Harvey Norman pushes copyright bypass

It's just a bit hypocritical for Harvey Norman to sell devices that set up a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass geolocation blocking.

It's just a bit hypocritical for Harvey Norman to sell devices that set up a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass geolocation blocking.

Daily Show blocked

The Daily Show geoblocked in Australia(Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

About a month ago, I noticed that Comedy Central had geoblocked all clips and episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on its websites to users whose IP was based in Australia. I had predicted that this might happen a while ago, when Foxtel bought exclusive rights to the show, leaving the ABC in the cold.

Now, not only does Foxtel have exclusive rights to the content on TV, but Comedy Central has also now prevented Aussies from seeing clips of the show's biting US political satire online.

When I whined about this on Twitter, one of the obvious suggestions for getting past the ban would be to set up a VPN to mask my IP address, and continue to enjoy the hilarity.

Enter Harvey Norman.

According to a report in The Australian today, the retail giant has been selling McTiVia wireless networking devices since June. The $299 device, in combination with a $9.99-per-month subscription to VPNSecure.me allows Australians to bypass geoblocking to watch online TV services, such as Hulu and Netflix, on their TV.

Who would have thought that Gerry Harvey, engaged in a fierce battle against overseas online retailers, would step up and save Australians from the antiquated domestic content providers seeking to force consumers to give them more money?

Even though Gerry Harvey has said he is now investigating whether the McTiVia devices breach copyright law in Australia, it's clearly a murky legal area. The fact that US residents get the content for free, and the ease with which geoblocking can be bypassed for us to get the same treatment, just shows how ridiculous geoblocking is in the first place.

Rather than going after retailers like Gerry Harvey for just giving customers a product they want, Foxtel and other local content owners who feel slighted by the McTiVia should instead investigate local hosting of their content online, for free with ads as already occurs in the US. This would completely undermine the product's business model and keep it legal.

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