VPNs under pressure Down Under

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs – what we’re all about!) could be blocked under legislation currently being considered by the Australian Senate. That government’s might seek to curtail VPN use is nothing new, and is understandable. After all, VPNs block them from many of their pernicious practices whose main emphasis is solely on keeping them in power.

The latest instance of a government flexing its legislative muscles over VPNs is shaping up in the land Down Under, where hundreds of thousands of Australians use VPNs to access content online. If it is passed in its current form, copyright owners could apply for judiciary restraint against internet service providers to block foreign sites whose primary purpose is copyright infringement.

Doug wrote a few months ago alerting readers to a Canadian government’s anti- VPN initiative. He opined on the ramifications of passage:

If it [passes], a 6 month mandatory detention requirement is particularity problematic for those who use VPN to protect their privacy, and would make Canada a very unsuitable location for a VPN provider to be based, or even to locate its servers.

It looks like the Aussies want to make life difficult down under, too. The Australian measure targets BitTorent sites, such as The Pirate Bay, but it is feared that VPNs, which by industry estimates are employed by more than 684,000 Australian households to bypass geoblocks and stream content, could be affected. As there are no precedents, it is unclear how the bill would affect the use of a VPN to access a legitimate site such as Hulu, which is currently blocked in Australia.

Under present law, using a VPN to circumvent international commercial arrangement to protect copyright in different countries or regions is legal according to the Copyright Act. VPN advocates want this assurance memorialized, but are not optimistic as piracy continues to flourish even as legitimate streaming services are more widely available.

Advocates also contend that it is difficult to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate VPN use, and it is therefore unfair to penalize VPNs because some of the time they are being used for piracy , which is not their intended primary purpose. In this regard, Kimberlee Weatherall, a copyright expert, said the bill will be “hard to argue for, because a court has to be made aware that VPNs have all sorts of legitimate uses, such as safe data retention.” The measure as it now stands will leave it up to the court judge to decide proportionality.

These issues aside, it is apparent to anyone possessing a reasonable aptitude and viewpoint that VPNs came into being and are vital today because of the attempts by some governments and jurisdictions to stifle free speech. It is also apparent that any government attempts to ostracize them would be met by a proportional industry response and innovation. After all, that’s what got VPNs started, and supports their continued growth in popularity.

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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