Netflix fights back against VPN users, but at what cost?

Chris Scott Barr - Feb 29, 2016
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Netflix fights back against VPN users, but at what cost?

It’s been a while since Netflix declared war on customers who use VPNs and other means to access content outside of their country. So far, their efforts have lead to a few VPN providers having their IPs blocked, but that only lasted for a few days at most. Even with a little help from Paypal, their efforts appeared to be in vain. However, over the weekend, the tides appear to have shifted.

A reddit thread was started yesterday, with one user saying that whenever they try to access Netflix over their VPN, they get an error. Specifically, error M7111-1331-5059, which contains the text “This title is not available in your current region. Please select a different title.” In layman’s terms, “we know you’re using a VPN, and we’ve blocked you from accessing this content.”

Other users chimed in with similar reports. Many offered solutions for others to try, but the reports were all the same. While some methods work, most seem to only be lasting for a short time before Netflix catches on. The only service that appears to be working with some regularity is Unblock-us. Even some users of this particular service have reported having issues, and it seems like only a matter of time before it stops working for the others.

Netflix’s fight against VPN providers is doomed to fail, but that’s okay

So far, we don’t know what method Netflix is using to block all of these VPN providers. The most likely cause is still tracking the IP addresses that are being used, and blocking them en masse. If that’s the case, then this is simply a larger scale game of cat-and-mouse that we’ve already seen, and won’t last. However, if Netflix has employed another method to detect VPN users, then that could be a big problem for those who rely on VPN access to watch the majority of their videos.

There is some evidence to support the fact that they are still just targeting the IP addresses of the VPN users. This is the fact that those using a VPN in the US to access content available in the US are still being blocked. If they had some method of tracking down your location, those in the US wouldn’t get the error while watching content that is available here.

The most interesting thing is how people are responding to this new round of VPN blocking. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, either. Some of the top comments, with thousands of upvotes are all about canceling subscriptions and moving to piracy, as a means of watching content.

While I’m not one to advocate piracy, it’s hard to blame a good portion of these people. In the US, we’ve got the most content available to us. However, in other countries, they don’t have anywhere near the same content. And not all of this has to do with big Hollywood studios, either.

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Some users complained that they can’t even watch House of Cards in their own country. For a company that wants to provide the same content across the globe, it’s strange that a series that they own isn’t available in places. Sure, maybe that’s because they haven’t got the right subtitles for the languages in certain companies, but shouldn’t that be a priority? If they really want to provide a “global service” then they should start with their growing original series catalog.

Other users complain that they have to use a VPN to access content in another country, because they can’t get subtitles for their native language. If you can’t understand the content, and no subtitles are provided, then there’s no reason to bother subscribing to the service.

Netflix needs to appease the studios that own the distribution rights to the various content. While we can understand that, it’s going to be hard for them to grow their global service, if a large portion of their customers jump ship, because they can’t get the content they want, or the language they need.


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