Netflix Denies Any Changes Occurred in VPN Policy

There’s been reports circulating that Netflix has been cracking down on VPN users recently. While this report circulated to many media outlets, it seems that Netflix has denied that anything is actually new.

A blog post from TorrentFreak is circulating the web that says that Netflix is cracking down on VPN users. It even goes so far as to say that the users are cracking down on “VPN and Proxy “Pirates”

The news circulated fast with headlines like Netflix Brings Down Hammer on VPN and Proxy Users from Newsweek and “Netflix Wants You to Stop Lying About Where You Are” from DCInno.

Torrentfreak, for it’s part, cited a post from Reddit which says, in part, “I have not tested ‘proper’ VPN services yet but I assume they would still work.” and that the user later tested on UnoTelly and Unblock-Us as confirmation.

The Reddit thread contains little testing from other users, but one user comments, “I got my sister a new Roku 3 – and with the latest update was hardcoded as DNS. Unblock US has me set it to reroute to a static local IP on my router – and that works. ”

Another user wrote, “Just updated to newest version of Netflix on Android and it still works without issue via Unblockus”

A third user writes, “Still works fine with mine on Android.”

The story also hit Slashdot. In the discussion thread, one user comments, “I use a smart DNS service in Australia to get my Netflix access. If they do end up blocking it (currently still works fine), I will just go back to pirating my content.”

Skimming through the thread, we didn’t notice anyone confirming the blocking problem.

TorrentFreak then cites a VPN provider by saying they had received 1 report of a problem:

“This is a brand new development. A few weeks ago we received the first report from a handful of clients that Netflix blocked access due to VPN or proxy usage. This is the very first time I’ve ever heard Netflix displaying this type of error message to a VPN user,” TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt tells us.

The rest of the Torrentfreak article appears to contain speculation on the parts of others as well as a comment that should Netflix begin their blocking, countermeasures would be taken.

So, it looks like there was 1 Reddit post and 1 report of a problem that Torrentfreak was able to gather in the report. It seems that after the story circulated, it did catch the attention of Netflix. speaking to PCMag, Netflix says that nothing has changed. From the report:

Netflix, however, said this is nothing new. “We use industry standard methods to block VPNs. Always have and always will,” a Netflix spokesman said, adding that Netflix has done nothing new recently.

Users bypassing regional Netflix services for another country’s Netflix service through the use of a VPN are invariably skirting past whatever licensing arrangements the studios have put into place with regional distributors.

Netflix does “not closely monitor where some of their subscribers are registering from and don’t take steps to counter circumvention websites that allow people in, for example, Australia, to sign up to the US or the UK Netflix service and subscribe illegally (Netflix don’t as of now have a service in Australia, nor do they have Australian rights for our content),” Sony Pictures Television executive Steve Mosko said in November of 2013, according to Ars Technica.

TorrentFreak, for its part, said that they reached out to Netflix for comment, but hadn’t heard back. It’s unclear why Netflix didn’t contact Torrentfreak directly.

At this stage, the problem appears to affect a very small number of people. Additionally, there’s no confirmation that Netflix is even causing the problems in the first place or if the problem is occurring elsewhere.

One might observe that if there was a new wave of blocking, more people would have stepped forward by now to say that they are seeing these error messages. As it stands, there appears to only be two reports, one as commented by the VPN provider and one report from Reddit, a number of users reporting that Netflix works with their VPN set up, and a denial from Netflix. Had there been numerous reports flowing out, that may be a different story, but the surprising lack of reports might give one reason to be skeptical that this is a big issue at this point – if it’s even an issue at all. The most sensible thing to do is keep observing the situation to see if anything really changes.

If you have seen any issue accessing Netflix via a VPN, feel free to comment below.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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