Is it illegal to use a VPN in Australia? And can the Australian police find out, what you are doing online even if you use a VPN?
That’s exactly what we’re going to be discussing in this article.
How does the police track VPN users?
One of the most popular uses of VPNs is to bypass geo blocking. This is not illegal and the police will not care if you do this.
This means that if you watch US Netflix from Australia, using a VPN, you are not breaking the law. However if you are doing something truly illegal, then things get complicated. Let me explain.
Lets say you do some cyber crimes. People on the internet will tell you that the police will contact the VPN company and find out if it was you.
However this is not that simple. First of all the police will not know, which VPN service you used. They would have to contact all VPN companies to find out. Also there is little chance that a VPN company that is registered in, lets say, Panama, will care about handing out sensitive information to the Australian Police.
Especially if the company and the police are in different jurisdictions, asking nicely will probably not be enough.
Also because of bureaucracy, this would take years probably.
In addition, there are now many VPN providers that do not store any logs. In this case, you would be safe probably. Just make sure to pick a top rated VPN service.
What Is Geo-Blocking?
‘The uploader has not made this video available in your country’. As Australians, we’re all too familiar with seeing this message on streaming services like YouTube. This is what’s known as ‘Geo-blocking’.
Geo-blocking is the practice of restricting access to certain content based on a user’s location. The right to block content rests solely with the copyright owner. For instance, the copyright owner of a TV show can legally prevent an Australian channel from broadcasting it. Not only that, streaming services can block Australian IP addresses from accessing certain TV shows or movies. This is exactly what Netflix is currently doing.
Geo-blocking is a common problem in Australia. Take Apple’s iTunes store as an example. When it comes to purchasing movies or music, we pay about the same price as US consumers. However, thanks to geo-blocking, we have access to a significantly lesser amount of titles. A report compiled by QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre showed that Australians can only access 65% of the movie titles that’s available to users from the US.
Streaming services treat us even worse. As per the same report, Australians can only watch 39% of the total TV shows on Netflix. What exactly are we missing out on? The Walking Dead, 30 Rock, and Parks & Recreations are some of the bigger titles that are denied to us. And that’s despite having to pay pretty much the same subscription fee as viewers from the US!
Why exactly do content providers restrict Australians this way? It’s really hard to say. Sometimes it can cost a lot to make content available across different countries. Because of this, providers may employ geo-blocking to save money. Or it could be that copyright owners believe they won’t earn as much revenue from certain regions.
What Exactly Does A VPN Do?
As mentioned above, content providers can tell where a user is from by looking at their IP address. But what if you could somehow get an IP address that points to a different geographical location?
That’s exactly what a Virtual Private Network (VPN) does. VPNs can create a private address for you. It’s quite similar to owning a P.O box, whereby you can send and receive mail without people knowing where you live. With a private address, your true location is masked, allowing you to access geo-blocked content.
All this is perfectly legal, and the Australian police will not care.
Are Vpns Legal In Australia?
Thanks to a lot of content restrictions, it’s become common for a lot of Australians to use VPNs. But are we breaking the law by doing this?
In short, the answer is no. Currently, there are no laws in Australia that prohibit people from using VPNs. Furthermore, there aren’t any explicit restrictions on using them to bypass geo-blocks either!
The reason for this is simple. Streaming doesn’t fall anywhere in the categories of downloading or illegally reproducing content. Besides, when Australians use VPNs to access restricted shows on Netflix, they’re not circumventing subscription fees in the process. Hence, there’s technically no ‘stealing’ occurring.
While the Australian government permits the use of VPNs, content providers may take up an issue with it. In fact, you may actually be violating a content provider’s terms of service by doing so. This is exactly the case when you’re signing up for a Netflix account. The fine print clarifies that you are agreeing to abide by their restrictions. In other words, you are not permitted to try and access the services that are restricted to your region.
What happens if you get caught by-passing a provider’s geo-block? Providers retain the right to issue a ban on individual users if they violate the terms. Netflix, however, has found an easier solution to this – blocking certain VPNs directly. Currently, this is making life even harder for us Australians.
Popular Vpns In Australia
Below is a list of four of the most popular VPNs among Australians in 2019:
With an average download speed loss of 11%, Express VPN is one of the fastest options available to Australians. It works with all the popular services including HBO, Netflix, and Hulu and is compatible with 4K streaming. That’s a great deal at just USD 12.95 a month and they offer a free thirty-day trial.
NordVPN is actually faster than Express VPN, with only a 5% loss in speed when switched on. It’s also considered one of the best VPNs for bypassing Netflix’s geo-blocks. One of the greatest things about NordVPN is their customer service. On their site, you’ll find comprehensive instructions on how to best access different streaming platforms. Plus they offer 24/7 live chat support.
There are quite a few pros to using CyberGhost. First of all, it’s quite affordable at just USD 12.99 a month. Secondly, its data protection policy is very consumer-friendly. Not only are your traffic data not collected, but they also don’t keep logs. This means that no data tied to your IP address is ever present in their databases.
One of the biggest drawbacks is that it’s a bit slow on US servers, which is what you’ll need to use when you want to access Netflix.
Surfshark is one of the fastest VPNs around, with downloads speeds reaching in excess of 70 Mbps when connected to local Australian servers. Other pros include:
- The ability to bypass Netflix restrictions
- 24/7 Live chat support
- Very affordable two-year subscription plan
Is it illegal to use a VPN in Australia?
To clarify, there aren’t any restrictions imposed by the Australian government against circumventing geo-blocks using VPNs. The Police will not track VPN users for watching US Netflix or naughty videos on the internet.
This means that you won’t get slapped with a penalty of any kind for doing so. However, if you’re using a VPN to illegally download content, that’s a different story altogether. In that case, you’re doing something that’s in direct violation of Australia’s piracy laws.
Content providers themselves have the right to take legal action against you for using VPNs. This can come in the form of a life-time ban from using their services.