Kiwi ISP Offers Service To Get Around Geoblocking As A Standard Feature

from the good-idea dept

One of the most idiotic aspects of the internet these days is geoblocking — the practice of certain websites only being available in certain countries. Nothing seems to get internet users angrier than going to any particular piece of content online, knowing it exists on an easily accessible server… and being told “screw you, because of the patch of dirt you happen to physically be sitting on at this moment, you can’t see this content.” The standard way around these things has been to use proxies or various VPN services that allow you to route your traffic through other countries. However, an ISP in New Zealand (a country frequently beset by “not available in your territory”-type messages) has decided to add a geoblocking-workaround service as a standard feature for all its users. The ISP, Slingshot, has a pretty straightforward explanation for its new “Global Mode” offering:

Ever tried to go to a website, only to be told you can’t see it because you live in New Zealand? We think that’s bizarre, and it’s why we have introduced Global Mode.

Global Mode is a brilliant service that lets you visit a range sites that are normally blocked to people from New Zealand. And it’s free for Slingshot broadband customers.

We think it’s pretty awesome – and lets you surf and view the sites that you want to see.

And, of course, this means that folks in New Zealand using Slingshot can get easy access to things like Netflix and Hulu, which were previously geoblocked. It will be interesting to see how the various content providers respond to this move. So far, the only stated response is that some believe that better licensing in those countries will win the day, but that seems unlikely.

Here’s a prediction: if this becomes more common (and other ISPs are apparently paying close attention), expect to see this issue pop up in various trade agreement talks like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. Content providers will probably seek to insert some ridiculous clause equating getting around geoblocking to getting around DRM, and make it defacto infringement.

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Companies: slingshot

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Comments on “Kiwi ISP Offers Service To Get Around Geoblocking As A Standard Feature”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Wishful thinking

“…expect to see this issue pop up in various trade agreement talks like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP.”

Sad, but true. On the bright side, if our technology development can move fast enough, content providers will have to keep discussing new changes and never be able to get those documents live!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Wishful thinking

SoftEther VPN lets you run a VPN from your home computer, and this is what will make enforcement of any laws banning VPN all but impossible.

I run a VPNGates-listed VPN from my computer in my apartment, in the US. Now, some think that Australian copyright legislation, yet to be introduced, may outlaw VPNs in Australia.

My VPN server, in my apartment, in the United States, IS NOT SUBJECT to Australian law. So even if sdomeone accesses my VPN, I am not subject to Australian law, because my VPN sever is in my apartment in America. That makes the server ONLY subject to United States law, and Australian laws would not apply to my VPN server in the U.S.

This is why Iran cannot enforce its anti-VPN laws. Even though I see a lot of connections from Iran, into my server, my server is not subject to Iranian laws, because it is in the United States. That makes me not subject to prosecution in Iran, Oman, or Pakistan, the three countries that have already specifically banned or restricted VPN usage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Wishful thinking

My VPN server, in my apartment, in the United States, IS NOT SUBJECT to Australian law. So even if sdomeone accesses my VPN, I am not subject to Australian law, because my VPN sever is in my apartment in America. That makes the server ONLY subject to United States law, and Australian laws would not apply to my VPN server in the U.S.

Considering you have just insulted all KIWIs by referring to the wrong jurisdiction, and the US owes them a favor for the arrest of a certain Kim Dotcom, you may not be as safe as you think you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Wishful thinking

I am not breaking any U.S. laws. And my proxy/VPN combo is designed for for allowing people to bypass filtering at work to get internet radio at work. I see nothing wrong with internet radio at work, as long as your work is getting done.

I do block certain categories of content that would be imappropraite for the office, specifically gambling, porn, warez, and P2P file shating, but that is all I filter.

While circumventing office firewalls is a criminal offence in Canada and Britain, I do not worry. As my server is in the United States,I am not subject to prosecution in Canada or Britain if someone uses my VPN or proxy to get past office firewalls to, say, watch world cup.

The purpose of my VPN/proxy is to circumvent office firewalls, which is not currently a criminal offence in the U.S. I am not violating any U.S. law, so I cannot be prosecuted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Wishful thinking

Howver, programs like KillDisk, would keep such evidence from being recovered, if used regularly on my hard disk.

I use either KillDisk or Evidence Eliminator whenever I buy a new computer or hard disk, so anything on there that could land me in jail I don’t know about on the new computer or new hard disk is totally wiped and cannt be recovered by even the best police forensic software. It is also a good idea to periodically do a “Factory Data Reset” on your Android phone to wipe the phone, so that if it is ever seized by police, anything that might be used as evidence against you, is wiped and cannot be recovred.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Already covered?

Only if you make money. This is why USERS could not be prosecuted under DMCA, while the PROVIDERS can.

In order for it to be a criminal offence under DMCA, it must be for “commercial or private financial gain”, meaning you have to be MAKING MONEY from it to be committing a criminal offence.

That is why, for example, why someone who downloads a “crack” from the many crackz sites would not be committing a crime for personal use of a work they legally purchased, but the operators of the site could be prosecuted because they are making money off the ads, at least from users not using AdBlock, or some software to block ads, and I would expect TPP to possible ban AdBlock. Since the user who downloads is not making money, they are not committing a criminal offence.

So, users of these anti-geoblock services are not committing a crime under DMCA, while providers are, though I would expect TPP to change that.

jameshogg says:

Excellent. Now when activists from authoritarian countries try to access democratic VPNs to hide their activity, they will be restricted even further, because VPNs may be pressured out of business.

And people say that copyright supports the oppressed. Give me a break. Anyone who allies with, say, the Iranian mullahs when they go after the circulation of pirated literature (e.g. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books) and then have the nerve to say piracy is allied with dictatorship/terrorists is deluded at best.

Dictators are the first kind of people to go after VPNs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

We can also blame Hulu because it makes a point of blocking “known” VPN end-points (like those that belong to Witopia, for example) because they can’t guarantee that the user is actually in the US. Netflix does not (yet?) do that.

The issue of using VPNs to access Netflix has been a recurring complaint from media companies in Australia, who license US content and then find out that Australians have more convenient (and significantly cheaper) ways to access that content than premium cable channels.

In an interesting twist, last year a consumer affairs TV show by the state broadcaster taught people how to create a US-based iTunes account in order to be able to buy content that is not available in the Australian store (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVBtgsS41lk ).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What the Australian cosumer affairs show did is not unlike I did ten years ago go get MP3s for about 56 cents each, by buying them from Puretracks. While VPNs were not common yet, proxy servers were, and all I had to do was find a working Canadian proxy from the lists. For a long time their credit card processor did not bother to limit sales to Canadian addresses, so I could punch in my US credit card, and it let me buy and download tunes for about 56 cents each, at the exchange rate of the time.

I was breaking no laws at time by buying and downloading songs from PureTracks, being they were the only music store, for a long time, that sold songs in MP3 format, and for less money than the DRM-protected songs sold, at the time, to US consumers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There are very extreme rightshandling issues. Different country, different rightholders/organisations. That system is antiquated, inefficient and completely isane, but untill it changes, the problem is not as much Netflix and Hulu as much as the geospecific right negotiations in the countries.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

” from Netflix who does not want to pay for worldwide rights”

Why do you have to base everything you say on an idiotic lie?

“(when they don’t really want to service all areas)”

Citation needed, for a company that’s expanding into new territories all the time (when rightholders allow them to, of course).

“the legal systems of individual countries who have requirements for opening a business and movie / music distribution”

So, you admit that even if Netflix did pay the money you said they should, it still wouldn’t be allowed to distribute legally?

FFS, you can’t even keep your idiotic drivel logically consistent within a single run-on sentence, let alone base it on objective reality!

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I honestly am starting to think you are either an idiot or a troll. Certainly you don’t have any international business experience.

Netflix doesn’t want to pay worldwide rights when they are not servicing worldwide. Those rights would be very expensive, that is for sure, and they wouldn’t be able to do very much with them at this point, for a bunch of reasons.

So, you admit that even if Netflix did pay the money you said they should, it still wouldn’t be allowed to distribute legally?

Part and parcel of buying those rights would be figuring out how to use them legally. If a government of a given country requires a partnership, or requires a local rating system be used, or requires subtitles or local language substitution, the actual rights in and of themselves would mean very little.

it’s also a question of getting processing to actually get paid for the services. From actual processing (Visa, Mastercard, local cards, etc) to requirements to collect and remit local taxes, it’s a big job.

So, FFS, pay attention. Understand that rights in and of themselves to not overrule the laws of various countries. it doesn’t mean that they can just off up the content without consideration for the markets they are serviing, or the laws in those markets.

Quite simple: NEXTFLIX DOES NOT WANT WORLDWIDE DISTRIBUTION RIGHTS… at least not now. Perhaps in the future they will want to do it, but with all of the complexity that exists, it’s much more likely that they negotiate one country or region at a time based on their ability to do business in those markets. They don’t want to pay for rights they aren’t going to use.

Now, can you just admit you are wrong, and take back your nasty ad hom attacks?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Netflix doesn’t want to pay worldwide rights when they are not servicing worldwide.”

Because they don’t exist for many titles? Who exactly do they agree the rights with, considering that the distribution of many movies is achieved by selling off the rights to different countries? FFS, Netflix can’t even get the same titles on their own service for each of the countries they DO have the rights to due to the different distributors across the world!

Can you cite something to back your opinion, because I can certainly quote numerous streaming and digital companies stating that the most difficult part of their job has been to licence in each individual country?

A great example would be the recent Nightbreed re-release announced in the US by Shout Factory. They not only announced that only a limited number were allowed to be produced under their agreement with WB for this release, but European competitors have confirmed that no EU release will be forthcoming because the rights are a legal nightmare.

That’s for one frigging title – where does Netflix get the mythical “worldwide rights” from?

Stop pulling fictional tales out of your ass and start proving your lies… if you can. you’re making claims – prove them.

“Now, can you just admit you are wrong, and take back your nasty ad hom attacks?”

When you stop acting like a lying moron, I will cease calling you one. Your turn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Geoblocking is great WHEN USED PROPERLY

Which it usually isn’t.

Geoblocking is an incredibly useful security measure is correctly deployed. For example: you run a server farm in France. All your engineers live in France. Do you need to allow remote ssh sessions from Peru, vietnam or Canada? No. You do not. And you should not because doing so can only result in negative outcomes for you and positive outcomes for bad guys. So, you use geoblocking to deny all inbound traffic to port 22 unless it originates from an IP address assigned to France.

This is obviously a very simple example and real-world implementations get considerably more complex. (I know: I’ve been doing this for over a decade.) But the point is that it’s incredibly useful when used correctly, and “blocking content just because you can” does not fall into that category.

Surly says:

Cool to see an article mentioning New Zealand! I’m unsure of the technology behind Slingshot’s geoblocking circumvention, and whether it involves a VPN.

There was a major scandal here a few years ago where the GCSB (our equivalent of the GCHQ) was intercepting communications without a warrant. Shortly thereafter, a bill was urgently passed into law, called the TICS (Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security)) Bill.

Interestingly, according to TechLiberty, this new bill could provide the New Zealand Government with the means to ban VPNs that do not provide full, unencrypted interception capabilities to the GCSB. Link: http://techliberty.org.nz/govt-proposes-gcsb-control-over-nz-communications-in-new-tics-bill/

“The Bill specifies that the law applies to companies whether based in New Zealand or overseas. It then goes on to give the Minister the power to ban the resale of an off-shore telecommunications service in New Zealand if it does not provide interception capabilities. This could stop the resale of foreign-hosted VPNs, instant message services, email, etc.”

So if I had to make a prediction, I’d guess this service is going to have a pretty short life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

However, “under the radar” VPNs, like mine, would never be detected under the NZ goverment. And just like with Iran, enforcement would be all but impossible, given the large amount of connections I see on my VPN, at times, from Iran, despite VPNs being illegal there.

Like I said, if the Iranians cannot detect under-the-radar VPNs, like mine, then nobody can.

Anonymous Coward says:

One reason why I fly under the radar of Iran’s VPN ban is because of the way I have the SoftEther VPN server set up on my machine.

I list myself on the VPNGates/Softether project for a few hours while people can download configuration files with the data for my VPN.

However, when I de-list myself, people with the configuration files can still get on, because I have “virtual hub” that is configured the exact way the VPN gates hub is when turned on, so people with the configuration file can still access my VPN, even though I am not on the list. This lets me stay under the radar of any blocking or monitoring list, so they escape detection by the Iranian government.

This is why possible VPN bans in Australia and NZ, even without TPP, will never work. They can use “under the radar” VPN services, such as mine, and their activities will never be detected.

If you want to run an under-the-radar VPN server using SoftEther, just create a virtual hub that is configured exactly the same way the VPNGates hub is configured, turn on listing for a few hours, and then de-list yourself. You will find that people will still be connecting to your server, becuase, the data will still be in the most recent configuration files. A clever way, if I may say to, to have an “under the radar” VPN that governments, like Iran,that ban VPNs, will never detect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Graduated response

I’m just wondering how this service may affect enforcement of New Zealand’s graduated response policy.

If the copyright holders only send notices to IP addresses clearly geolocated in the NZ, anyone using the unblocking service will get filtered out unless the graduated response regime is extended to foreign IP addresses belonging to NZ corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Graduated response

Yes, but what I am thinking of is a local NZ citizen using Slingshot’s unblocking service to get an American IP address.

He is still physically within NZ’s jurisdiction but when using the unblocking service shows up as coming from the US.

What does it mean for NZ’s own graduated response?

Is Slingshot just offering a proxy or vpn and calling it something fancy to impress the clueless – those who don’t iknow vpns?

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