Netflix Denies Change To VPN Policies

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Netflix denies caving into pressure from Hollywood and TV studios over geographic licensing issues

A senior Netflix executive has denied the firm caved in to Hollywood and TV studios, unhappy that their licensing deals were being ignored.

Earlier this month it was reported that the streaming content provider was blocking subscribers who access the streaming site through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies and other services that can bypass geographical restrictions placed on the service.

No Change

But Netflix has hit out at these “false” reports and denied it had stepped up its efforts to block access via VPNs.

But it admitted that its existing policy against the use of VPNs to circumvent geographical content barriers remained unchanged, and that certain named VPNs are blocked because of licensing issues.

“The claims that we have changed our policy on VPN are false,” Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt was quoted as saying by the BBC. Hunt was speaking at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas

netflix family“People who are using a VPN to access our service from outside of the area will find that it still works exactly as it has always done,” he is quoted as saying.

Hunt cited problems when one TV series is licensed by another studio in a different geographic region. Netflix of course operates in a number of different countries, but the library of content available to users depends on each market.

This means many subscribers use location-changing technology such as VPNs to access programmes and films available in one country but not another, while others use such methods to access Netflix in a nation where it is not available.

But Hunt hinted that these type of country-specific licensing deals are being gradually phased out, and the company is known to be keen to see the end of these traditional licensing deals, under which film and television rights are sold by geographical region.

Studio Pressure

But until this changes, Netflix remains in a difficult situation. Movie studios and production companies are widely thought to lobbying streaming companies to block geographic workarounds, as it affects other licensing agreements.

In an effort to stop this, Netflix compares the time zone of a user’s web browser with their IP address, and it also apparently uses GPS functionality in mobile devices to get an accurate location.

Last year, the BBC said users of VPNs and proxies who download vast quantities of data are most likely pirates. It told an Australian government consultation that ISPs should monitor such activity to protect copyright.

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