Why aren’t VPNs against TOS for streaming services?

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So many VPNs (NordVPN, Surfshark, etc.) promote using their service to access content available in different countries. It just seems to me like these services would block access to users with VPNs.

In: Technology

8 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Well, the services make money when people subscribe. If a VPN allows some extra people to subscribe, then that’s good for the company. Content restrictions are not the streaming services idea, they are demands of the IP rights holders. Some low-cost access restrictions are worth it to a streaming service to keep the IP folks onboard. Really sophisticated VPN detection isn’t worth it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

How would you tell if they’re using a VPN, though? The idea is essentially a VPN changes your visible IP by routing it through another point/country. The only way they’re going to tell if it’s a VPN user is by peeking into your software somehow (privacy invasion) or blacklisting every possible VPN IP mask.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Why would a liquor store sell liquor to a customer that lives in a dry county?

Why would a smoke shop in Colorado sell weed to a customer from an illegal state?

Why? Because the restriction is the customers’ problem, not the stores.

So why should a German website care where you come from or the laws in your country? That’s your problem. Their site is legal where they are. How you get there isn’t their concern.

Anonymous 0 Comments

When a TV show, say a Korean drama is produced, it is typically only distributed in its home country. If a business in another country sees that the Korean drama is successful, and thinks it would be successful in their country as well. They may approach the original distributor for permission to distribute the show in their own country. This is often with the caveat that nobody else be given permission to distribute the show in the same country. (This is called syndication)

VPNs allow users to bypass regional restrictions, which effectively nullifies the syndicator’s exclusive rights to distribution in a given region.

Thus, streaming services will do everything in their power to prevent customers from using VPNs in order to preserve the distribution rights they have established for each region in which they operate.

Note that in this situation, streaming services are often both the producers of some shows, and syndicators of others, which means that while they stand to benefit from VPN users in some cases, they also stand to lose business if, for example, users can access a show they’ve syndicated for a lower price on another streaming service.

(For a real life example, Schitts Creek is a show produced by CBC in Canada, and is therefore available for free to Canadians. Americans using a VPN can pretend to be Canadians to see the show for free rather than buying a Hulu subscription. Hulu paid for the rights to distribute the show, so they have an incentive to prevent potential customers from using a VPN.)

Anonymous 0 Comments

A lot of people are answering the question “Why doesn’t Netflix aggressively police VPNs?”

That is all pretty true, but to u/OP’s actual question:

VPNs are generally against ToS. Well, in a technical sort of way. In this case, it is not the VPN that is the problem, it is the use of the VPN in a specific way.

Netflix for example, in Section 4.3 of their TOS says:

>4.3. You may access Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer your subscription plan **and have licensed such content**.

You will notice it does not say VPN anywhere, but it does say that you can only access content where you have established your account and only the licensed content.  Using a VPN in the US to watch US shows is perfectly fine. Using a VPN in the US to watch Korean shows not licensed in the US is against ToS. A VPN is one way (the primary way) that users can break this rule.

Section 4.6 of the Netflix ToS is more specific:

>4.6. You agree to use the Netflix service, including all features and functionalities associated therewith, in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, or other restrictions on use of the service or content therein. Except as explicitly authorized by us, you agree not to:


>(ii) **circumvent, remove, alter, deactivate, degrade, block, obscure or thwart any of the content protections** or other elements of the Netflix service, including the graphical user interface, any advertising or advertising features, copyright notices, and trademarks;

Again, a VPN is one way to circumvent content protections, and using it in that way is against TOS.


A knife can be used to make a sandwich or to cut open a package. If we want to ban people from cutting sandwiches, we can do one of two things. We can ban knives, or we can ban cutting sandwiches. The better option is to ban cutting sandwiches.

If we ONLY ban using knives, we will stop people from opening boxes with knives and from cutting sandwiches with knives, but people will still be able to cut sandwiches using anything else.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The use of VPNs benefits streaming services. It’s cheaper for them if they don’t actually have to license their content in your country. They could easily tell that you’re using a VPN, but they choose to turn a blind eye.

In return, their catalog effectively gets much wider without them spending any more money and therefore they attract more subscribers.

Compare this to a streaming service with different incentives: BBC iPlayer. Their goal is to provide their content to anybody in the UK (who has a TV license) and nothing else. They block VPNs because they gain nothing from a user in another country watching their content, in fact the BBC loses out because it makes it harder to sell on to Netflix or whatever.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because the streaming services want you to be able to watch. They just legally can’t make it happen because of licensing bull****. So they put up ***exactly*** the legally required amount to stop you from doing it, and not an ounce more.

Anonymous 0 Comments

> Why aren’t VPNs against TOS for streaming services?

They are.

> It just seems to me like these services would block access to users with VPNs.

They do (or at least try to, it’s a game of cat and mouse).