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Netflix starts blocking unblockers

08 Mar 2016 | Rasmus Larsen |

As promised, Netflix has begun restricting access for customers who use unblocker tools to gain access to their catalog in other regions. Paypal has joined Netflix in the fight. Meanwhile, the EU is working to ban the industry practice of “geoblocking”.

Netflix blocks unblockers

Industry players engage in so-called "geoblocking" that artificially blocks access to content in other countries. The EU commission has called the practice "absurd" and vowed to abolish it.

For Netflix customers it means that the content catalog varies by country, which many customers have taken advantage of to gain access to other countries’ catalogs via unblocker services. These users pay for access to Netflix like everyone else, so Netflix has for years turned the blind eye to the practice. However, other parts of the industry have now forced Netflix to comply.

Customers are met with the message: “You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again”.

Aussies were the first to feel the love. Since then, Netflix has extended the initiative to the west. Many Europeans confirm that they have been blocked, meaning that they “only” have access to the local Netflix catalog. A Reddit thread on the subject is growing rapidly.

Paypal helps Netflix, Unblockers reposition

The first major shot was fired by Paypal, who no longer accepts payment to unblocker services such as Unblock-US and Unotelly. Paypal refers to their "Acceptable Use Policy". This has made it somewhat harder for customers to pay for the unblocker services.

Unblocking is not illegal, nor is it illegal to import physical goods
A few weeks later, several unblocker services removed all references to Netflix and other streaming providers on their websites and social media. They now position themselves as services for privacy, security and VPNs in general. Many unblocker services have also removed their tool to change Netflix region.

When Netflix announced its plan to restrict access, unblocker services promised to take on Netflix and implement workarounds. Many existing customers continue to have access.

It is not clear if Netflix is acting alone or if it is part of a major initiative launched by the industry.

Unblocking is not illegal, nor is it illegal to import physical goods from other countries, but it is in violation with the terms and conditions you accept when you sign up for Netflix.

The EU is working towards banning the industry practice of geoblocking. EU hopes to take action in 2017 and to present the details of the plan in a few months from now as part of a "Digital Single Market Strategy".

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