It’s reported that approximately 3 in every 10 VPN users stream Netflix each month to access a more extensive content library, but is it legal?
With more than 29% of all VPN users streaming Netflix each month, it brings up important questions over the legalities of accessing their content using such services. After all, if this statistic is accurate, we are potentially talking about tens of millions of individuals who could be regularly committing an online offense.
If you’re unfamiliar with a VPN, it’s a tool that gives you online anonymity by encrypting your internet connection via a private “tunneled” network. Its main function is to bolster your internet security and better protect your privacy. However, there are several other use cases that many users take advantage of, such as the Netflix “hack” we are discussing here.
Why would you watch Netflix using a VPN?
With most VPN providers, you are given a chance to select which server you want to connect to when browsing the internet. This means that you are effectively deciding which country you will make it appear is if you are browning from. For example, if a person based in the UK connects to a server in Germany, they will interact with the internet as if they were physically located on German soil. With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why people would want to use a VPN to access Netflix.
To access a more extensive library of content
According to the global web index, the countries where using a VPN to access Netflix is most common are those where Netflix has already launched, such as Canada, UK, Brazil, Mexico, and Ireland. So why would somebody want to access Netflix from a different country if they can just log in via the straightforward procedure?
Well, it’s all about the content library. You see, the United States has the biggest content library out of any country, with a total of 5879 available titles (at the time of writing). When you compare that to Georgia, which has a meager 2116, you can see why people turn to a VPN as a practical solution.
To watch Netflix in countries where the company has not yet launched
Somewhat less surprisingly, people frequently use a VPN to connect to Netflix in countries where the service is not available domestically in any form. These countries include China, Crimea, North Korea, Syria, and until recently, India.
Is it illegal to watch Netflix using a VPN?
The short and easy answer to this question is no. It’s not illegal to watch Netflix using a VPN; however, it is against their company policy. Netflix places geo-restrictions on their content for a number of reasons, but it’s primarily so they can avoid violating the content owner’s copyright and licensing agreements.
The thing is, the ownership laws tend to get a little tricky, especially when Netflix owns the right to a show in one country but not in another. A hypothetical example of this would be Netflix owning the rights to stream Breaking Bad in the United States, but they cannot offer it in the UK as Sky GO owns the rights.
Nevertheless, early in 2016, Netflix made an unambiguous statement that they would prohibit the use of a VPN on its website in an attempt to deter people from doing just that. They have since gone on to state that,
You may view Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we have offered our service.
What if I’m caught using a VPN on Netflix?
Technically speaking, Netflix has the right to close your account and prevent you from accessing their content. Although, this is not exactly the most intelligent business decision they could make. After all, there are clearly millions of people using a Netflix VPN to access their service, and if they close their accounts and prevent them from streaming their content, they will lose out on a huge number of paying customers who will then likely go to one of their competitors.
To put it simply, it’s pretty safe to go ahead and use a VPN while streaming Netflix. The worst that will happen is you might be greeted with a message on your device that reads, “you seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.”
When this happens, it means that Netflix has blacklisted that particular IP address as a VPN server, which will prevent it from working. To get around it, simply use a different VPN or disconnect to your standard connection.
However, it’s important to note that VPNs are banned in some countries, and using them for any form of internet activity is technically illegal. Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, and China are a few examples of countries that outlaw the use of a VPN and enforce strict internet censorship laws, so keep that in mind if you ever find yourself in one of those places.