We've talked about virtual private networks as a good way to safely use public Wi-Fi. However, because of the way VPNs work (creating a secure connection with a server elsewhere in the world), they have another handy side effect: watching video internationally.
Movie and TV show licensing is an incredibly complicated subject, and when it goes international it gets even worse. To distribute a TV show in another country, a company deals with multiple networks trying to working out air times, payment, music licensing for soundtracks and more. That's why a lot of shows and broadcasts are country specific.
A TV show that can air in the U.S. might not be cleared to air anywhere else. TV shows on Britain's BBC are typically available in Britain, India, Australia and Canada, but not the U.S., unless you have BBC America in your cable package. Even then, you might not get everything, or a show will have a different soundtrack than the British version.
That makes some sense for broadcast and cable TV because you have regional providers, but when you're dealing with online video on the worldwide Internet, it just gets annoying. For example, if you're an American paying for a Netflix subscription, but you travel to Europe, many of your favorite shows aren't going to be available.
To get around this, you can use a VPN or proxy service, and choose to connect through a server back in the U.S. Netflix thinks you're connecting from the U.S. and gives you access to U.S. shows. Or if you want to connect to another country's version of Netflix and watch shows not available in the U.S., you can do that too.
Of course, this technically breaks Netflix's strict licensing deals with studios. That's why Netflix has announced that going forward you can only see the version of Netflix that matches whatever country you're in.
How exactly it's going to do this no one knows, since with a VPN or proxy it shouldn't be able to tell where you really are. It might just ban known VPN and proxy connections entirely. We'll have to see.
Still, if you've been slowly working your way through an international TV show, you might want to finish it this weekend.
Want to get more out of your Netflix subscription? Learn five tricks that help you get more out of Netflix. Or if you're tired of paying for Netflix, here are some free alternatives you can try.