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Dispelling Myths: Is it Legal to Use a VPN for Netflix?

May 23, 2024
Dispelling Myths: Is it Legal to Use a VPN for Netflix?

Using a top 10 VPN (or virtual private network) is crucial for thousands of people that need to work remotely or protect their privacy online.

Essentially, your VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for data to travel through between your network and the best VPN providers, so everything you do online is safe and secure.

The issue with using the cheapest Netflix VPN is that - while a VPN itself is perfectly legal - it can mean that you appear to be accessing the streaming channel from another country. Therefore, you might have access to movies or series that aren't yet available at home.

Today we'll explain the VPN streaming illegal activities and how to use your VPN correctly.

The Legalities of a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

As we've covered, a VPN is not illegal, and this resource is commonly used to safeguard confidential activities by businesses and individuals that need to remain anonymous.

Think about corporations working with international teams, governments handling sensitive data, or people working from home in a different location from their employer.

We would note that VPNs are banned in some countries, including Oman, Belarus and North Korea, and are restricted in China, Russia, Turkey, Iran and the UAE.

However, no such rules exist in the UK, unless you are:

  • Illegally sharing files.
  • Buying banned goods.
  • Cyberstalking.
  • Hacking other computers.

While you'll find several competitors offering the cheapest Netflix VPN, this is where things get a little murky.

Most streaming providers, including Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Netflix, have region-specific content or shows you can only watch in some countries.

Therefore, even if you're using one of the best VPN providers, you will breach the streaming terms by doing so and may find that your account is closed down.

That said, Netflix hasn't terminated a contract that we know of - but reserves the right.

Why is VPN Streaming Illegal?

VPN streaming is not illegal. However, it might be against the rules of the streaming provider.

The worst that might happen (provided you're not in a country where VPNs are banned) is that the service might close or restrict your account.

It's a common misconception that streaming isn't permitted through a VPN. Still, there are no laws relating to this, and it is very different from piracy or torrenting material with copyright that you should otherwise pay for.

Netflix terms of use state that:

  • You can only view content within the country where you have set up your account.
  • Users may only watch content in countries where it is appropriately licensed.
  • Customers agree, by signing up, not to use any automated service to bypass content protections.
  • The service may restrict or terminate usage if the terms are violated.

One of the potential issues is that you might find difficulties using Netflix (or another streaming service) if you have a VPN.

You may well have a legitimate reason to need this layer of protection. For example, if you use a VPN for work security, you might find that you can't stream a title, so you will need to disable your VPN (or proxy) and try again.

Usually, being caught using a VPN means that you get an error message and then get full access to your Netflix library once it's disabled.

Why Do Streaming Providers Ban VPNs?

We've explained the complications of licensing jurisdictions, but it's handy to get an idea about why most streaming providers won't allow you to use a VPN - and it's all to do with having a concealed location.

Netflix Originals

Originals are content owned by Netflix, so it has the intellectual property rights and can do whatever it likes.

Most Originals are available to everybody, in any country, at the same time, so you wouldn't need a VPN to watch anything.

However, Netflix released earlier Originals before the service expanded to many newer countries, which means Netflix sold the rights to shows such as Orange Is the New Black to third-party networks.

Therefore, you can't watch this particular series if you log in from Indonesia, for example.

Also Read: What is the Best Free Trial Available on TV Streaming Services?

Third-Party Licensed Content

Many of the series and films available online belong to creators and third parties, who sell the intellectual property rights through a licensing system.

These deals tend to be made with regional broadcasters, but it's common for the rights to be held by the highest bidder in a number of countries - which won't always be Netflix.

Say an American studio sells the rights to a show to the BBC with an exclusivity clause - you can't then watch that show on Netflix in the UK, but you could if you're in the States and Netflix holds the licence there.

Third-party distributors can sell rights in any way they choose, so Netflix has to prevent users from watching licensed content outside of the permitted jurisdiction, hence the ban on VPNs.

How Does Netflix Know If I Am Using a VPN?

Netflix isn't particularly keen on taking action against users. Although it does include the prohibition of VPNs in its terms and might prevent you from streaming something you shouldn't, it's probably unlikely to remove an account.

The provider can check the IP address you log in from and maintain a database of IP locations that belong to VPN providers - normally the largest VPN companies.

If you try to log in to Netflix via one of these addresses, you'll usually get into your account just fine.

But, if you try to play content, you'll get the streaming error message and need to deactivate your VPN and log in again to be allowed to see any content.

Therefore, users tend to find ways around the restriction by using VPN providers that aren't on the Netflix database and won't be picked up at login. Instead, you'll get access to any content available in the location of the VPN server.

As we've discovered, streaming via a VPN is not illegal, but it might cause you some problems with your streaming provider.

The best option is to deactivate the VPN before you settle down with your popcorn, resting assured you won't be breaching any terms.

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Dispelling Myths: Is it Legal to Use a VPN for Netflix?

Lauren Edwards-Fowle

Lauren is a freelance writer passionate about how we develop rewarding experiences, and overcoming the barriers we face to living our best lives. Lauren writes regularly about the modern world of dating, relationships, parenthood, and social dynamics.