Could it be a Crime to Watch US TV with a VPN in New Zealand

Content restrictions based on geo-location is probably one of the most frustrating things for any multimedia lover out there. Since this issue is so widespread, many workarounds have been found – some of which are as simple as pressing a single button, the VPN system provided by IPVanish is a great example. Despite it being very easy to fake your location for the sake of better TV, the verdict is still out on whether or not it’s actually legal.

In fact, legislature related to bypassing geo-restriction via a VPN varies from country to country. In Australia, for example, the prime minister has made it clear that using a VPN to bypass such restrictions is in no way a violation of Australian law, which may not be the case under other jurisdictions.

Australian VPN

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s website.

The New Zealand government hasn’t decided on the legality of the matter, or at the very least hasn’t made their stance clear to the public. A couple of days ago, a New Zealand politician, Tim Groser, attempted to clarify the situation, unfortunately to no avail.

Groser released a number of documents which stated that the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) will require stronger technological protection measures (TPMs) to be implemented in New Zealand. In essence, TPMs are “digital locks” that restrict access to copyright materials to those that don’t have the copyright holder’s explicit consent. Now, this is where many New Zealand Internet users have become concerned about their future browsing habits.

Kiwis enjoy the fruits of VPN services

Currently, it’s estimated that tens of thousands of New Zealanders are using third party services to fake their geo-location to gain access to the US version of Netflix. The most common method of doing this is via a VPN. In this case, the use of a VPN is a way to circumvent the TPMs in place, and under the TPPA users may be subject to legal action in the future.

That being said, the TPPA will grant the government the ability to make exceptions under the TPM clause for activities that are currently deemed “legitimate” in New Zealand. For example, it’s perfectly fine to circumvent TPMs on DVDs purchased on the other side of the pond, but it’s unclear whether or not the use of VPNs will be allowed as a means to stream overseas television – legal experts currently consider this a “grey area.”

A lot of other things remain unclear as this news comes to light. For starters, it’s not yet known what the government considers an “exception” to the TPPA; and the verdict is still out on whether or not the TPPA will criminalize the use of VPNs entirely.

For now, online streaming platforms are being encouraged to take some preventative measures of their own. Sky TV New Zealand has been asking World Rugby to shut down ViewTVabroad, an online service that offers their users VPN access to live coverage that was supposed to be available only to ITV viewers in the UK. Unfortunately for Sky TV, World Rugby has been unsuccessful in the endeavour, and the service (although slightly re-branded) remains fully operational.

Another streaming giant, Netflix, has said that they plan on increasing the price of their primary US streaming service by a dollar, bringing the monthly total to US$9.99, or about NZ$16.65. In theory, this price point will discourage New Zealanders from streaming TPM subjected content, considering the local version of Netflix runs 40 percent cheaper at NZ$9.99.

Image courtesy of domdeen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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