Netflix can’t stop all proxies and VPNs: piracy expert

Netflix has said subscribers to its video-streaming service will no longer be able to use proxies to watch content not available in the users’ home countries.


But the crack down can not work completely, an Australian piracy expert says.

Subscribers often resort to proxies, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), to dodge geo-blocking of Netflix’s popular shows.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or unblockers,” David Fullagar, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery architecture, wrote in a blog.

The company said it would clamp down on these proxies or unblockers in a few weeks.

Can the crackdown work? 

A crackdown on geo-dodging would be like a game of whack-a-mole, Doctor Ramon Lobato from Swinburne University of Technology told SBS News.

“It is impossible to block all kinds of proxy and VPN access,” Dr Lobato said.

Dr Lobato is known for his work on film piracy and unauthorised media distribution.

“Netflix’s likely response will be to block certain IP addresses, targeting those frequently used by VPNs and proxies,” he said.

He said the aim of this crackdown would likely be deterrence, as blocking some IP addresses would not block all VPNs.

“It doesn’t stop geo-dodging completely, because VPN and proxy providers can respond by changing their IP address ranges.

“Essentially, this will be another game of whack-a-mole, where the aim is deterrence rather than total crack-down,” Dr Lobato said.

However, it may make it more difficult for Netflix customers to dodge the geo-blocking. 

“These rights-holders are very sensitive about geo-dodging because they see it as undermining the deals they do with other broadcasters,” Dr Lobato said.

“Netflix is in a tricky position – it needs to placate its suppliers while simultaneously doing its best to keep its subscribers happy.

“It’s an unenviable position to be in.”

Australians use VPNs to get around the geo-blocking, to access not available in Australia due to regional licensing restrictions.

“Netflix does different deals for different territories, and also spends different amounts on content in different parts of the world,” he said.

Part of the pressure that Netflix is under is likely due to other content providers, like Foxtel.

“Their business model is under attack,” Dr Lobato said.

“They apply considerable pressure in their dealings with rights-holders to enforce various kinds of content protection, so that exclusive content deals are not undermined by easy availability of the same content elsewhere.”

That pressure comes back to Netflix from the rights-holders, he said.

With AAP