Bypassing Proxies: Is It Legal?
What can you do when you log onto a U.S. based website to watch your favourite TV programme, only to find the site is blocked to IP addresses in the UK? Tech savvy users know that they can turn to a proxy server or a virtual private network (VPN). These services allow you to circumvent web filters that block users based on geographical location. With just a few clicks, you get instant access to your favourite U.S. TV shows.
There are many webpages dedicated to showing web surfers how to utilise proxies and VPNs, but far fewer that discuss the legal implications associated with them. Before you start proxy bypassing, educate yourself about the difference between legal and illegal proxy activity.
Are Proxies Legal?
By strict definition, it is legal to use proxies to stream online content from outside the U.S. In fact, proxies have been traditionally used to protect internet users and networks from hackers, malicious programmes, and other suspicious activity. According to ISP Preview, proxies are also used to enable remote work and support from users located outside a given network.
When you use a proxy server to gain access to content based in the United States, the server simply acts as if you are requesting to stream the content from inside the country, thus granting you access. The content is free to users living inside the country, so why shouldn’t you be able to access it? Well, there’s been a great deal of debate over whether or not this type of activity is deceitful or illicit. An article published last year in The Australian may have the answer: they conducted an investigation about the subject of entertainment piracy and quoted Attorney-General Robert McClelland as saying that using proxies and VPNs to access content on sites such as Hulu and Netflix “does not appear to be an infringement of copyright law.”
When Are Proxies Illegal?
That said, there are some circumstances in which using proxies and VPNs are illegal. For example, some websites stream content that is only available to U.S. audiences who pay license fees to access it. In this case, the use of a proxy or VPN to access the content would be illegal, since you have not paid the license fee required to watch the programme. Before you use a proxy or VPN to stream content that has been blocked in your geographical location, closely read the website’s terms and conditions. Major VPN solution services like USA Proxy Server and HideMyAss strongly recommend that you check and comply with the third party website’s terms and conditions before use. Breaking these terms and conditions may or may not lead the third party company (aka the one you’re streaming from) to take legal action against you.
The bottom line is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, contact a legal expert. Irwin Mitchell, one of the UK’s top law firms, can offer a wide range of legal help and advice about proxy bypassing and piracy on the internet.
About the Guest Author:
Rhian Farnworth is a freelance writer based in London, UK. She enjoys exploring and writing about societal issues and current affairs, as well as Digital Media, Tech, travelling and going to gigs. You can follow her on Twitter @Digital1love