Last week Netflix announced it would be taking a more hard-line approach against VPN users that are accessing geo-restricted libraries. Since then the move has come under criticism.
Tech writers, lawyers, and regular Internet users have claimed that there is very little that can really be done to block VPNs and proxies. Instead the announcement from Netflix has been called a way to appease rights holders – at least publicly – who have had a bone to pick with so-called “Netflix pirates”.
Reuben Yap, co-founder of Malaysia-based BolehVPN, said that while the move from Netflix isn’t ideal he doesn’t believe it will pose a serious risk to its business.
“Hulu has tried blocking BolehVPN and we have found solutions around it. We are confident we can do the same with Netflix,” he said.
“Blocking VPNs probably is another misguided attempt by content owners to still operate by a flawed and oppressive business model even when customers are willing to pay,” said Yap. “Content holders should realize that it is now a global economy and putting in restrictions such as these are counter-productive.”
Netflix and similar streaming sites blocking VPNs and proxies has often been called a game of cat and mouse. Many VPNs intend to continue that chase by setting up more and more IPs to spite Netflix.
TorGuard told users “you don’t have to worry”.
Netflix will be pushing this plan forward soon, and when that happens, TorGuard will immediately deploy new server IP addresses so users can still bypass blocks.
This is a point that Yap has brought up as well. He told VPN Creative: “On our end as a VPN provider in the SE Asian region where bandwidth throttling is prevalent, it is unfortunate as many of our users use our service to bypass such bandwidth throttling or provide alternate routings for a smoother streaming experience.”
Photo: Netflix / BBC
The recurring theme amongst many complaints against Netflix is that most VPN providers believe customers that are paying for the service should not be restricted and the full library should be available globally.
In Australia, where Netflix launched only a year ago despite having users there for years, the planned blocks have come under scrutiny too.
Writing for The Conversation, David Glance, director of the UWA Centre for Software Practice at the University of Western Australia said the move is “unlikely to succeed”.
“VPN providers will be able to keep switching Internet addresses of their VPNs faster than Netflix will want to block them,” he wrote. “Other services like Hulu for example have tried to block VPNs far more aggressively than Netflix in the past and have had limited success.
“VPN providers now represent a significant business group and there is little chance that they will simply stand by and lose their customers if Netflix succeeds.”
“There is also the fact that Netflix runs the real danger that if it is successful in blocking access to US content in particular, it could potentially start losing subscribers in large numbers.”
Nearly a week on from its announcement, Netflix still hasn’t provided any specifics on how it will carry out its new fight against VPNs and proxies.