Is it legal to use a VPN?
Season 8 of your favourite US television show just came out but is not offered on Australian streaming services. Can you use a VPN to access it?
What is a virtual private network?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. It can be used to safely and privately access website content that would otherwise be unavailable in your region. VPNs are used most frequently to access international streaming services such as Netflix. Netflix have not taken to kindly to this and in 2016 started cracking down on international users circumventing their geo-blocking mechanisms.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN creates a private address for you on the internet to allow you to access content which would otherwise be unavailable. It does this by encrypting your connection to the internet, IP address, computer information and location. This encrypted connection goes through the VPN server first before accessing the internet. As a result, the internet uses the VPN server as the traffic origin, not your computer.
This encryption allows you to circumvent geo-location blocking by essentially tricking the internet into believing you are in the relevant zone.
Is it legal under Australian law?
It is currently not illegal in Australia to use a VPN. However, whilst there are no laws in Australia expressly prohibiting VPN use, accessing blocked content without consent may still constitute copyright infringement.
Is it legal in all other countries?
Short answer, no. Some countries expressly prohibit the use of VPNs and can impose a penalty of jail time. If you are travelling and want to use a VPN, it is a good idea to do some research to see what the laws are in your destination country.
Whilst it is currently not illegal to use a virtual private network in Australia, this area of law is currently in the spotlight and may be shortly subject to reform. But for now, Australian’s are able to use VPNs to binge watch their favourite international TV shows.
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Ashlee is a legal intern working in the content team at Lawpath. She is interested in information technology law, and all things innovation. Ashlee is currently completing a Dual Degree of Law/Commerce at the University of New South Wales.