How New Download Laws Have Aussies Embracing VPNs

How New Download Laws Have Aussies Embracing VPNs

The assault on illegal downloaders by the movie industry last week was put forward as a form of making a highly visible example of a few individuals in an attempt to change public behaviour. Sadly for the likes of Voltage Pictures, it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Pirate picture from Shutterstock

Four episodes of the fifth season of Game of Thrones were leaked onto the Internet and have been downloaded millions of times. Countries in which downloaders have previously been targeted by Voltage Pictures, and others, were in the top 10 of downloading countries, namely, the US, Canada, and Australia.

Australian TorGuard Traffic

At the same time, the top 10 most downloaded movies this week featured Furious 7 at number 1. That film has made a $610 million in profit so far. If illegal downloading is making a dent in the sales of this movie, it would be hard to tell.

What has happened as a result of the Dallas Buyers Club LLC court action against ISPs in Australia has been a substantial increase in the use of VPN technology in Australia to hide the user’s IP address that could identify them in any future legal action.

This is exceptionally good news for the VPN providers and not so good news for people wanting to target downloaders, or indeed for the Government.

[related title=”HOW TO VPN” tag=”vpn1″ items=”4″]

In a recent survey, 16% of Australians surveyed had used a VPN to protect their privacy. This would have increased significantly after that point as one VPN provider, TorGuard showed a large spike in usage from Australia immediately after the Dallas Buyers Club LLC court case judgement was announced.

Using a VPN protects users who are downloading because their Internet address appears as if it belongs to a service in another country. A movie company wanting to track down the owner of the IP address would find the VPN company. VPN companies have so far resisted giving up customer names and limit the time that they keep access logs for. Any content owner seeking information from a VPN provider would have to go through a significant number of hurdles to get access to the person using the service. Finally, the VPN company is likely to be based in a different country to the servers that are being used and even to the customer themselves, creating further legal hurdles.

The use of VPN software has a couple of other benefits for the consumer. Most of the VPN providers will allow their customers the ability to choose which country they connect with. This means that a vpn user can get around “geo-blocking that prevents non-US users from accessing services like HBO Now and the US Netflix.

Theoretically, Australians would have been able to sign up for a free trial month of HBO Now through Apple iTunes and watch Game of Thrones relatively easily. The other side effect of the increased use in VPN technology is that its use makes the Australian Government’s data retention bill less useful as the only bit of metadata the ISP will see is that a VPN connection was made to a provider. Everything that happens after that point will be hidden from the ISP.

It could be argued that this is actually a relatively good thing from an individual’s privacy perspective and may actually make people more aware generally of security issues on the Internet.

From the ISP’s perspective, the use of VPNs by their customers is not necessarily a bad thing because it would reduce the information that they are required to keep and reduce the chance that they will be dragged to court each time a copyright owner wants to pursue infringers.

The response by downloaders to move behind the protection of VPNs was a reasonably predictable response and it seemed at best, naive of companies to believe, that when faced with millions of downloaders, sending letters to even several thousand people would have any effect on the behaviour of the group as a whole. The other mistake that people have made is to treat downloaders as a homogeneous group. There are a range of reasons why people download and these different motivations will come with different levels of determination to carry on despite the risks.The ConversationDavid Glance is Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


  • I really wish the mainstream media would stop pointing this out.

    Why, oh why, won’t you leave the public perception be?!

    Let the that the movie studios look like they’ve had a win. Let the LNP look like they’ve done the right thing by their sponsors. Let this swiss-cheese law stand with its holes.

    And most importantly of all: Let the tech-savvy Internet privacy advocates silently use our VPN’s and retain our right to privacy.

    If you and all your mainstream peers keep banging on about this – waving a red flag to a bull – you will push the studios to write a law that actually works, and force their puppets in government to pass it.

    Is that really what you want Fairfax? REALLY?!

  • And no one with any brains would have seen this coming now would they?
    Comment made via VPN whilst downloading a certain show! 😉

  • The last paragraph really hits home. Until the legitimate version is better than the illegitimate one piracy will continue. An example would be with streaming (netflix) you still can’t watch it whilst on the way to work – solution? download a hard copy ie pirate it. Even knowing they have a 100% legit way of watching it they are resorted to pirating it due to DRM.

    Sadly if they just wizened up and gave the community what they want, DRM free purchases (mp4) at a reasonable price in conjunction with streaming, piracy would taper off much like it has with the music industry.

    • actually, spotify does this quite well… they allow you to download music to your device for offline listening. If netflix could do something like this, it would be AMAZING!

      • Yer kind of my point. The music industry now has drm free files for purchase along with offline caching for streamers. There is no reason the tv/movie industry can’t offer the same. If they did i’d argue that piracy numbers would drop significantly just like music ones have.

  • Everything I grab now is 100% legal – if we accept that circumventing geo-blocking is not illegal. Hulu + Netflix + US iTunes is enough to cover 99% of the content out there in a reasonable enough time frame and at acceptable cost.

    However I’ve fielded a lot of calls from friends and family asking for ways to get around the new 3 strikes policy and metadata retention. It wouldn’t surprise me if more people don’t go down this route – and once they’re on that path it’s so much easier than having to pay for anything.

    I think all that Dallas Buyers Club, Metadata and 3 strikes has done is push more people into the grey areas of the web and technology. Once it becomes ubiquitous there will be no going back for many of us.

    • “Everything I grab now is 100% legal – if we accept that circumventing geo-blocking is not illegal.”

      Except that circumventing geo-blocking IS illegal. You are still breaking the law by accessing content you are not permitted to have.

      This is entirely the problem though, and we need to get it sorted.

      • As far as I know, circumventing geo-blocking is a breach of the terms of service, but NOT illegal.

    • We’re already close to living under a totalitarian regime with the current Gov’t, so outlawing VPN’s won’t be that big a step!

    • This can’t happen. Most government agencies use VPN for staff to remote in.

      Unless they’re planning to arrest themselves.

      • Nah, governments are exempt from laws. And international treaties, too… but only ones that relate to human rights or environment, not ones that are about making money.

  • Don’t download much except books (which I buy/will buy a hard copy for the wall), netflix and use link sites for anything else. Don’t know how it compares to torrenting which seems to be the big one companies are going for.

    But will be getting a vpn eventually cause screw the metadata retention.

    The business model has to change cause soon everyone will be using vpns and it will be a hell of a lot harder to convert them back to paying. I want to support shows (Netflix is great, Daredevil is the bomb) but if it’s easier elsewhere screw it.

    The steam model is good, I have more games then what I know what to do with and I see Netflix being the same way

  • Is torrenting legal if you actually own a physical copy of what you are downloading?

    • You’re talking about a corporation that, if you used a song they owned as a ringtone, wanted to charge you every time it was used i.e. Every single time your phone rang.

      As far as they’re concerned, a physical copy and a digital copy are two completely different products and that they’re entitled to profit from both of them.

      • It could be argued that the people who call you are the ones responsible, as if they didn’t call you your phone would never ring!
        Hmm – OK – Overthought that one!

        • Haha, still, it’s more to point out how self-entitled the media corporations think they are. Their greed is the sole reason why we don’t have reasonable (both availability as well as monetary wise) access to content.

    • Usually though, with torrenting, you’re uploading the movie to other peers. It’s not just about downloading.

      • You could disable uploads. I was trying to use the same argument that ROM sites use; that it is for backup purposes only.

  • I have a question, I have never downloaded a show from the internet (I have no idea how you do this and I don’t trust those websites anyway) but what about streaming shows online? Because I watch anime online on other websites besides Crunchyroll as they are not offered on it as they are 10+ years old. Is that still illegal if you are trying to access content that isn’t sold in Australia and there is no other way to watch it?

  • Nice article, I would like to add a point in this great discussion. All VPNs does not support torrenting, some may even block them. Hence, if someone wants to buy VPN especially for torrent then he should buy one who supports it. I use Ivacy, it has P2P optimized servers to give fast torrenting experience.

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