Using a VPN service to access geo-blocked digital content from overseas does not breach the law.
That news is no surprise to anyone with intimate knowledge of the Australian Copyright Act, but has added relevance now that the Productivity Commission has recommended changes to the Act to make it abundantly clear that the practice is perfectly legal.
Geo-blocking is a digital measure used by services to restrict access to copyrighted content – video, music, books and video games – outside a certain geographic area.
That sound you just heard is the collective sigh of relief of hundreds of thousands of Australians who currently access content from international streaming media services, such as Netflix US, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Now, thanks to a handy VPN service.
Among other recommendations, the draft report found that frustration over poor access to content was a major driver of digital piracy – a view previously expressed by the Australian public, media and digital industry leaders around the world for many years now.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a private link between an internet network in one country (think: your home WiFi network) and a network in another country that masks the origin of the user.
Basically, a VPN can tell a website in America that you also reside in America, and, hey presto, allow you to access geo-blocked content.
As a bonus, using a VPN will also shield your online activity from unwanted surveillance, such as government data retention, or online censorship, like site blocking – both of which we also experience in Australia.
How to set up your VPN
Lucky for you, there are many VPN services available to Australian internet users, at varying degrees of cost, with step-by-step instructions on how to breach the digital wall between you and international content.
The set up for most devices will be largely the same, but may vary slightly across operating systems.
Firstly, choose a reputable VPN provider and subscribe to their service. The best VPNs, according to consumer advocates Choice, are TorVPN, LogMeIn, Hamachi, Hotspot Shield, HMAIP and VanishOver.
Individual VPN providers will also have instructions to set up gaming consoles, mobile devices, Smart TVs and even your home Wi-Fi router.
Unless otherwise stated, you will need to subscribe to your streaming media service of choice on top of your chosen VPN service.
Once all your digital ducks are in a row, a glorious buffet of content from regions around the world will be yours on which to gorge your eyes. Eat up!
For Mac users…
• In System Preferences select Network, then click ‘+’ on the bottom left to add a new connection.
• Select VPN under the interface pull-down menu.
• Select the type of setup under VPN Type and give your connection a name, then click Create.
• Fill out the required settings with information from your VPN service provider.
• Next, click Authentication Settings and enter the username and password from your VPN service provider, then click OK.
• Click Connect and you’re cooking with gas.
• Optional: Some VPN services may also have instructions to change your DNS settings as well.
For Windows 10 users…
• Click Start then scroll up to select Settings on the left, click the Network & Internet icon.
• Select VPN in the new category box, then the ‘+’ symbol next to Add a VPN connection.
• Then fill out the required settings with information from your VPN service provider and click Save.
• You will now see your new VPN service ready to go back on the VPN screen. Click Connect and away you go.
• Optional: Some VPN services may also include instructions to change your DNS settings as well.