As we reported last week the Australian website blocking bill is close to becoming law. The site blocking bill just passed the lower house and is expected to easily pass in the senate with support from the Labor Party. Once passed copyright holders will be able to petition the court to have internet service providers block infringing overseas sites. While we abhor the idea of forcing ISP’s to block websites I am happy to share that VPN services will be excluded from the bill.
Australians will be able to continue using VPNs to access sites that would otherwise be blocked. That includes geo-blocked channels and online services in other countries like the very popular Netflix streaming service which has a much larger content library in the USA than in Australia. We have seen continued interest from Aussie VPN users. As the site blocking bill nears a vote in the senate we expect to see even more interest in VPN services to help protect the privacy of users and unblock censored and geographically blocked websites.
Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, made it clear that the laws will not apply to virtual private networks. The law will specifically exclude VPN services that are promoted or used for legitimate purposes as reported by TorrentFreak. Mr. Turnbull stated that “VPNs have a wide range of legitimate purposes, not least of which is the preservation of privacy — something which every citizen is entitled to secure for themselves — and [VPN providers] have no oversight, control or influence over their customers’ activities,” which is a clear message to Australian VPN users and those considering online privacy services for the first time as the site blocking bill nears a deciding vote in the senate.
Australian lawmakers are taking a very unique stance on their citizens access to a free and open internet. On one hand when the bill passes internet service providers will be forced to block websites. On the other hand VPN users will be able to access any site just as they would from outside Australia. My Turnbull has made it clear that VPN providers are not responsible for the actions of their customers. As a proponent of online privacy we applaud their stance toward VPNs and abhor the idea of blocking websites. The only long term solution is to make legal alternatives to piracy that are cost effective.
It’s not enough to offer Netflix in Australia when the service is expensive and only launched with around 1,500 titles. That’s very small compared to the 7,500 titles offered to members in the United States. That’s why so may Aussies will continue using VPN to watch Netflix US. The same is true for other services that aren’t available in Australia. The only way to really fight piracy is to make the alternative worthwhile. Rights holders need to accept that tech savvy users are going to find ways to unblock geo restrictions. Passing site blocking bills won’t stop users from accessing content. It’s only going to encourage them to use VPNs to ensure they have access to an uncensored internet without digital borders.