Reports suggest that online entertainment streaming service Netflix is taking steps to block Australian ‘subscribers’ who use tools that bypass geolocation restrictions to access the US version of Netflix.
Netflix is launching the service in Australia and New Zealand in March, but rights restrictions mean that the content is not likely to be as attractive as its US service.
File-sharing news blog TorrentFreak suggests the crackdown began over the Christmas break, when several providers of virtual private networks (VPNs) noticed their IP address ranges blocked from accessing Netflix.
Estimates suggest there are as many as 200,000 ‘subscribers’ in the Australian market, despite there being no operation there.
advanced-television.com reported early in 2014 that start-up operation Australian company Getflix was offering Australians the ability to access entertainment streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus using VPN technology to ‘trick’ the geoblocked services into thinking the user is streaming from the US.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has clarified that the use of such tools is not illegal. In a series of FAQs published on December 10 2104 supplementing the announcement of new measures to tackle copyright infringement, Turnbull wrote:
Q: Many Australians use a VPN to access Netflix in the US. Is it illegal for me to use a VPN to access Netflix?
The Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content.
While content providers often have in place international commercial arrangements to protect copyright in different countries or regions, which can result in ‘geoblocking’, circumventing this is not illegal under the Copyright Act.