Before Netflix officially arrived in South Africa last week plenty of tech-savvy locals were already using the service by spoofing their IP addresses using VPN or proxy services. In other words, they were making it look like their IP address was in a supported region so the service would work. Now Netflix is looking to crack down on that sort of trickery.
Even with Netflix now in 130 additional countries, licensing agreements mean certain content isn’t available in all regions. For example, even though House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are shows made by Netflix, they’re not currently available on the service in South Africa thanks to Naspers’ DStv service having secured exclusive broadcast rights to both shows.
“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” says David Fullagar, Netflix’s VP of content delivery architecture in a post on the video streaming company’s website on Thursday.
“We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” Fullagar adds.
“Over time, we anticipate being able to do so. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.”
In other words, now that Netflix is available far and wide it’s tougher for it to turn a blind eye to those bucking the system, and licence holders know it.
“Some members use proxies or ‘unblockers’ to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do,” Fullagar says without, you know, expanding on what those measures might entail. “That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are.”
Fullagar says Netflix is “confident” that whatever measures it implements to enforce this new policy won “won’t impact members not using proxies”. So if you’re playing by the rules you should be wholly unaffected.
Of course, first prize for Netflix would be having the same catalogue available in all 190 regions, but the legacy of licensing jiggery-pokery doesn’t allow for that. At least, not yet. With Netflix now being the most widely available video streaming service on earth, and with it releasing new shows all the time, there’s plenty of reason to believe that may one day come to pass. And you can bet the company is doing its utmost to avoid letting new shows it creates get bogged down in the same legal quagmire as some of its existing content.