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Are Netflix VPNs legal?

Are Netflix VPNs legal?
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

One of the most common reasons people purchase the best VPN is to watch overseas or out-of-region Netflix content, but is using a Netflix VPN legal? Can you get in trouble? Will your account be terminated? These are all important questions to ask before viewing geo-blocked content on Netflix.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Netflix’s terms & conditions, what exactly they mean for your viewing habits, and what the law has to say about using a VPN to stream content.

Of course, not all VPNs work with Netflix. Only the very best services, like ExpressVPN, can make it through the barriers. We’ll take a look at why that is, and how to be sure you purchase the right VPN for watching Netflix.

What is a VPN and why use it to watch Netflix?

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A VPN, or virtual private network, enables you to hide your IP address from websites, your ISP, governments, and basically any other third party. The advantage to this when it comes to watching Netflix is that you can trick the service into thinking you’re located somewhere else. As a result, you can watch content which was previously unavailable in your own region.

For example, a person in the United Kingdom that wants to watch a show exclusive to American Netflix normally wouldn’t be able to. With a VPN, however, they can connect to a US server offered by the VPN service and then access Netflix, which will see the connection as originating in the US and not the UK.

Therefore, using a VPN can open up the global catalogue of Netflix and other streaming services, broadening your watching hugely.

Is it illegal to watch Netflix with a VPN?

No. It is currently not illegal to watch Netflix using a VPN. The only exception may be in countries where VPNs themselves are restricted, like China, Russia, or Iran, and even then the laws are murky and few people have been prosecuted for personal use. Otherwise, it’s perfectly legal to access any website, including Netflix and other streaming websites, using a VPN.

You also needn’t worry about copyright infringement when using a VPN to watch Netflix. It’s not the same as, for example, using a torrenting VPN to download copyrighted material (which we would never condone in any circumstances). While Netflix itself does make certain agreements with copyright holders about where the material will be made available, you’re free to watch it on its service, no matter your location.

Are Netflix VPNs legal?

(Image credit: Future)

Is it against Netflix’s terms & conditions to use a VPN?

Yes. However, you can take that with a grain of salt. Netflix does not actively close accounts because of this, even in the case of repeated VPN uses. It’s just not an economically viable policy. After all, allowing paying users to stream content through a VPN is better than losing them as customers entirely. 

If Netflix does detect that you’re using a VPN, the service will simply display a message to this effect, and you won’t be able to watch any content until you disconnect the VPN. Of course, you won’t be able to watch out-of-region content, but nothing further will happen.

The best VPNs for watching Netflix

This is why it’s important to find a good VPN for Netflix and streaming services in general. Netflix uses a suite of tools to detect and block VPN use, including DNS server-location mismatching, a high-level technique which many VPNs fail to circumvent.

More sophisticated VPNs, like ExpressVPN and Surfshark, are able to bypass these blocking tools and thus enable users to stream out-of-region content. In fact, because both of these services can be installed as a router VPN, you can even watch Netflix with a VPN on your Smart TV to enjoy all of Netflix’s global content. They also work on PlayStation, Xbox, as a Fire Stick VPN and more, so no matter how you access Netflix, you’re covered.

Bottom line

Netflix has tons of great content, but much of it is geo-blocked. Using a good VPN can help you get past these blocks, and there’s nothing illegal about it. 

We recommend ExpressVPN as the best Netflix VPN thanks to its great speeds, reliable evasion of Netflix’s blocks and ease of use. Plus, Tom’s Guide readers can claim three free months, meaning you’ll get 15 months for the price of 12.View Deal

Surfshark is another good alternative, offering a premium service for a bargain price. While it has fewer servers overall and isn’t quite as powerful as Express, it's great for accessing streaming services, and is one of the best-value Netflix VPNs.View Deal