It’s perfectly legal to use a VPN in Australia in most instances, but there are, of course, exceptions. You know how it’s perfectly legal to drive a car in Australia but driving dangerously is a criminal offence?
See what I’m getting at here?
You must be aware of technicalities to stay on the right side of the law.
Using a VPN for securing your internet connection is legal, but things get a little hazy if you’re thinking about circumventing geo-blocking restrictions. For instance, do you know the difference between illegal and unlawful?
We’ll touch on that in more detail.
What Is A Virtual Private Network?
VPN services give you superpowers. Think of them as the internet equivalent of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak or Frodo Baggins’s ring of power.
The VPN server creates a private address and hides your location, anonymising your traffic and encrypting the data.
Why would anybody pay for the privilege?
(Related: Best VPNs In Australia).
1. Hide Your Internet Traffic From Your ISP.
If you were ever accused of doing something illegal (not something I’m advocating, by the way), your data would be hidden from your internet service provider (ISP).
But if that data or evidence is unavailable, it’s much harder to convict you of any wrongdoing.
Again, just stating facts, and this is by no means an endorsement.
2. Keep Your Data Encrypted.
There are some scoundrels lurking on the dark web, and they want to access your data and intrude on your privacy.
You might assume that most malicious actors are fraudsters who want to nab your credit card details, but others monetise their illicit operations through:
- Identity theft.
- Location tracking.
- Hacking webcams and microphones.
- Data mining for marketing purposes.
- Invading social media accounts.
With a virtual private network, you can stay one step ahead of them and block access to your encrypted data, keeping your internet connection secure at all times. Doing so helps reduce cybercrime.
3. Spoof Your Location.
VPN users can select from thousands of locations across the world. But why would anybody want to spoof their location? To bypass:
- Government censorship.
We’ll talk about geo-restrictions shortly. First, I want to share a few examples of government censorship.
- The Turkish government has been known to block access to independent media outlets and social media during political unrest.
- Russia has restricted access to websites critical of the government and other topics such as LGBTQ+ issues.
- Saudi Arabia has blocked access to online content it deems blasphemous and offensive to Islamic values.
Hardly bastions of free speech.
How To Use A VPN To Circumvent Geo-Blocking.
Lots of people use a VPN to get around geo-restricted content, which is content that’s blocked based on your location (your IP address).
Well, one in four Aussies are using virtual private networks to access streaming services, movies, TV shows, games, apps, and other software.
Look, I’m not here to lecture you. You’re a grown adult, and you can make your own mind up about the risks you want to take. I’m just here to give you facts.
- Downloading and consuming pirated content is illegal.
- Using a VPN to bypass certain geo-restricted content is not illegal.
Take Netflix, for example. In Pakistan, it costs $4.50 (AUD) per month for the standard plan, whereas in Australia, it’s $16.99 per month.
The reality is that it’s price discrimination – sadly, that’s not illegal.
Here are some other streaming sites people commonly use VPNs to circumvent geo-blocks:
- Amazon Prime
- BBC iPlayer
You know what else isn’t illegal? Booking flights and hotels using a VPN. You can find international flights that are much cheaper, depending on the airline and the country of your IP address.
How to (totally legally) use a VPN to get the best flight fares.
I don’t know why I’m whispering or acting shady, because this is perfectly legal – even though it feels like it shouldn’t be.
Anyhow, if you want to access cheaper direct flights from Australia, there’s a really simple way of doing so
- Download and open your VPN.
- Connect your VPN to countries worldwide (your destination country is likely to yield cheaper results; for instance, check out Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, or Brunei).
- Check the prices and write them down in a spreadsheet.
- Clear your cookies so that the websites can’t alter the prices from your previous viewings.
- Reconnect to the city that was showing the cheapest prices.
It’s as simple as that.
VPN Services In Australia: Illegal Or Unlawful?
Breaching a contract, or violating the terms of service, is generally not considered a criminal offense. In extreme circumstances, it could give rise to a “civil” case, but not a “criminal” case.
Violating terms of service is unlawful but not illegal. Unlawful is when something is contrary to the terms of the contract. Illegal refers to when a law is broken.
Theoretically, in a civil case, if a company like Netflix proved unlawful conduct (and you were found to be bypassing geo-blocks), they’d have the right to seek remedies.
The cost of legal action in entering a civil case would vastly outweigh the remedy (to be left in the same economic position as a result of the breach).
They’ve got bigger fish to fry, and we puny subscribers are the equivalent of a tiny amoeba.
Bizarrely, you want to know what is illegal in Australia?
- It’s illegal to practise fortune-telling.
- In Queensland, taxis are required to carry a hay bale in the boot.
The Summary Offences Act of 1966 deems it illegal to be heard singing an “obscene song or ballad”, and yet people unapologetically recite Taylor Swift music in karaoke bars.
Horrendous singing is illegal; accessing geo-blocked content is unlawful.
Unless something is enshrined in Australian law in the future, you can use a VPN to access geo-restricted content.
Is there such a thing as an “Aussie tax” on multimedia?
The Productivity Commission in Australia has published a draft report and reckons the price disparity between what Australians pay and those in overseas markets is unfair.
The report found that Aussies are “frequently offered a lower level of digital service (such as a more limited music or TV streaming catalogue) at a higher price than in overseas markets.”
People turn to piracy out of frustration due to the bad pricing and poor access – piracy is illegal, of course, given that it’s an infringement of the Copyright Act.
The Productivity Commission has addressed the government and made it clear that circumventing geo-blocking technology should never be considered copyright infringement.
It also recommended the Australian government avoid entering into international agreements that ban the circumvention of geo-blocks.
Power to the people!
Countries Where It’s Illegal To Use A VPN.
Living in Australia, we have pretty liberal internet access, but censorship could soon become the norm, particularly when it concerns a controversial grey area of “hate speech”.
It could be much worse, however. VPN services are completely illegal in other countries:
- North Korea.
Russia is also reconsidering an outright ban in 2024.
Dubbed the “Great Firewall of China”, the Chinese government has banned social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and other sites deemed harmful to its political agenda.
I know it’s fun to bash Zuck, Musk, and Co., but at least we have a platform to express our views freely. Imagine being able to only view cherry-picked content. It would be like living in George Orwell’s 1984.
Government surveillance is scary.
In those countries mentioned, a VPN user caught accessing restricted websites faces fines and even imprisonment.
Frequently Asked Questions About VPN Legalities.
If you’re curious about using a VPN, here are a few frequently asked questions that will help shed some light on their usage.
Is my internet service provider okay with using a VPN?
It’s none of their business, but most don’t care (not unless you’re in Russia or China).
In Australia, internet service providers can see if you’re connected to an IP address that’s owned by a VPN provider, so they’ll be aware of it. But that’s all they’ll ever know.
Should I use free VPNs?
Free VPN providers usually make money by selling your data to third parties.
The point of a VPN is to protect your online privacy and online activity. Using free VPN service providers defeats the object.
Should I use a VPN on public wifi?
If you don’t use a VPN when using public wifi, like when you’re in the office, your internet traffic and browsing data are traceable.
If your employer is in the habit of ISP monitoring, you could land yourself in trouble if you’ve been viewing content that’s NSFW,
Final Words On Securing Your Internet Connection.
VPN usage in Australia is perfectly legal. No precedent has been set, and no individuals have been prosecuted or sued for attempting to circumvent geo-blocks – even if it’s a violation of the terms of service.
In one instance, back in 2005, Sony tried to sue a manufacturer of Playstation modification chips that allowed gamers to play geo-protected games.
Law firm Gaden Lawyers, which opposed Sony, said “Aussie gamers have to pay premiums on games which can be bought for a fraction of the price overseas.”
Is it any wonder why consumers are harnessing the power of VPNs to access restricted content?