Home News General Netflix says it will shut down Unotelly-style geo-scrambling services in “weeks”

Netflix says it will shut down Unotelly-style geo-scrambling services in “weeks”

Judging by comments from our readers, the general consensus over the last week has been that it’s great news Netflix has finally launched in South Africa, but the fact that there’s less than a tenth of the content on Netflix SA as there is on Netflix US means you’re not planning on giving up your VPN or smartDNS service yet.

Using these services, of which Unotelly is perhaps the best known example, means that you can log in with your South African credentials but access one of the international versions of Netflix – and thus many more films and TV shows.

If this sounds like you, stand by for disappointment. In a post on the Netflix company blog today, the firm’s Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture, David Fullagar, says that it’s about to introduce measures which will block “proxies or ‘unblockers'”.

“…in coming weeks,” Fullagar writes, “Those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.”

This isn’t the first time there’s been speculation that Netflix will enforce the terms and conditions that prohibit users from accessing international services, but it is the first time that the firm has spoken out on the issue and confirmed that it plans to act. Widespread reports in Australian media last year suggested that Netflix has long been under heavy fire from Hollywood because its geography-based barriers are so trivial to circumvent.

The reason Netflix offers different selections of films and shows in different territories is down to licensing issues. For example, we can’t get House of Cards or Orange is the New Black because DSTV owns the licences to both of those shows in South Africa. Fullagar says that the firm’s ultimately goal is to make licensing universal: ie all content available in all countries.

“We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries,” he writes, “But we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

At present, Netflix only verifies a user’s location at the point of login, which is why it’s been easy to fool using DNS proxies which don’t mask your IP address and true location. Interestingly, Fullagar doesn’t specifically mention VPNs as a technology he’s cracking down on, which are a different technology to proxies and ‘unblockers’ (by which we assume he means smartDNS).

As accessing Netflix via a VPN does change your IP address to a local one, restricting VPNs would be much harder. It would also potentially catch legitimate users who just happen to use a VPN in their own country for – say – privacy reasons.

Considering there’s now so many businesses profiting from circumventing Netflix’ geographical restrictions it seems likely that the company is about to enter a game of whack-a-mole, with those currently making money from proxies looking for new exploits. But if it does manage to lock you out of overseas content, what will you do with your sub?

[Via – Variety]

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