Will geoblocking become a thing of the past?

The Productivity Commission has called for protections on geoblock dodging in Australia, potentially opening up new avenues for legal content access.

The newest season of Game of Thrones has aired, and viewers around the world are waiting to learn what lies in store for their favourite people in the fantasy epic. While the fate of characters like Jon Snow and Sansa Stark hang in the balance, so does the fate of geoblocking in Australia.

Recommendations by the Productivity Commission in its draft report on intellectual property law in Australia make the case against blocking access to content based on location. Should the government follow these recommendations, it will have massive ramifications for Australians looking to access copyrighted content.

Dodging geoblocking Down Under

With a history of record-breaking piracy rates, Game of Thrones has a strong demand in Australia. While viewers can watch the show as it airs on Foxtel, many others have turned to streaming the show on HBO Go. As that service is only available in the United States, Australians have to rely on methods that make it appear as though they are located in the US – such as virtual private networks (VPN) or IP maskers.

Nearly 40 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 54 have used a VPN.

While using these tools to circumvent geoblocking may be an infringement of IP law, according to the Australian Copyright Council, that hasn't stopped a number of Aussies. An Essential Report on internet privacy found that 39 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 54 have used a VPN or similar tools.

Will Australia stand against geoblocking?

Finding a way around geoblocks may receive the green light from the government, however, as the Productivity Commission recommends that it should be protected. The commission noted that geoblocking harms Australian consumers – leaving them paying more for delayed or inferior services than their overseas peers.

The commission laid out a recommendation that the government should protect the rights of Australian consumers by not agreeing to international agreements that restrict the ability to go around geoblocks.

Additionally, it urged the government to affirm the right to access geographically restricted content by amending the Copyright Act 1968 – clarifying that dodging geoblockers is not a violation of copyright.

Internet Australia commended the Productivity Commission's suggestions, noting that geoblocking is ineffective at deterring copyright violations.

"We maintain that it is time to accept the pointlessness of current strategies to deal with unlawful downloading of video and audio content. We commend the Productivity Commission on its very sensible recommendation to dump geoblocking," said CEO Laurie Patton.

The implications of these recommendations, should they be implemented, are enormous. For more information about how copyright law affects access to media in Australia, contact Alder IP today.