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Beware: Netflix can cancel your service if you watch it via a VPN

Published Apr 7th, 2015 12:20PM EDT
Netflix Via VPN Legal Service

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One easy way for users to watch whatever content they want over Netflix has been to set up a VPN capable of tricking the service into thinking they’re living in a different country. Because of this so-called “VPN piracy,” Netflix has been working to make all its online content offerings the same and thus make it impossible for users in different countries to cheat the system by basically giving them exactly what they want. Until that time, however, it seems Netflix is willing to use more heavy-handed tactics to discourage VPN use.

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Eagle-eyed Redditor CrypticCraig recently noticed that Netflix’s terms of service now state that it “may terminate or restrict your use of our service, without compensation or notice if you are, or if we suspect that you are… engaged in illegal or improper use of the service.”

The key here is the word “improper,” since although it’s perfectly legal to watch Netflix over a VPN, the company still discourages it because its terms of service say users “may view a movie or TV show through the Netflix service primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such movie or TV show.” Thus, using a VPN to fool Netflix into thinking you live somewhere else would constitute “improper” use of the service.

Netflix confirmed to CrypticCraig that “Netflix opposes the use of VPNs,” so it really does retain the right to cancel your service if you use one.

That said, just because Netflix has the right to cancel your service if you use it via a VPN, that doesn’t mean it will do so. This could just be a way for Netflix to cover its own legal bases and please movie and TV studios, even though it has no intention of actually cancelling users’ services for VPN use.

Nonetheless, it’s something to keep in mind if you like using a VPN to get unauthorized access to international Netflix offerings.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.