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The 7 Best Netflix VPNs – TechEye

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Ever since it first launched, Netflix has been the leading streaming service in the world. And while Netflix’ library is impressive, not every movie or TV show is available in every country. The reason for this is copyright law.

When Netflix buys the rights to a TV show or a movie, they buy the rights for a specific region. Sometimes, they can distribute the content everywhere in the world. For instance, this is the case with most original Netflix shows. But in other cases, different distributors buy the streaming rights for different countries. For example, Netflix may stream your favorite show in the United States, but not in the Australian market.

This is a good thing for content producers, and it’s also good for Netflix. Different regions and countries have different regulations. By negotiating different deals in different areas, both producers and distributors get a fair deal. Unfortunately, this can be inconvenient if you can’t get the content you want to watch.

One solution is to use a VPN. A VPN routes your internet traffic through a secondary server, called a proxy server. When Netflix sees your device, they won’t see it coming from your ISP. They’ll see a connection from the country your VPN server is based in. So if it’s a US server, Netflix will think you’re in the USA.

​At least, that’s how it works in theory. In practice, Netflix actively tries to block VPN connections. As a result, when you try to stream Netflix over most VPNs, you get an error code. It simply says: “Whoops, something went wrong. Streaming error. You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.”

This can be disappointing, to say the least. Instead of having access to the TV show you wanted, you’re back in geoblocking land. Thankfully, there are a handful of services that are capable of getting around the Netflix VPN ban. We’ve put together a list of the best VPN providers for Netflix.

The 7 Best VPNs for Netflix (2020)

So, how did we choose the best Netflix VPNs? Simply put, we performed thousands of tests to find which VPN providers reliably unblock Netflix. In addition, we looked for the following criteria:

  • HD-capable Netflix streaming connection speeds
  • Good privacy and security features
  • Wide device compatibility
  • Good customer service
  • Fast, competent customer service
  • Good warranty coverage

Here’s a list of the 7 best Netflix VPNs. After that, we’ll also talk about VPNs to avoid, as well as how to set up a VPN for watching Netflix. We’ll also talk about how the Netflix VPN ban works, and how we tested our top VPN choices. Let’s take a closer look!

1. ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack. It works in most countries, and unblocks the Netflix libraries for the US, UK, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, and Germany, among others. It also unblocks most other streaming services, so you’ve got a complete multi-functional VPN. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can cancel your subscription if you don’t like it.

The most impressive feature we found in the course of our ExpressVPN review was a dedicated Netflix page. This allows you to easily select server locations to unblock Netflix in select areas. These servers do change from time to time, but their chat support is very friendly if you ever need a hand.

ExpressVPN will reliably unblock Netflix on every platform we tested, including iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux, Fire TV, and even some WiFi routers. With a single account, you can connect up to five devices simultaneously, so multiple people can stream throughout your house. You can even use ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer smart DNS proxy to unblock your game console or Apple TV. Regardless of your device, you’ll enjoy gorgeous 1080p picture quality with virtually zero buffering.

We found speeds suitable for HD streaming without buffering.

Pros:

  • Unblocks most major streaming services
  • Blazing fast speeds
  • ​Excellent privacy and security
  • Does not log user traffic
  • Friendly customer service

Cons:

  • A bit pricey
  • Configuration options are fairly basic

ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack.


2. NordVPN

NordVPN is a solid choice if you’re not concerned with accessing a ton of different countries. It will unblock Netflix libraries for the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, which is a fairly limited scope, but still a ton of content. On the upside, you get excellent privacy and security and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Many NordVPN reviews focus on the limited content, but many forget to mention the security. They won’t log your IP address, and all connections are encrypted. In addition, you can also connect to BBC iPlayer and several other popular streaming services.

Pros:

  • Servers are optimized for Netflix
  • Supports up to 6 simultaneous connections
  • Does not log user traffic
  • All connections are encrypted
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • Somewhat limited content
  • Interface can be twitchy

NordVPN

NordVPN is a solid choice if you’re not concerned with accessing a ton of different countries.


3. Surfshark

Surfshark is an affordable, minimalist VPN service that unblocks Netflix in a limited number of countries. You can connect to servers in the US, Canada, France, or Japan. Not even the UK Netflix library is supported. That said, you get reliable service and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

You also get very fast connection speed regardless of your device, and you can connect on Windows, iOS, Android, and MacOS, so most devices will be able to connect. As an added bonus, you can take advantage of unlimited simultaneous connections and share your service with your friends and family.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Secure connection

Cons:

Surfshark

Surfshark is an affordable, minimalist VPN service that unblocks Netflix in a limited number of countries.


4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a no-nonsense VPN that unblocks Netflix in just a few seconds. On each server, you’ll see a list of which services it will unblock. If you see Netflix, click on the word “Netflix”, wait for it to connect, and you’re good to go. It will even open Netflix for you! If the server doesn’t work, you can give it a thumbs-down to report it. Don’t forget to leave a thumbs-up to good, fast servers, though. They’ll be easier for other users to find.

In addition to a simple interface and high speeds, CyberGhost also offers responsive customer support and a 45-day money-back guarantee that beats the industry average. You can run CyberGhost on Windows, iOS, Anrdoid, or MacOS. The only major downside is that it will only connect to American Netflix servers.

Pros:

  • Active user community
  • Fast connection speeds
  • Does not log user traffic
  • Affordable pricing

Cons:

  • Only connects to the American Netflix library

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a no-nonsense VPN that unblocks Netflix in just a few seconds.


5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN allows you to access the Netflix libraries of 20 different countries, more than any other VPN on our list. This is all the more impressive considering that PrivateVPN is a young company, and only has about a hundred servers. When you log in, the servers with the best streaming service are all clearly labeled, which makes them easy to find even if you don’t have any experience with VPN apps.

PrivateVPN performed very well on our speed tests. Even if you’re taking advantage of all six simultaneous connections, you can watch your favorite shows in full HD without buffering or loss of quality. All of this comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee in the event of any problems.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally fast connections
  • Unblocks Netflix in 20 countries
  • Does not log customer traffic
  • Supports up to six simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Small server network
  • Chat support only available during business hours

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN allows you to access the Netflix libraries of 20 different countries, more than any other VPN on our list.


6. IPVanish

IPVanish didn’t start out as a Netflix VPN. In fact, their main selling point is the number of simultaneous connections they support. Up to 10 users can connect at the same time, so this is a great choice for whole-house privacy as well as unblocking your favorite streaming services.

That said, IPVanish did recently add several services for US and UK Netflix traffic. Whether they expand this to other countries is up in the air. But if you just want to access these two Netflix libraries, IPVanish will keep you entertained as well as keeping your connection secure.

Pros:

  • Supports up to 10 simultaneous connections
  • Very fast connection speeds

Cons:

  • Only unblocks US and UK Netflix

IPVanish

If you just want to access the US and UK Netflix libraries, IPVanish will keep you entertained as well as keeping your connection secure.


7. Hotspot Shield

If you’ve shopped for VPNs in the past, you’re probably aware that Hotspot Shield is not technically a “new” VPN. In fact, they’ve been around since 2005. But they were acquired by tech firm Pango in 2018, and have since added support for unblocking multiple Netflix libraries. They also support multiple other streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and ITV Hub.

This upgraded offering could still use some work. For instance, if you need to contact customer support, prepare for long hold times. But the price is right, and the 45-day money-back guarantee means there’s zero risk in giving Hotspot Shield a shot.

Pros:

  • Unblocks multiple Netflix libraries
  • Supports up to five simultaneous connections
  • Encrypted connections
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Lackluster customer support

Hotspot Shield

If you’ve shopped for VPNs in the past, you’re probably aware that Hotspot Shield is not technically a “new” VPN. In fact, they’ve been around since 2005.


Hit-or-Miss Netflix VPNs

Some VPNs will work with Netflix, but don’t make the cut for any number of reasons. Some don’t work consistently, or require you to frequently switch servers. Others don’t consistently offer enough download speed for Netflix streaming. Still others don’t offer an app to unblock Netflix on iPhone or Android devices, and even more have significant privacy issues.

So, which of these borderline services can be potentially useful? They didn’t make our top seven, but here’s a list:

  • AirVPN
  • Astrill
  • Avast SecureLine
  • Avira Phantom
  • BlackVPN
  • BulletVPN
  • CactusVPN
  • F-Secure Freedome
  • FrootVPN
  • Goose
  • Hide.me
  • Hide My Ass
  • Ironsocket
  • Keenow Unblocker
  • Le VPN
  • LiquidVPN
  • McAfee Safe Connect
  • Mullvad
  • Norton Wifi Privacy
  • Private Internet Access
  • Private Tunnel
  • ProXPN
  • ProtonVPN
  • PureVPN
  • SaferVPN
  • SlickVPN
  • Speedify
  • StrongVPN
  • Surfeasy
  • Torguard
  • VPN Area
  • VPN Tunnel
  • VPN Unlimited
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe
  • Zenmate
  • ibVPN


VPNs That Never Work With Netflix

A smaller number of VPNs should never be used for Netflix under any circumstances. Here’s a quick list of these VPNs, and why they should be avoided.

Blockless

Blockless was initially blocked when Netflix first introduced their VPN ban in 2016. At the time of this writing, they have not restored this capability.

Buffered

Buffered was originally able to evade Netflix’s ban. However, it has not been able to unblock Netflix on either the MacOS or Windows client since September of 2017. Last year, Buffered customer support stated that a fix was in the works, although there was no official release date or other information. For the time being, Buffered remains unable to stream Netflix traffic.

GetFlix

If any VPN service were going to unblock Netflix, you’d expect it to be GetFlix. After all, it’s in the name. Unfortunately, this cheap VPN service is no longer able to access Netflix. When GetFlix first launched, it was marketed specifically as a Netflix VPN. But for the time being, they remain unable to deliver your favorite Netflix shows.

HideIPVPN

HideIPVN used to be able to unblock Netflix. However, when Netflix banned VPNs in 2016, HideIPVN’s service was also banned. At the time of this writing, they have no plans to modify their service to support Netflix access.

Hola

Hola is a free VPN service, so it’s tempting to download. You don’t have to sign up for a one or two-year plan or hand over your credit card information. Unfortunately, Hola won’t unblock Netflix. Even worse, they have a record of using their users’ computers to distribute pornography, pirated movies, and even to hack websites. Stay away from Hola and use a more reliable VPN provider.

Opera VPN

Opera VPN is an easy-to-use proxy that’s built into the Opera browser. It offers excellent privacy and security, so it’s a great choice for professionals. Unfortunately, it won’t unblock Netflix streaming.

Overplay

When Netflix first banned VPNs, Overplay fought back admirably. Until the the fall of 2017, they intermittently supported Netflix. Unfortunately, they seem to have given up, and no longer advertise any support for Netflix streaming.

Tunnelbear

Tunnelbear does not unblock Netflix, nor does it claim to. This VPN service can help you get around geographic restrictions on various other services, such as YouTube. But for the time being, Tunnelbear is currently not capable of unblocking Netflix. They also don’t seem to have any plans to do so in the future.

Unblock-Us

Unblock-Us stopped supporting Netflix unblocking on July 5th, 2016. It can still intermittently work on certain devices, but the functionality is not worth your time or effort. Use another VPN service that offers reliable streaming.

Unlocator

Unlocator no longer works with Netflix, ever since July of 2016. Like Buffered, the company has claimed to be working on a fix. Also like Buffered, their VPN service does not unblock Netflix at the time of this writing. Until something changes, Unlocator is not an effective Netflix VPN provider.

Unotelly

Unotelly has not been able to evade Netflix geoblocking since the original ban in the first half of 2016. Like some other providers, they claim that they are working on a fix to unblock Netflix. But the streaming service has not worked via Unotelly since it was first banned.


How to Use a Netflix VPN to Change Your Country

Now that you’ve chosen your VPN, the next step is getting everything set up for streaming. Starting out with a Netflix VPN is surprisingly easy, and requires just four simple steps. Here’s how it’s done.

Sign up for Netflix

It might sound obvious, but you need to have a Netflix account in order to start streaming. You can create your account on virtually any device, in any country, and with any payment method. Most smart TVs come with the Netflix app pre-installed, which makes it easy to get started.

To create an account, first access the Netflix app or visit their website in your browser. Click the button that says “Join Free”, and you’ll have a few different options. The plans have different options and pricing, but all of them are free for the first month.

  • A Basic Netflix subscription is the most affordable options. However, it only allows you to stream in standard definition, which looks like pre-HD TV. It also limits you to streaming on a single screen at once. The Basic service is best if you’re watching on your smartphone, and if you’re only using Netflix by yourself.
  • A Standard Netflix subscription costs a few dollars more, but it allows you to stream on two screens at once. It also lets you stream in full HD, which is why it’s the most popular Netflix plan.
  • A Premium Netflix subscription is an ideal choice for large families, since it allows you to stream on up to four screens at once. In addition, it supports 4K streaming if your ISP connection can handle it.

Once you’ve chosen a plan, you’ll need to enter an email address, a password, and a payment method. You won’t be billed right now, but keep in mind that you will automatically be charged once your free month has ended. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll need to cancel your account before the month is out. As long as you’re okay with this, complete the checkout process and log in with your browser or app.

Install Your VPN

Now that Netflix works, it’s time to install your VPN. Exactly how you do that will depend on which VPN you’re choosing and what device you’re using. Our top VPNs offer good mobile support as well as browser support. That said, it’s easiest to start out on a PC, Mac, or laptop, since changing location is typically simpler with this interface. Once you’ve confirmed that everything else is working smoothly, you can move over to your mobile device.

Once your VPN software is installed, launch the app and sign in. In most cases, the VPN will automatically connect to the fastest proxy server by default. This means you’ll probably end up on a server in your own country, since it’s geographically close. To browse the international Netflix library, simply choose a VPN server from the country you want to connect from. Exactly how you do this will depend on the VPN and device.

Once you’re done, you should be able to browse anything you want. You can watch U.S. Netflix from anywhere in the world, no matter where you want to watch American Netflix shows. Similarly, you can browse from any country to get access to that own country’s own unique Netflix library.

Verify Your VPN Connection

In most cases, that’s all you should need to do to to browse Netflix from anywhere in the world. However, just for security purposes, you might want to ensure that your VPN connection is working as expected. To do this, you’ll want to navigate to ipleak.net, or any other service that will run an IP address lookup on your connection.

When it returns the results, the service will tell you what country you’re in based on your IP address. If your VPN connection is secure, this will be the country the VPN proxy server is located in. If the results are showing your location instead, you’ve experienced an IP address leak, and could potentially be at risk. This shouldn’t be an issue with any of our top seven VPN providers, but it’s been an issue with some companies.

Enjoy the Show!

Now that everything is set up, all you have to do is enjoy your Netflix experience. Open your browser and browse their library for your favorite shows. If you don’t like what you see, you can simply use your VPN to switch to a different country.

Keep in mind that your new connection might also cause some shows to disappear from your catalog. For example, if you’re located in the US and connect to a proxy server in the UK, you’ll be able to watch Doctor Who, which is a UK exclusive. On the other hand, you won’t be able to watch The Queen, the series about Queen Elizabeth II which is ironically a US exclusive. To watch The Queen, you’d need to connect to a US proxy server instead.

Change Servers if Necessary

Assuming everything is working properly, this should be all you need to do. Now you’re ready to watch TV without any interruptions. That said, even on the most reliable VPN service, you might occasionally run into the dreaded “Whoops” message. This means that Netflix has detected that your IP address is on a VPN server. This can happen even on good services, for reasons we’ll talk about in a minute.

The good news is that a well-run VPN provider has multiple server nodes in each country. First, close your Netflix app. Next, open your VPN app and look at the list of servers in the country you want to connect to. Choose a different server, and wait for the connection to resolve. Next, reopen Netflix and see if your show plays. If needed, you can switch servers multiple times.

Some devices don’t offer native support for VPNs. These include most smart TVs and sticks like the Roku. There are solutions for this in the FAQ below. If you’d rather not mess with any of those options, the easiest route is simply to connect to Netflix from a PC, Mac, or laptop browser. This makes it easy to ensure your IP address does not get detected.


Netflix VPN FAQs

Why is Netflix content different in different countries?

The reason Netflix content is different between different countries has to do with copyright law. Because copyright law is different in Canada and Australia, for instance, streaming rights are handled differently in those territories. It just makes sense for streaming services to negotiate for rights in different areas separately.

Why does Netflix block most VPNs?

VPNs allow customers to bypass Netflix’ geographic restrictions on their content. If Netflix does not take measures to ensure that people can’t watch content from outside their territory, they could expose themselves to legal risk. They could be sued by content creators, or by other streaming services who are losing customers. They could even damage their relationships with producers and lose access to content altogether. For all of these reasons, it’s in Netflix’ interest to block VPN traffic.

Is it wrong to use a VPN to stream Netflix?

To begin with, let’s be clear: the TechEye team is made up of tech enthusiasts, not professional ethicists. We’re not your mom, and we’re not the police. That said, let’s look at what a VPN is. It’s a tool that’s designed primarily for privacy, not for watching TV shows. After all, VPNs have been around a lot longer than Netflix has.

Many people use VPNs every day, and we recommend that you do too. For one thing, they help you maintain some level of privacy from advertisers and other people who want to know your location. In addition, it protects you from many types of snooping, including from hackers on unsecured public WiFi networks. In certain countries with strict censorship laws, it can even be impossible to access most of the web without a VPN.

So, suppose you’re using a VPN, which you have every right to do, and which you should probably be doing anyway. Why should you not be allowed to connect to Netflix?

The VPN ban is a blunt tool, and it makes sense that Netflix did what they needed to do to keep their content creators happy. But it’s not wrong to use a VPN for Netflix streaming.

Which countries will these VPNs work in?

In theory, these VPN services will unblock the US Netflix library in any country. They will also work for most other countries’ libraries as well. The only exceptions are countries where VPNs are blocked by a national firewall, most notably China. In this case, you’ll need to choose a VPN that’s capable of connecting from one of those countries.

In the rest of the world, these VPNs will work just fine, provided you have fast enough internet access. They’ve been tested in several countries, and all of them will unblock US Netflix in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • ​Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • ​Ireland
  • ​Israel
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Our top seven VPN providers should work in most other countries as well. These are just the ones where we know for sure that they’ve been tested.

Will every VPN unblock Netflix in every country?

The best VPN services will unblock Netflix in most countries. We’ve focused specifically on VPNs that reliably unblock the US Netflix library, since that’s the largest library and the one with the most exclusive offerings. That said, most of these VPNs will work for most other countries as well.

Does unblocking the Netflix app work the same as unblocking Netflix in a web browser?

No. When you access Netflix from a web browser like Chrome or Firefox, your computer’s WiFi or Ethernet card handles all of the traffic. If you’re connected to the VPN, everything will go to the VPN. In their Android and iOS devices, Netflix has installed software that attempts to override the device’s DNS settings.

This means that instead of connecting to the VPN, the app will create its own separate connection through the nearest public DNS server. In other words, even if you have a working VPN connection, Netflix will still know where you are. All seven of our best VPN choices will prevent this from happening, but you might have issues with other VPN providers.

I like to watch Netflix on my console or smart TV, and they don’t support a VPN. How do I unblock those devices?

If you want to watch another country’s Netflix library on a Smart TV, Roku, or game console, you won’t be able to install a VPN app on your device. Seems like you’re out of luck, right? Depending on your router, you might not be. Many routers allow you to flash the firmware to install special router-based VPNs like DD-WRT or TomatoUSB.

Of course, it’s understandable if you’re uncomfortable installing a VPN on your WiFi router. In that case, you can always buy a pre-configured VPN router from ExpressVPN or another reputable manufacturer. Alternatively, you can use a laptop as a virtual router and enable your VPN on that. This works on Mac or Windows, and only takes a few minutes to set up.

That said, configuring a virtual router can be a pain. An easier alternative is simply to cast your Netflix shows from Chromecast, Apple TV, or another screen casting app. Simply run the VPN app on the device you’re casting from, and you’re ready to go.

Will a smart DNS proxy unblock Netflix?

A smart DNS proxy performs a similar function to a VPN, but it works a little bit differently. Instead of redirecting all your traffic through a proxy server, a smart DNS proxy instead looks for specific requests, and sends only those requests through the proxy. So, for example, you could watch a movie on the UK Netflix servers via a proxy server and simultaneously Google the leading actress via an ordinary DNS server.

In the weeks and months following Netflix’ original DNS ban, smart DNS proxies like Unblock-US, Unlocator, Overplay, and Unotelly became hugely popular. They were an easy VPN alternative, and many Netflix customers switched over during this time period. This only lasted for a few months until Netflix caught on to it, and they ultimately banned most smart DNS proxy servers.

It’s important to note that there are still a few smart DNS proxies that will unblock Netflix traffic. However, the only one that works 24/7 is MediaStreamer, a service offered by ExpressVPN. It comes free with your ExpressVPN subscription, and is actually the default ExpressVPN connection type. Other than that, steer clear of smart DNS proxies for Netflix streaming.

Is it legal to use a VPN for Netflix?

Yes. There is currently no law against accessing Netflix via a VPN connection. That said, it is most certainly against Netflix’ Terms of Service to use a VPN to access another country’s Netflix library. Specifically, the Terms of Service state:

“You may view Netflix content primarily within the country in which you have established your account and only in geographic locations where we offer our service and have licensed such content. The content that may be available to watch will vary by geographic location and will change from time to time.”

From the start of the ban to the time of this writing, Netflix has consistently blocked most VPN servers from their service. However, in all that time, we have not seen a single story of a Netflix customer being banned or otherwise penalized for using a VPN. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll get the “Whoops” error and need to switch servers.


How the Netflix VPN Ban Works

So, how does Netflix ban VPNs to begin with? To begin with, they banned known VPN server IP addresses. However, there are simple workarounds to this type of banning, and it was easily circumvented by NordVPN, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, LiquidVPN, Buffered, and others. By changing IP addresses on a regular basis, these services were able to ensure that Netflix couldn’t simply keep a library of known VPN IP addresses. And if Netflix does block a particular server, the block will only be effective until the server generates a new IP.

Since then, Netflix has needed to get smarter. One of the ways they’ve done this is to focus on connections coming from data centers instead of residences. This has helped to squeeze out larger players, since it’s difficult to run a larger VPN service without a large data center. On the flip side, Netflix has also targeted connections that don’t use public DNS servers, and by frequently changing their geolocation URLs. This has forced smaller services to invest in larger-scale resources for geolocation, pushing many of them out of the market.

Given all this activity, how has Netflix not managed to block all VPN traffic by now? In a recent interview, Buffer CEO Jordan Fried speculated that Netflix is intentionally allowing some VPNs to keep working.

His reasoning is that if Netflix wanted to, they could easily block all traffic from VPNs. All they would have to do is tie their customers’ viewing library to their billing address. That way, it wouldn’t matter where users were connecting from. But licensing is based on where content is actually viewed, not where it’s being paid for. In other words, if Netflix were ever sued by a producer or rival service, they could simply argue that they were doing the best they can.

In fact, it’s not just Netflix that’s handling VPNs in this fashion. HBO Now, Hulu/Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services are all implementing similar VPN bans. These bans all work slightly differently, so a VPN provider that works on one service may not work on another. Still, most of them should work with most of the VPNs on our list.

They will all work with ExpressVPN, which is another reason it’s our top pick for best Netflix VPN.

ExpressVPN

If you’re looking for the best Netflix VPN, bar none, ExpressVPN is at the top of the pack.




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Philippines imposes 12 per cent digital services tax • The Register

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The Philippines has become the latest nation to impose a digital services tax.

Such taxes require the likes of Netflix and Spotify to pay local sales taxes even though their services are delivered – legally, notionally, and physically – from beyond local jurisdiction.

The Philippines has chosen a rate of 12 per cent, mirroring local value added taxes.

“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” said Joey Salceda, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives and a backer of the change to the nation’s tax code.

Salceda tied the change to post-pandemic economic recovery.

“If brick and mortar establishments, which are the hardest-hit by the pandemic, have to pay VAT, the giants of e-commerce shouldn’t be exempt,” he said.

However, local companies that are already exempt from VAT by virtue of low turnover won’t be caught by the extension of the tax into the virtual realm.

Salceda’s amendments are designed to catch content streamers, but also online software sales – including mobile apps – plus SaaS and hosted software. The Philippines’ News Agency’s report on the amendment’s passage into law even mentions firewalls as subject to VAT.

The Philippines is not alone in introducing a digital services tax to raise more revenue after the COVID-19 pandemic hurt government revenue – Indonesia used the same logic in 2020 .

But the taxes are controversial because they are seen as a unilateral response to the wider issue of multinational companies picking the jurisdictions in which they’ll pay tax – a practice that erodes national tax bases. The G7 group of nations, and the OECD, think that collaborations that shift tax liabilities to nations where goods and services are acquired and consumed are the most appropriate response, and that harmonising global tax laws to make big tech pay up wherever they do business is a better plan than digital services taxes.

The USA has backed that view of digital services taxes, by announcing it will impose tariffson nations that introduce them – but is yet to enact that plan.

Meanwhile, the process of creating a global approach to multinational tax shenanigans is taking years to agree and implement.

But The Philippines wants more cash in its coffers – and to demonstrate that local businesses aren’t being disadvantaged – ASAP. ®

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How to ask your boss for more flexible working

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While returning to the office is now possible for many, some workers might still want the option of flexible working some of the time. Here’s how to broach the subject.

This week marked the beginning of a phased and staggered return to workplaces for many employees in Ireland.

It essentially marked the first official green light for employers to ready their offices and start putting plans in place for their staff’s return.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

However, HR body CIPD Ireland urged employers to be mindful of anxious workers as they face “another round of upheaval” with the return to offices.

So, while employers are finalising plans about how, where and when their teams will work, some employees may be wondering how to go about expressing their preference, worried that it’s not in line with what the company wants.

While there have been plenty of discussions and remote work advocates calling for leaders to be more flexible and recognise that the future of work will be hybrid, the reality for individual employees can feel very different.

While big-picture debates around the right to request remote work are happening, how do you ask for what you want in the here and now, when your boss is determined to have a full return to the office?

Explain your reasons

If remote or flexible working isn’t something your boss is already willing to give you, then you must treat it like a pay rise request.

Explain clearly and concisely the reasons why you want more flexibility, how it will benefit you and make you a more engaged, happier worker.

While family commitments might be an important factor, so too is work-life balance and getting rid of long commutes. And, while there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Covid-19 is still a very real concern, so don’t be afraid to express your reservations about this too.

Make a business case

When you ask for a pay increase, you provide proof of the value you have added to the company. Take the same approach here and explain to your boss how flexible working will actually be beneficial to them.

Some managers who resist remote working might still have an office-based mentality where presenteeism is key. But there are numerous studies that show that knowledge workers are more productive when working remotely.

And, when done as a purposeful business strategy, remote working can help teams prioritise work more clearly as well as allowing for more downtime and work-life balance.

Be realistic

Depending on your manager, your team and the work you do, it may not be feasible to ask to work from home five days a week.

It’s important that you are realistic about asking for what you want and also realistic about what you can deliver in return. Remote workers can be more productive but they can also be in danger of burning out so be thoughtful about what strategy will work best for both you and your manager.

Listen to their perspective

While conversations around remote working appear to be mostly positive, it can be a different situation behind the office doors.

Many managers and leaders are still hesitant about moving to a fully flexible working strategy and this can lead to workers feeling like they are not being listened to.

However, one of the best ways to combat that hesitancy from managers is to listen to their concerns and address them in a problem-solving manner.

Being able to alleviate some of your manager’s worries might make them more amenable to allowing for more flexibility.

Make expectations clear

If you do convince your boss to allow for a more flexible working plan than what they had originally considered, it’s important that both sides understand what is expected.

Without clearly defining the outcomes of the new set-up, misunderstandings can lead to disappointments and feelings of mistrust in the idea of flexible working.

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The Lovers’ Guide at 30: did the bestselling video make Britain better in bed? | Relationships and sex education

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The second sexual revolution began 30 years ago, on 23 September 1991, with the release of an educational videotape called The Lovers’ Guide. The revolution’s unlikely figureheads were a film producer who had been making how-to videos about gardening and pets and cooking, and a 56-year-old doctor, while their ally was an American former TV and theatre director who had become Britain’s chief film censor.

The producer was a man called Robert Page, who had been approached by Virgin – which had recently started making condoms – to make a sexual health film for men that explained how to use one. There were two difficulties with that. The first was that no erect penis had been shown on screen in Britain. The second was that Page had no interest in making a film about penises. The censor – James Ferman, the director of the British Board of Film Classification from 1975 to 1999 – took care of the first issue.

“I was talking to the great James Ferman,” Page says, talking from New York, where he now lives, “and he went, ‘There’s only one law, and it’s called obscenity and it’s that which will deprave and corrupt.’ He said, ‘I see nothing depraving or corrupting in a man pulling a condom on in this era. I think it’s downright sensible.’”

Page brought up the second issue. “I went, ‘You know all these how-to videos? There’s this area of life that we don’t talk about. You wouldn’t let me make one about sex, would you?’ He said, ‘What would you want to show?’ I went, ‘Men and women, with actual intercourse.’” Page wanted to show oral sex. He wanted to show genitals. He wanted to show the things that even films made for sex shops couldn’t show, and he wanted to show them in a film that would get an 18 certificate and be sold as a VHS tape on the high street.

Film censor James Ferman.
Film censor James Ferman. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Ferman laid down conditions. The film had to be fronted by a doctor. The script had to be approved by a reputable organisation. There was to be no lingering on the explicit shots. It was not, in short, to be a mucky film, regardless of what its viewers might use it for.

Page wanted Alex Comfort, the author of The Joy of Sex, to be the doctor, but Comfort’s publishers rejected the idea. Instead he turned to Andrew Stanway, another veteran “sexologist”, with a string of books to his name (Stanway did not respond to requests for an interview). “He was a quite tall, wide man, with huge hands,” says Simon Ludgate, who was hired as director. “He had greying, curly, fair hair, a pointy nose and beady eyes. He reminded me of a bad magician with a ‘look into my eyes’ hypnotic stare.”

It’s Stanway who gives the clinical narration – “The clearest sign of male sexual arousal is an erection. Tissue within the penis fills with blood, making it stiffen. As arousal increases, so does heart rate. Breathing quickens and the nostrils flare” – and he both co-wrote the script and helped recruit the film’s stars. Chief among them were Tony and Wendy Duffield, former patients of his, who went on to be the Brad and Angelina of the sex ed video market. They later appeared on Desmond Morris’s The Human Animal making love with tiny cameras inside them to show the processes at work.

The Duffields weren’t the real problem, though. “There were a couple of people, who were supposed to be a couple and weren’t,” Page says. “One of the guys, the one who stands up to masturbate – Marino – was an adult film professional. We didn’t know that, but the press knew right away. I can’t tell you how naive we were. We had no idea. We had never been in this world. We had done very wholesome stuff, so doing this was breaking new ground.”

The press did indeed know right away, and before the film came out the News of the World revealed the fact that The Lovers’ Guide featured porn stars. “It almost sank us,” Ludgate says. “Woolworths at that point said they weren’t going to stock it, and Woolworths at the time were massive. And then WH Smith said they weren’t going to.”

The shops relented in time for release, and The Lovers’ Guide arrived on the high street. Page and Ludgate are insistent that their motives were purely to help couples, though the film’s makers knew the first certified film to feature explicit sex, even with Stanway’s lugubrious voiceover, would fly out of the shops, and not just to people wanting to learn some new positions. And so Page spent more on The Lovers’ Guide – it was shot on film, not tape, with purpose-built sets – than anything he had ever made before.

He says now he thought it might rival the 250,000 copies of a Neighbours tie-in video he had made. In fact, it sold 200,000 copies in its first fortnight, going on to sell 1.3m in the UK alone, and hundreds of thousands more around the world. (“My greatest regret is not taking a percentage,” Ludgate says. “I still kick myself about that.”)

Dr Andrew Stanway, who did the voiceover for The Lovers’ Guide.
Dr Andrew Stanway, who did the voiceover for The Lovers’ Guide. Photograph: Honey Salvadori/Channel 5

Looking at it now, in a world of Pornhub, YouPorn, PornMD and everything else, The Lovers’ Guide seems almost unbearably innocent. It is sex at its gentlest. Everything is shot in soft focus; candles are everywhere. (Page was insistent the film’s primary market be women, though the soft focus and candles spoke more to male ideas of female sexuality. Nevertheless, 55% of buyers were women.) Couples wander through fields, smiling happily, before retiring to bedrooms and bathrooms for soft and sensual lovemaking (with a voiceover). Nothing from it would now get anywhere near the front page of a porn aggregator site.

“Some of the sex scenes in The Lovers’ Guide were certainly erotic,” Ferman – who died in 2002 – would later say. “But eroticism was never, I think, the primary purpose of the scene. The primary function of the scene was to be helpful to couples in the audience who were trying to improve their own sex life.” He argued that what separated the finished film from pornography was context: “You weren’t looking at two bodies, two strangers on screen having it away. You were actually looking at people who told what sex meant to them, what their relationships meant, what they wanted to do, what they were trying to do. And they were real people. And ordinary people watching felt, ‘They are just like us, and if this is what they do, this is what we can do.’”

Page accepts that not all his audience had education in mind, but takes the view that he was smuggling greens into their meal. “We discussed this with Jim Ferman. They were buying it to get off on it, but actually they’d learn loads of things along the way. If it had been some medical thing with diagrams, who would have bought it?” (Curiously, Ludgate says that’s exactly what Stanway wanted – women with their legs in stirrups while he pointed out the clitoris.) “There were 10,000 or so letters,” Page continues, “saying, ‘We’ve been married x years, we started watching your programme and we were making love on the living room carpet before it had finished. Thank you for saving our marriage.’ And that was fantastic.”

What was crucial was that you could buy The Lovers’ Guide easily. There were only 80 or so licensed sex shops in the UK, selling R18 films – which were not, at that point, as explicit as The Lovers’ Guide. “My family moved to Cornwall in the 1990s,” says Clarissa Smith, editor of the academic journal Porn Studies, “and the nearest sex shops were in Plymouth or Bristol, but you could buy The Lovers’ Guide in WH Smith. The ease of access was definitely really important.”

While it wasn’t pornography, it was revolutionary. Politics has the concept of the Overton window – the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time – in which the centre of political gravity shifts left and right. One might think of sex, too, as having its own Overton window, and the 90s saw that window shift to allow portrayals of explicit sex, and an explosion in pornography.

There were simple, practical, legal reasons for that. From 1986, the Reagan and Bush administrations in the US had vigorously pursued obscenity prosecutions against pornographic film-makers. Bill Clinton came to power in 1993 promising to follow that agenda; in fact the Clinton administration had virtually no interest in prosecuting pornographers. In 1992, there were 42 prosecutions in the US in which federal obscenity offences were the lead charge; by 1998, there were only six. The result was a boom in porn production, and the rise of mega-studios such as Evil Empire and Vivid Entertainment.

That would have been irrelevant had porn remained the preserve of sex shops. But three things were happening at once. First, escalating traffic loads caused the first wave of free porn sites – often run by college students, and usually consisting of images stolen from professional porn – to fade from business, because they didn’t have the bandwidth to continue. Second, in summer 1994, a man sold a Sting CD to his friend over the internet, described by the New York Times as “the first retail transaction on the internet using a readily available version of a powerful data encryption software designed to guarantee privacy”. E-commerce was born. It wasn’t long before those who lived too far from sex shops, or who couldn’t bring themselves to walk into one, would be able to buy those Evil Empire and Vivid films without leaving their homes: they could visit a site such as Blissbox and have them delivered, in plain packaging, for the same cost as a Hollywood film, rather than the high prices charged by sex shops for something tamer. Third, a dancer and stripper called Danni Ashe noticed how many of her pictures were being traded on Usenet groups, and set up her own website, sparking a rush for porn producers to sell content directly via the internet.

Margi Clarke’s TV show The Good Sex Guide launched in 1993.
Margi Clarke’s TV show The Good Sex Guide launched in 1993. Photograph: PA Images/Alamy

At the same time, the culture was changing. Soft porn mags for women were launching, as was the hugely explicit Black Lace series of novels, also aimed at women, which sold more than 4m copies between its launch in 1993 and its closure in 2009. Margi Clarke’s TV show The Good Sex Guide launched in 1993, and got unheard-of ratings for a late-night show: 13 million viewers. And a new kind of male culture – in which it was assumed and accepted that viewing porn was nothing to be ashamed of – was emerging. Porn was in newsagents, in the “lad mags”, and it was on screen.

By the end of the 1990s, what was officially licensed lagged so far behind what was readily available to anyone with an internet connection and a credit card that change was inevitable. The driver of change, again, was James Ferman. He was convinced the only way to draw people away from violent pornography – his particular bete noire – was to grant R18 certificates to films depicting consensual penetration and allow them to be sold in licensed sex shops. The test case was a film called Makin’ Whoopee, to the outrage of the new home secretary, Jack Straw.

Straw summoned the BBFC’s vice-president, Lord Birkett, to his office and railed at him. “Do you really mean that you are going to allow oral sex and buggery and I don’t know what else?” Birkett later recalled Straw as saying. “That you are actually passing this? You are giving a certificate to it?”

In the face of Straw’s rage, the BBFC withdrew Makin’ Whoopee’s certification, and Straw changed the body’s leadership, with Ferman and Birkett departing. But in his final report for the BBFC, Ferman displayed prescience. “It may well be that in the 21st century, it simply becomes impossible to impose the kind of regulation which the board exists to provide,” he wrote. “After all, what is the point of cutting a gang-rape scene in a British version of a film if that film is accessible down a telephone line from outside British territorial waters? I am probably the last of the old-time regulators.” Ferman may have lost his job, but he won the fight with Straw – for another statutory body, the Video Appeals Committee, simply reversed the BBFC’s decision to back down, and seven porn films were licensed for sale in sex shops. Censorship of pornography had, to all intents and purposes, finished in the UK.

The Lovers’ Guide did not cause the collapse of censorship. It did not lead to YouPorn. That was the internet. But it was the starting point for a decade of change. “I think it was one of those moments in social history where there was a need for change, and we fulfilled the need,” Ludgate says. “I think there was a collective need for change, and curiosity. Since the 60s, the cult of the individual had grown and this was part of that process. It was something people wanted individually that changed a lot of attitudes towards sex. I think it was a massive, seismic shift in attitudes.”

And still it does its work. A few weeks after we talk, Page forwards an email he has just received. “Hi Robert. I just want to give you a VERY, VERY BIG THANK YOU AGAIN. I have bought your complete collection of The Lover’s GUIDE. Your work is impeccable. I began watching them, and all I can say is. You sir are AWESOME. What I have been learning from them is amazing, and I just really wanted to THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!”

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