VPN Is Legal in Australia as Long as You Are Just Streaming

By @AtanuShaw on
vpn legal in australia
VPN to access overseas content https://pixabay.com/photo-2714263/

VPN subscription has reached new heights in Australia in the last couple of years. According to a CNet article, around 16% of Aussies use VPN, with the maximum of users within the 18 to 34 age bracket.

According to experts, privacy concerns are one of the most important driving forces behind the heightened rate of VPN subscriptions in the country. With the recent metadata retention law (which highlights increased surveillance on customers’ data) coming to effect, VPN usage is expected to become more relevant for Australians. Virtual Private Network enables an online user to maintain complete anonymity while accessing contents over the web, including geo-restricted resources.

Such a situation once again gives rise to the much-debated question: “Is Virtual Private Network legal in Australia?” In one word, “Yes.” It is NOT illegal to use VPN for geo-restricted content or for safeguarding anonymity in the web.

Here is a brief from the Australian Prime Minister’s official website regarding the copyright law:

“The Copyright Act does not make it illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content. While content providers often have in place international commercial arrangements to protect copyright in different countries or regions, which can result in ‘geoblocking’, circumventing this is not illegal under the Copyright Act.”

Put simply, there is no law at present that legally prohibits national citizens from using VPNs. Moreover, it’s not deemed illegal in the country to access geo-restricted content of foreign countries. Thus, nobody has to worry about legal penalties for accessing restricted online foreign content or for protecting one's online privacy through VPN.

However, one should keep in mind that the “green light” for VPN usage in Australia is only limited to content “streaming.” The moment a user downloads or copies restricted content through VPN, they are violating the Australian copyright law through the VPN subscription. Such cases would summon legal penalties outright.

The new metadata retention law has made it official for ISPs and telecommunication companies to gather and retain “metadata” regarding the customers’ communications for two years. The term “metadata” here includes personal, contact and identifying information, location information, communication mode, text messages and details of internet connection.

Moreover, the data can be accessed by government departments whenever they want; that, too, without warrant. A wide range of government departments have received the power to access the metadata retained by ISPs and telecommunication agencies in the country. It reportedly signifies increased surveillance, which poses a serious threat to privacy.

The only and most effective way to protect one’s privacy online despite the new law is through VPN subscription. VPN will prevent all communication details and hide browsing history records from the ISPs.

However, not all VPN service providers can be trusted. There have been reports of unethical VPN providers selling customers’ data for vested interests. One has to be extremely careful while subscribing with a VPN company.

Leading consumer protection organization EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia) has laid down a number of important guidelines to follow while choosing a VPN subscriber. One of the most crucial factors to check is the duration of data retained by a VPN service provider. A VPN company will always store customer data to troubleshoot network problems, if any. Now, an ethical company would delete the data within a few hours to avoid getting accessed by third-party entities. But it's considered a red flag if a company stores data for more than two to three days.