Europe Removes Borders From Netflix Subscription Plans

By February 15, 2017
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In what is obviously a huge win for virtual private network providers, the European Parliament has decided Netflix and other streaming service companies can no longer block content based on the geographic location of the user.

Because of various licensing agreements with content providers, services like Netflix restricts the availability of television shows and movies based on someone’s physical location. An American traveling to Canada, for example, would still have their American Netflix account, but the content provided to them would be limited to what’s available to Canadian subscribers.

Many Europeans in recent years have turned to virtual private networks, otherwise known as VPNs, which try to trick streaming services like Netflix that a user is actually in a different geographic location than he or she actually is. For example, that American user in Canada could use a VPN that displays an American IP address, and with that, receive the usual American programming choices, and not the Canadian ones.

Netflix, however, has cracked down significantly on the use of VPNs, especially in Europe, finding new ways to identify when VPNs are being used, and forcing the user to view only the content licensed for their physical location.

The parliamentary ruling would no longer allow Netflix to track IP addresses among the 28 current members of the European Union, according to the Daily Mirror. Instead, Netflix would be required to consider only the address a subscriber used for billing purposes, and provide the library for that location no matter where he or she is in Europe.

A 2016 study conducted by the union showed that 64 percent of Europeans used the Internet to play or download games, images, films or music, according to the governmental body. The year before, one in three Europeans surveyed said they wanted cross-border portability of their content, while half of those between 15 and 39 said it was the most important issue to them when it came to streaming services.

Europeans shouldn’t start making travel plans yet with their Netflix account. Any new rules wouldn’t go into effect until 2018 at the earliest.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael has spent more than 18 years of his way-long journalism career in entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based in New York City.