the only ones that have actively come out and said they will circumvent netflix as long as they can

    Again I'd like to see a LH article on how this blocking has affected netflix subscription rates/cancellations and if this negative impact has also forced other people to start torrenting again.

    Last edited 14/03/16 9:46 pm

      Unlocator's new beta DNS is working for me right now, but only on my laptop. I don't really want to unblock using my router since it slows down Twitch (and only Twitch) for some reason.

        In my opinion VPN is the best to bypass Geo-blocking and get access to restricted services and within encrypted tunnel to ensure security and anonymity. I am using HideMyAss VPN https://www.hidemyass.com/vpn/r20533/ to watch US Netflix in Australia.

        Last edited 05/04/16 4:49 am

          I was watching US Netflix in Australia via Express Vpn http://bit.ly/Express-Vpn lastnight without issue. Have just connected and opened up Netflix to a show Ive not seen before (nor is available on Netflix Australia)... streaming without issue for me

          Last edited 13/06/16 11:01 pm

            I'm using Expressvpn (http://bit.ly/1Ukfaci) and its working pretty awesome with me. no error or damage till now.

            Last edited 01/09/16 11:59 pm

      I can still get the U.S library (watched Family Guy this morning) thru Getflix when watching thru my Samsung Blu Ray player, all other regions that I've tried other than AUS & USA I get the "you seem to be using an unblocker or proxy... message, or unable to connect to netflix if I try the same region again. go figure.

      The other commercial VPN providers are keeping a low profile and are not publicly boasting about their Netflix ban circumventions. I know that my provider has so far reported very few cases of people getting blocked. Here's a sum up of the situation and what to do before deciding to switch providers: https://www.facebook.com/vpnpromos/photos/a.904336372977765.1073741828.904312762980126/959304320814303/?type=3&theater

      Last edited 15/03/16 10:40 am

      Thanks @ompster for your PSA. The original article on The Conversation is 11 months old. Not too sure why Allure media are reposting it now as new.

      I have a PureVPN account, but not a US or AUS netflix account, how would i test if I can access anything before I start my monthly subscriptions? tia

      I have Torguard. Not working with Los Angeles (Stealth) server. :(

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us ompster. This will save our time from trying the method described in the article and ending up disappointed.

    It seems like the only fool proof way to bypass these blocks is if you have a friend in the US with an unlimited fibre connection who is willing to setup a Raspberry Pi with a VPN server to allow you to access content using their IP address.

    The "VPN in the cloud" solution may come in handy if they ever try to ban VPN's in Australia though. I imagine it would be difficult to identify whether encrypted traffic to an AWS server was someone running their own VPN and not traffic associated with the pretty much endless list of other websites and apps hosted there.

    So someone needs to create a P2P application for VPN gateways.
    Good luck them stopping that.

    Netflix are now blocking unblock-us in total. I can't even watch AU Netflix, it never loads and errors out. I'll give unblock-us a week or two to sort it out, before cancelling Netflix. I'm not changing my DNS everytime I want to watch Hulu or BBC.

      Yeah, I'm pretty bummed that unblockus isn't working atm. It's been blocked for a week now. I hope they come up with a workaround soon.

        Mine was blocked but after talking to support it works again.

      Then don't. Use getflix instead, you can set individual regions for different services. I have netflix OFF so I can still watch local netflix, and also watch Hulu without changing a thing

        I've used getflix and unotelly, their UI is shithouse and not wife friendly at all. Unblock-us I just set her home page to theirs and she clicks renew IP if needed.

        Also why oh why would you have Netflix off? I mean AU has probably newer family friendly stuff, but anything worth watching is US only. I'd rather cancel Netflix.

      I get the error on my PS4, I just click ok and then it loads.

      I'm with unblock-us and finished watching person of interest s4 via the us library last night, A friend of mine who uses it says he gets blocked occasionally, but I've not had any issues to nitflix/hulu. I did have an issue with amazon prime but that was resolved after lodging a support ticket and waiting a few hours.

        Just checked again, using their new DNS, still detecting the proxy.

    Netflix Blocking Your VPN? Here's How To Build Your Own

    I naturally assume it involves blackjack and hookers.

      What do you need the Blackjack or the VPN for?

    uFlix claims to have a reliable method for Netflix US.

    Then don't. Use getflix instead, you can set individual regions for different services. I have netflix OFF so I can still watch local netflix, and also watch Hulu without changing a thing

    Is getflix in the same boat? There is not anything on their website about having trouble (and I haven't really used the service for a little bit)

    Last edited 14/03/16 8:06 am

      On the website it doesn't list Netflix as working, only Hulu, a few others specifically named and "others may also work" implying Netflix. The WHirlpool "Netflix Geoblocking" thread has more discussion.

    I've noticed they are blocking a lot of the paid ones but the free ones still work. I'm cancelling mine after Daredevil S2 this week.

      Err isn't Daredevil a netflix original and available in all regions? Or you mean cancel netflix sub?

    Source article linked to and republished is 11 months old. I would not be at all surprised if amazon address space is blocked from accessing netflix.

    That said no issues with getflix set to Canada (for the last few months).

      Considering there is no need for non-netflix-run IPs to be streaming content to datacentre IP addresses I expect it won't be long until every cloud provider, VPS provider, webhost, and COLO provider will have their IPs which get assigned to customers blocked.

    "In particular, it states that injunctions may be sought against online locations where “the primary purpose of the online location is to infringe, or to facilitate the infringement of, copyright”."
    Wouldn't using a VPN to circumvent Netflix be a violation of their terms of service, not a violation of copyright law? the programs on netflix are there legally (unlike, say, pirate bay)

    Currently my vpn is working fine to unblock Netflix USA but when my vpn blocked then i will droop my account from Netflix and i will try to explore different different other platform such as CinemaNow and other like it. Here i will not mention the name of VPN that i am using but yes you may check " vpnranks.com " for choosing the best VPN as i choose.

    Um, you only need a proxy for Netflix. A VPN is overkill. If you combine this with a custom PAC file, you can selectively send only the sites that need unblocking through the proxy (or get tricky and use DNSMasq).

    Bummer - TorGuard's 10 US servers got blocked as of now , no US Netflix for us.
    More of the same - seems like ALL AWS IP pools are blocked, just for fun browsed from AWS Frankfurt - got the same " You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy" .
    The only viable alternative now is P2P VPns like Hulu etc.

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a useful post. Why do I need to use own VPN? I can access Netflix , Hulu and other sites with my "hide-my-ip" VPN. . Its unique "DNS Protection" makes it possible to masks users' real IP that cannot be detected by Netflix bots. Also it is relatively cheap than others, I am paying $2.95/month.

    Last edited 15/04/16 9:34 pm

    Or you can just set up a good VpN and then torrent the content you want - why be constricted to a payed service like Netflix when you can literally find any content online in the best quality completely free.

    you described TOR ;)

    If I dont use my vpn for nextflix will i still get blocked even if im just watching my regularly scheduled local netflix account? So when my vpn is turned off and im using my regular internet access it wont be a problem right?

    Linode addresses have been blocked as well...

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