Australians encouraged to bypass Netflix geo-block

Australians encouraged to bypass Netflix geo-block

Summary: Consumer lobby group Choice has encouraged Australian consumers to find ways around the Netflix geo-block so that they can use the service in Australia, but the legality of the bypass remains questionable.

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TOPICS: Australia
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After comparing Netflix pricing and products to those of the closest offerings in Australia, Quickflix and Foxtel, consumer lobby group Choice has ruled that Australians are being ripped off.

The organisation's campaign director Matt Levey said that a comparison between the three showed that Australians are being treated as "second-class digital citizens".

"Netflix in the US costs only US$7.99 per month and features a hit parade of shows including Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, and Arrested Development. Back catalogues of most series are available for instantaneous viewing, along with other popular TV shows," he said in a statement.

"In Australia, Quickflix subscription costs range from AU$15 to AU$35 per month, and you pay extra to watch some movies and TV shows. Also, it uses DVDs for new-release movies, while Foxtel charges AU$72 per month."

Netflix's popularity rose in Australia particularly around the release of House of Cards and the new series of Arrested Development, with many located in Australia resorting to virtual private network (VPN) services to get around the geo-blocks Netflix has in place to prevent access to the site from outside the countries where the company has launched.

Levey said that Choice is encouraging Australian consumers to get around geo-blocks to pay for legitimate content, and has provided a guide on how to do it since May, but warned that the practice could be in violation of the terms of service.

"Depending on terms of service, risks could include having your account suspended, or restricted access to content you have already paid for," he said.

The legality of using VPNs to access content is still a grey area. Using a fake US location to sign up to Netflix while residing in Australia would be a violation of the terms of service, and Netflix could, if it chooses to, cancel your subscription. The company at this stage seems unfazed by Australians using the service, however, and currently accepts Australian credit cards.

One difficulty could potentially arise, because technically, under US law, violating the terms of service for a website could be considered a crime in the United States.

When ZDNet inquired as to whether Choice had obtained legal advice on whether it can advocate the practice, a spokesperson pointed to comments from then-Attorney-General Robert McClelland in 2011, who said it did not appear to violate copyright law in Australia.

IT lawyer for IDEALAW Matt Phipps told ZDNet that under Australian law, although the streaming of the content would not be in violation of copyright law, breaching the terms of use to access a streaming site could be considered a crime.

"Many streaming or IPTV sites ban you from using a VPN in their terms of use, which is the contract you enter when you sign up to that streaming site," he said. "Breaching those terms of use can be enough to get your account blocked, often without a refund. The site owner may also sue you."

The courts in Australia have yet to test a case such as this, but there are parts of Australian legislation that content owners could potentially rely on if they decide to attempt to stop Australians from accessing Netflix and other streaming services that are geo-blocked in Australia.

"There are a few ways that breaching terms of use to access a streaming site — or any site, for that matter — could be a crime [under] sections from the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995."

Section 474.7 outlines that a person could face two years' imprisonment for modifying a telecommunications device identifier, while under Section 476.2, a person could be charged with having unauthorised access to data. Under Section 478.1, a person could be charged with having unauthorised access to restricted data through bypassing an "access control system", which could potentially include geo-blocking.

The content owners would first need to make a complaint to police and prosecutors, who would then decide whether to pursue it. Phipps said that just because these powers were available to police, it doesn't mean that they will use them, or would be able to convince a judge of this interpretation of the law. He said he was not aware of anyone in Australia being prosecuted for using a VPN.

The Choice spokesperson said that Choice seeks legal advice where appropriate, but would not discuss the legal advice it received in this instance.

"Choice is confident in its position, and we would like to see an end to digital discrimination against Australian consumers," the spokesperson said.

The IT pricing inquiry being conducted by the Australian parliament has been examining the practice of geoblocking in Australia, and a Greens Bill before the parliament would seek to remove geo-blocks from websites such as Netflix.

TorrentFreak reported on Wednesday that Visa and MasterCard have begun cutting off access to their services by VPN providers.

Topic: Australia

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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24 comments
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  • If Breaching Terms Of Use Is A Crime...

    ...then a condition of reading my postings is to pay me $100 per reading. Those are my terms of use; to break them is a crime.
    ldo17
    • Sorry...

      but you aren't providing a service that I agreed to a EULA.

      In reality there is bupkis chance of anyone going after you for Netflix vs say, torrenting.

      And besides, Netflix cares not, as it is pretty easy to provide non-us payments vs something like X-Box live which makes is really, really hard to sign up to a US account.
      willem.rt@...
      • Re: but you aren't providing a service that I agreed to a EULA

        My agreement doesn't say anything about "service", it just says "a condition of reading my postings is to pay me $100 per reading". Which you did read, right?
        ldo17
      • EULAs in Oz

        Arent worth the paper they aint written on!

        What IS worth worrying about is the supposed Free Trade Agreement with the USA which may be also known by most as the American Free Lunch on the Aussies agreement or F*** The Australians agreement. You break American laws enough, they can and have taken you there to serve time in their gaol system.
        greg-w-h
    • exactly

      Exactly. What it comes down to is fair service. If they charge 2x in Australia than in the US, then we have a problem. Having used VPNs in the past (http://www.happy-vpn.com/) I must say they really do work as expected. Tempted for more :)
      Bellemoi
  • Netflix still happy

    Regardless of that fact Netflix still get there dough so they would mind!
    Hoggy866
    • Not so fast...

      ...Netflix only exists because it's able to negotiate terms with content creators that allow them to distribute content through various agreements including geographical ones. Thus, if Netflix were to be seen as ignoring a significant enough hole that allows content to be viewed somewhere the agreement prohibits, those content providers could pull their content altogether. And where would Netflix be left if they had nothing anyone wanted to watch?

      That said, these terms of service violation consequences are a scary abuse of the law in my opinion.
      Playdrv4me
      • Re: Netflix only exists because it's able to negotiate terms

        Surely a customer is a customer; it doesn't matter where they are, the content providers still get the same cut. So why should they pull their content?
        ldo17
  • Re: how to access netflix in australia

    If you are traveling outside the USA or live in a non-USA country then you will need to use PureVPN with enough bandwidth to stream Netflix, Hulu and other American Video sites.
    shaunstevin
    • Re: how to access netflix in australia

      Here is the links http://www.purevpn.com/vpn-service/usa-vpn-services.php which i told you
      shaunstevin
    • Good customer service...

      Their Australian server only supports the in-secure PPTP VPN protocol too, not OpenVPN. After I pointed that out they refunded my money. Not sure if that is still the case.

      $50 for a year is a decent price for a VPN though, only $4 a month, and they have a decent android app.

      Other services that are excellent are Private Internet Access ($40), kepard ($40 a year or $20 a year for mobile only access, excellent android app), boxpn (good for windows PCs & tablets, forget it on android), torguard (their proxy service for torrents is excellent, for VPN they have a android app & now AU servers too), vpntraffic (android app a little unreliable, otherwise cheap at $35).

      If you want an Australian company, try vpnsecure dot me (replace dot with a .) - cost is $70 and OpenVPN on android is a bit complex but customer service over e-mail is excellent. Has an excellent chrome browser plugin too so you can say for netflix.com always use USA and for bbc.co.uk always use UK, etc. Works well.
      jjcoolaus
  • unblockus

    http://www.unblock-us.com/
    Been using it for a couple of years now. Awesome product and netflix is amazing.
    BigScotty
  • Spot On Choice !

    They got it right on the nose.
    Australians are being ripped off!
    We are treated like a 3rd world country.

    I've been an OpenVPN user for many months & apart from a slight slow down due to the double hop across the Pacific, the service is great. The Ping time is not too bad..209ms.

    I gave Quickflix and the Telstra rip off mob...Foxtel, the ar*e, when I switched to a VPN service to the USA. Why would anyone pay the huge charges both these Australian companies gouge from us. Dumb artificial marketing policies deserve to go down the toilet.
    Huntsman.ks
  • So what gets me the most is....

    You pay WHAT for a VPN per month? Average in US dollars is $6 I think. So you pay $6 then $7.99 (approx) for Netflix and you arent far below what you paid here.

    I think I will stick with my Blueray player thant connects to Sony's network and charges a bucketload if I choose to rent a movie. Of course I rent rarely and even then only because it is something I really want to see. Taken over a year, it is a lot cheaper. No monthly cost.

    Oh sure.....VPN..... if you already use it for "something else" then it probably seems cheaper to you anyway. Here's the real amusing part - many USA companies supplying to Australia where the company needs some sort of security clearance such as suppliers of parts to the Aussie military, enforce the Aussie offices internet usage go through servers based in their home office for security and other reasons. So you already are using an American VPN but forced to do so by the USA company. Does that ALSO stand in breach of the law? After all, an American EULA doesnt stand up over here. Eg, if you are an I.T. "guy" then you have probably agreed to a huge number of EULAs on behalf of people you have done work for. If the person you did work for breaks the EULA, who gets sued? You as the person who agreed to it or the person who never agreed to it? THAT is why American EULAs arent worth the paper they aint written on!
    greg-w-h
  • there's a reason

    Aus is the #1 per capita downloader of pirated media
    theoilman
    • A reason?

      Content providers will say that they don't provide services in Australia or it's more expensive here because piracy is higher, but piracy is higher because content costs so much more. Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Content providers need to look at piracy as a way for consumers to negotiate pricing. If prices are too high, piracy will be higher. How else are consumers supposed to get their point across while not being penalised just because of where they live?

      I'm willing to pay for content but not at Foxtel or Quickflix's prices. I use Unblock-US and Netflix and do not feel the slightest guilt in doing so. I am paying for the content. I also rent and buy content on VUDU.

      If the government was serious about the software pricing and content restrictions they'd start playing hardball with the US by threatening to dissolve the free trade agreement unless something was done about it. It's these markets that are going to drive the use and uptake of the NBN.
      colonel.mattyman
  • Netflix is way better than similar australian services

    I don't believe that there is something wrong by using services like unotelly to get around the geo-block. Netflix is cheaper and better than Quickflix or other australian alternatives. Besides that, by using IP spoofing services, you still have to pay for a Netfix subscription so it's far more legitimate than downloading torrents.
    Jasonn12
  • Unblock is here to stay

    The content providers have been sleeping for years and will continue to do so for a long time to come. There are plenty of options to unblock Netflix and other sites – I’m using https://unlocator.com myself.
    beau parisi
  • Unblock all the restrictions

    VPN is the best tool to unblock filter policies of different countries or companies. Why there are so many limitations in the world. Sometimes i can't understand it. I always to use FlyVPN http://www.flyvpn.com to unlock games earlier when games have been released earlier in NA.
    XDY
  • Hola FTW!

    My wife and I gave up on Foxtel and Quickflix! Foxtel is the biggest Con and RIP OFF of all time! If you want HD channels you are paying minimum $100 a month. And like has already been said, Quickflix are rip offs too, charging extra for some services. Australians really are treated shockingly bad, or should I say abused, as online citizens. We use Hola! Ublocker for Firefox, and love it! We get Netflix and Hulu Plus! It's awesome! And if I REALLY wanted to watch the English Soccer, I could pay $90 for a WHOLE SEASON, not just ONE MONTH!
    Utterly unforgiveable how all these companies treat us Aussies like dirt, and that is saying it nicely :)
    Adrian Hansen