Ever since Netflix went global, the streaming giant has been promising to crack down on customers who use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access its larger US catalogue. For Australians, it appears that fateful day has arrived. Over the past few hours, there have been multiple reports of VPN users being blocked from the US version of the service. If you're on a VPN, here's what you need to know.
Who Is Affected?
Melbourne-based uFlix has confirmed that a number of its Australian users have been blocked from US Netflix. In place of the US version of Netflix, affected users have been receiving the following message:
"You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again."
Currently, only a small number of uFlix users have been affected. However, according to uFlix, this just means that the company is testing its new blocking method prior to a more aggressive rollout. Damn.
It is not yet certain how many VPN providers have been targeted, but it's safe to assume that the company isn't focusing on a single outfit in Melbourne. Indeed, Express VPN is also reporting disruptions. Expect more services to be hit in the weeks to come.
What Can You Do?
If you're one of the affected users, the only immediate solution is to shop around for a different VPN provider — although there's obviously no guarantee that Netflix won't come after these too. We'd recommend avoiding Netflix-specific VPNs such as Getflix and Turboflix as we imagine these will be among the first services to be targeted.
The other option is to sit tight and see if your VPN provider can come up with any workarounds. In the case of uFlix, the company has assured customers that its engineers are exploring potential solutions.
Access to Netflix and other geo-blocked services form these companies' bread and butter, so you can rest assured that they will do everything in their power to find and exploit a loophole. In the words of uFlix managing director Peter Dujan: "It's simply a game of cat and mouse, and this is our job, so let's play."
Is Netflix Making A Token Gesture?
It has been suggested that Netflix's latest VPN crackdown is just a token gesture to appease studios and international rights holders. If Netflix was serious about blocking access to its US catalogue, there are certainly more stringent methods it could employ: for example, requiring a US credit card and a confirmed US billing address. While this wouldn't stamp out geo-dodging completely, it would make it more difficult for the average user.
With that said, we don't think these latest attempts should be lightly dismissed, either. If the company can work out a way to automate the process of detecting and blocking these IPs, it will surely implement it (if only to keep content owners happy.) It's currently early days but expect more headaches for geo-dodgers in the weeks to come.
Our prediction: accessing the US version of Netflix is going to be difficult for a few months. Then things will go back to normal once workarounds are implemented. At some point in the future, the cycle will start again. But we wouldn't panic overly. Not yet, anyway.
Would you cancel your Netflix subscription if you couldn't access the US catalogue? Are you currently happy sticking to just the Australian version? Share your thoughts in the comments!