Netflix to crack down on geo-dodgers

Netflix today announced plans to stop subscribers from using "proxies" and "unblockers" to access content not available in the country they're currently in.

"Some members use proxies or unblockers to access titles available outside their territory," wrote Netflix Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture David Fullagar on the company's official blog

"To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies."

Presently, Netflix licenses much of its content on a country-by-country basis. While the company may have the rights to stream a show – 30 Rock, for example – in the United States, another service or network may own these rights in Australia. This results in large disparities between Netflix's various local content libraries. According to FlixSearch, American Netflix subscribers currently have access to 5,760 titles, while Australian customers can watch just 2,092.

Despite being forbidden by the company's terms and conditions, Netflix seemingly turned a blind eye to subscribers using these tools to access international content libraries. While Netflix did not provide a reason for cracking down on geo-dodgers, pressure from film studios and distributors is a likely culprit.

Sony Pictures president of distribution Keith Le Goy described geo-dodging as "another form of piracy, one semi-sanctioned by Netflix", in a leaked email from 2013.

Netflix has not specified how it will stop these services from working, but CyberShack presumes that the company will first target Smart DNS solutions such as UnoTelly, Getflix and Unblock Us. Unlike a full-fledged VPN, these services only reroute the traffic required for determining a user's geographical location, and are often explicitly pitched as a great way to get past geo-blocks. Some Smart DNS services even allow subscribers to swap between countries on fly, theortically providing access to every show in Netflix's international library. 

Today's news follows Netflix's recent expansion into 130 new markets, which made the service available almost everywhere. During a question and answer session following the announcement last week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company wants "the citizens of the world to have the same content", and as such, country-by-country licensing deals will be slowly eliminated.

"As we build our library and renew existing deals we're getting to the state where over the next five or 10 years everything will be consistent around Netflix and everything will be available globally."

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