Is It Legal To Access American Netflix In Australia With A VPN?

Is It Legal To Access American Netflix In Australia With A VPN?
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Virtual private networks (VPNs) have many legitimate purposes. They’re also used to cheekily circumvent geo-blocks on overseas sites like US Netflix – often against the express wishes of rights holders. Like most online technologies, government legislation is currently a bit vague on what is and isn’t allowed. So is it legal to stream restricted content through a VPN? Let’s find out.

In short; yes. There are no laws prohibiting the use of VPNs in Australia. Furthermore, deliberately bypassing geo-restrictions to access overseas content is not considered illegal in Australia. (At least, not yet.)

Here’s the official stance of the Government as it appears on our current Prime Minister’s website:

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.

As much as rights holders may wish otherwise, you cannot be penalised for joining restricted overseas services via VPN trickery instead of paying for the local service. (Sorry Foxtel.) Australian cloud legal service provider LawPath recently explained the legalities in greater detail:

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. There is a review examining this issue more closely [but] it seems unlikely that the use of VPNs will become illegal in Australia.

With that said, dodging geo-blocks to access overseas content is a violation of the provider’s terms of service. When you sign up to a service like Netflix, you are explicitly agreeing to adhere to their rules.

If you get caught, these companies are well within their rights to ban you from the service. Currently, Netflix’s preferred method is to shut down access to VPNs rather than come after customers directly – and it’s making life difficult for many Aussie subscribers.

Fortunately, there are some VPN services that have managed to stay one step ahead. Click here for an overview of what popular VPNs are doing to combat this issue.

Classic Hacks: How To Get American Netflix In Australia

Since it launched in 2015, the Australian version of Netflix has been adding a steady stream of content each month. (You can see what's coming in November here.) While the selection of movies and TV shows is getting better, it still pales in comparison to the US version due to national licencing deals. Here's how to get the whole US catalogue in Australia -- without getting slugged by the exchange rate.

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Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


  • You want to know what I think? It is unfair that different countries get different choices of what to watch. I am from an unprivileged country, and Netflix subscription already costs more for me in relation with my income than to for example US subscribers. Nonetheless I have to buy a VPN subscription on top fo it to watch what I want to watch. The selection of movies and TV shows is ridiculously small in my country – only old movies and TV shows available on Netflix that are always on as re-runs on regular TV anyway. SHAME ON YOU NETFLIX.

    • Netflix have to buy the rights to stream it.
      If its too costly or other providers have already got rights then netflix can’t provide the content it’s pretty simple.
      All companies want to/ need to make money to survive. What they charge is up to them and as a consumer you have the right to not use the service if your not happy with the cost or quality.
      Australia is expensive that’s what we pay to live in this great country.
      I have been using a VPN at one stage but got to a point I felt it was not worth paying twice.
      I hate to sound like a racist Bogan. If you don’t like leave. Vote with your feet. Watch another repeat of MASH

    • Boycotting or shaming Netflix achieves the actual opposite of the desired outcome. In order for Netflix to be able to offer content across all regions, they have to have either the market share to win over content producers or capital funding in order to outbid competitors for content.

      Therefore, if you think Netflix region differences are a bad thing, that is the BEST reason to subscribe to Netflix.

  • It is in the spirit of the Productivity Commission’s findings a few years ago where it recommended against the regional zoning of DVDs.
    The geoblocking of streaming media is a similar thing.

  • Once again, yet another example of prehistoric business models forced on to consumers with the expectation that paying customers must fit around their inflexible business models… Large prehistoric companies are infamous for this behaviour. Rather than take the hard road of adapting to the modern world, they often opt for the easier road of bending the market around them. Which often results in extinction as the market just eventually moves on. This continuous behaviour of self extinction is typical of large old companies in general. They establish a model that works for a while, regardless of building consumer resentment (persisting nonetheless) until the market leaves them behind as they burn themselves to the ground… And the cycle repeats.. Bye bye dinosaurs (which also became extinct for the same reasons lol)

    • Exactly. Look at Blockbuster video. They had the opportunity to buy into Netflix in its infancy but instead decided to beat their heads against the physical media rental wall. Didn’t work out too well for them.

      Now look at things like foxtel. Outdated product with an increasingly exorbitant pricing structure and they really only have the HBO shows left as a drawcard. they’ll die soon too.

      Piracy is a product of excessive capitalism. Too many companies see something working and all want a piece of the pie. Netflix was a pioneer in the vod market and now everyone wants their own vod product, like Disney. Pretty soon consumers will need 10 or more services to get all their shows, so they’ll just pirate instead.

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