Movie studios and rights holders may well have received their Christmas wish, with reports that Netflix has begun blocking users attempting to skirt around geoblocks on its US service by using a VPN.
The news comes after a major industry group representing rights holders and distributors confirmed that itsto see the US version of the service blocked for users outside that region.
Netflix is currently available in nearly 50 countries worldwide, with content varying by location according to local licensing arrangements. However, in regions where the service is not available, including Australia, residents can still access the US iteration of Netflix using a VPN or similar IP-masking tools. In Australia alone, as many as 200,000 households access US Netflix according to figures cited by the company.
Those users could soon be blocked from using the service, according to new reports.
TorrentFreak reports that Netflix has begun forcing Google DNS lookup on its Android app (through an update to version 3.7.2), meaning that the app bypasses any DNS masking tools set up by the user. The problem has already been identified by VPN services including UnoDNS, Unblockus and TorGuard.
"This is a brand new development," TorGuard's Ben Van der Pelt told TorrentFreak. "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.
"I have a sneaking suspicion that Netflix may be testing these new IP blocking methods temporarily in certain markets. At this time the blocks do not seem aggressive and may only be targeted at IP ranges that exceed too many simultaneous logins."
Despite reports that the service is being locked down, Netflix has denied any new developments.
"There have been no changes to our VPN policies," a Netflix spokesperson said.
On a recent visit to Australia ahead of the company's launch in that region, Netflix Director of Corporate Communications and Technology Cliff Edwards went some way to outline the company's policy on VPNs. However, despite repeated questioning, Edwards would not be drawn on whether the company would begin blocking Australian VPN users from accessing the US Netflix after the local launch.
"We say very specifically that VPNs violate the terms of our service, and we believe very much so that anybody who licenses content should get paid for their content," he said. "We hear a lot in every market about this, and what we tend to find too is that, after launch, these issues drop significantly."