Anybody who accesses video on demand service Netflix in South Africa has to make use of some kind of work-around in order to catch up on their favourite hows.
Netflix, which offers thousands of movies and television episodes for streaming, isn’t locally available yet, but viewers can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to access it from here. A VPN connects you to a server in, say, the US and makes it appear as if all your internet traffic is originating from there – in other words, you appear as a local customer to Netflix.
But the streaming service recently updated its Terms and Conditions – and its not going to bode well for VPN users.
Back in January Netflix denied that it was cracking down on VPN users, but the new T&Cs forbid its use. Users who log into their accounts will have to accept the new terms, or cancel their monthly subscription.
In the updated T&Cs, Article 6.C now reads “You may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show… Netflix will use technologies to verify your geographic location.”
Beside for the fact the Netflix willl use technology to test ransom users for the use of a VPN service, the part in the T&Cs that should make Netflix users concerned is that it will cancel your subscription automatcially without notice if it suspects you of violating any of the new regulations.
By last count, Netflix had about 70 million subscribers but a major chunk of those make use of a VPN service.
While the company hasn’t explained its stance against VPN use, it’s well known that film and television production companies have been putting pressure on Netflix to lock them out and preserve their ability to sell different licences for different content to different territories.
The only way that Netflix can make sure that all its subscribers stay put, is by making the same Netflix experience available to all users across the globe – which will also deter piracy if users are forced to cancel their subscription.
“The basic solution is for Netflix to get global and have its content be the same all around the world so there’s no incentive to. Then we can work on the more important part which is piracy. The key thing about piracy is that some fraction of it is because [users] couldn’t get the content. That part we can fix,” CEO Reed Hastings said last week.
In comparison, streaming service Hulu has a similar warning in its Terms and Conditions, but doesn’t state that it will perform VPN checks or cancel your subscription if you do make use of the service.
“We are a company based in the United States. Hulu’s goal is to bring you as much Content as is legally available. That said, we are limited by the rights that our content licensors grant to us. Using technologies to access the Content from territories where Hulu does not have rights or does not offer services is prohibited. Hulu Plus is not accessible through any devices from outside the United States.”
Netflix has previously tested blocking VPN services, but that’s like playing whack-a-mole. Once the VPN is identified, it simply changes its IP address and goes back under the radar. By taking action against user accounts instead it’s more likely that this new strategy will work for the firm.
There is one question, however. Most people we are aware of don’t use VPN services to access Netflix: they use a SmartDNS service like Unotelly. Technically, this is very different to a VPN as it merely scrambles the DNS request from your box to Netflix’ servers rather than directing all traffic through a VPN. As such, it doesn’t appear to be addressed directly by the new T&Cs – but good luck getting your account unblocked using that as an excuse.