Within a few weeks, subscribers will no longer be able to use proxies to watch content not available in their home country.
It’s a relatively common practice around the globe to use proxy servers to fool streaming services into thinking that video is being delivered to a domestic location—when in reality, the traffic is simply re-routed to a far-flung market where the content wouldn’t otherwise be accessible.
"If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn't be a reason for members to use proxies or unblockers," David Fullagar, Netflix's vice president of content delivery architecture, wrote in a blog.
But of course, that isn’t the case, even though the announcement comes just a week after the company went live in more than 130 countries. That launch means that Netflix covers almost the entire globe except China, but geographic licensing agreements with media companies and content owners extend Netflix the rights to distribute their content only in certain regions or countries.
So, for now, it’s not just one big Netflix stream-for-all, despite the worldwide footprint that the over-the-top video behemoth now has—and the use of proxies is technically a form of piracy.
“We have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere,” Fullagar said. “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.”
So, for now, Netflix is instituting a crackdown, and subscribers will only be able to access the service in the country where they are actually physically located.
Access to unlicensed video continues to cost rights-holders a staggering amount of money. Web pirates cheated copyright owners out of more than $800bn in 2014, according to a study last year from Arxan Technologies.
The study also found that video piracy is on the rise: In 2014, 1.6 million pirated releases made their way online, compared to 1.96 million pirated assets in 2015, of which 50% of them consisted of video content. That represents a 22% increase over the last three years, Arxan said.
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