Need your fix of your favourite TV shows? Whether it be Breaking Bad, 30 Rock or the can’t miss Parks and Rec, disappointedly shows like these are not featured on the Australian subscription to netflix.

So, what’s the alternative for Aussie online streamers?

The above mentioned shows and more are available in other regions, such as the US Netflix. The easy way around this is for users to stream the US Netflix through a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which assists users to be able to connect internationally in a secure way. Essentially, it helps users to gain access to otherwise ‘blocked’ content. This alternative can be used together with, or instead of the Australian paid version.

So why wouldn’t Australian users be using this alternative to access the pool of content that is otherwise unavailable to them? Research has shown that more than 16% of Australians are making use of this alternative route and this is only going to increase as it becomes more and more popular. Interestingly, but maybe not surprisingly, out of this 16% the majority of these users were in the age bracket between 18 – 34 years of age.

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Is it legal to stream content via VPN’s in Australia?

The legality of it all has become a ‘hot topic’ recently questioning whether users of VPN’s are actually infringing our copyright laws? While, from the outset it may seem illegal to stream content, it has been suggested that it would be pretty much pointless for large companies like the US Netflix to actually hunt down our fellow Aussie streamers. Instead, this area of law is viewed as an unresolved and uncertain loophole within our copyright laws. The act of streaming content through a VPN is yet to be classified as illegal in Australia and is more frowned upon than anything. So, morals aside, at current it is perfectly legal.

The reasons for the ‘green light’ status for Aussies is that this is not an issue of copying, downloading or reproducing content. Rather, users are merely streaming content. Where the fine line is between streaming and downloading is still being debated. The argument is that when one is streaming, users are only caching the content and not producing a copy which would otherwise be illegal. If you want to scrutinise this issue more closely there could be the potential for breaches of commercial contracts with users and their respective subscribers. However, this is minutely minor and is not worth taking legal action against those abusing the system.

Is it likely that this activity will soon be illegal?

A simple conclusion to take from the current situation with the use of VPN’s is that streaming content is only temporary. Unless the user is directly downloading and/or making copies of the content accessed, there has been no permanent download of the content streamed. As complicated as it sounds, it just would not be worth the time and resources for big players in the streaming market like the US netflix, to be taking action against VPN users.

With this issue currently in the spotlight, the message to all users is to be wary of what you are actually ‘streaming’ and to stay clear of downloading content. Although not currently illegal, don’t take your streaming for granted. There is a review examining this issue more closely. However, it seems unlikely that the use of VPN’s will become illegal in Australia.

Keep streaming Aussies! The light is yet to turn red!

To understand how copyright affects artists and how copyright law protects your rights read more here!

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Brodie Nettleton

Brodie is a paralegal at LawPath working in our content team, which works to provide free legal guides to enhance public access to legal resources. With a keen interest in Criminal and IP Law, her research focuses on small businesses, and how they can better navigate complex legal procedures.