Are VPNs encouraging illegal activity?


Recommended Posts

So I'm just copying over some things in Discord because I'm actually really interested in this discussion long-term and feel like there's some critical thinking to be done.

Every time I see anyone online being paid to promote a VPN by mentioning region-locked content I really have to wonder at the legality of it all. What if you use it to watch Netflix shows that are exclusive to other countries? That's ok, I guess... What if you use it to circumnavigate some virtual brick walls made by the US government because the content infringes copyrights or something? That one makes me a lot more uncomfortable. 

Using a VPN for better online security sounds like a pretty great thing as opposed to some overpriced anti-malware, but my whole perspective gets twisted negatively when I see the company actually sponsor people to say "hey you can use it to see things that the government here doesn't want you to see, like tik-tok!". This seems like something that should be obviously illegal or punishable, but it's not like I think all VPNs should be disabled because the one using it to see blocked content is the one legally responsible for their actions. But when they are plastering the potential ability to break the law all over their ads and sponsorships I can't help but wonder where that falls on the moral spectrum.

I've never used a VPN (mostly due to current living budget) so my perspective is very limited here. I'd love to hear from other people, whether you've used one or not, and see what you think about this topic.

  • Should it be illegal to use a VPN to watch region-locked content?
  • Should it be illegal to use a VPN to watch content that violates your countries' copyright laws?
  • Should a VPN company be held liable for making it seem like it's okay to do if it isn't?
  • Is it even possible to know if someone is viewing "blocked content" on a device if they're using a VPN?
  • Do VPNs create an interception point between the user and organizations like the NSA?
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not really going to get into the legalities of VPN use, since that's not really my area of expertise, and in any case I tend to veer hard towards "lawful good" IRL lol.

That said, I would like to offer a word of caution to anyone using VPNs. 

If you are using a "free" VPN, then you are the product that the VPN company is selling.  

If you are not comfortable with that idea, then I strongly suggest paying for a VPN service through a reputable provider.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I will echo Angelix, in that any service you do not pay for, you are the product.

 

Upon another tact, as an anarchist, the primary way to be an anarchist is to act as if you are already free, given that, I use TOR to hide my activity from as many sources as I can in which I personally would be known, (governments, companies, etc.) then a paid VPN to access region locked content and I do not care for the legality of it. 

 

As well, anything that deprives the NSA of information is pretty damn good (outside of additional context) in my book. Even if it is tyrannical government, then they will at least be neutral evil, as they are equally evil as the NSA,

Edited by MadCast: majorhoward
Link to post
Share on other sites

On 10/20/2020 at 12:20 PM, MadCast: Kitty Stark said:

So I'm just copying over some things in Discord because I'm actually really interested in this discussion long-term and feel like there's some critical thinking to be done.

Every time I see anyone online being paid to promote a VPN by mentioning region-locked content I really have to wonder at the legality of it all. What if you use it to watch Netflix shows that are exclusive to other countries? That's ok, I guess... What if you use it to circumnavigate some virtual brick walls made by the US government because the content infringes copyrights or something? That one makes me a lot more uncomfortable. 

Using a VPN for better online security sounds like a pretty great thing as opposed to some overpriced anti-malware, but my whole perspective gets twisted negatively when I see the company actually sponsor people to say "hey you can use it to see things that the government here doesn't want you to see, like tik-tok!". This seems like something that should be obviously illegal or punishable, but it's not like I think all VPNs should be disabled because the one using it to see blocked content is the one legally responsible for their actions. But when they are plastering the potential ability to break the law all over their ads and sponsorships I can't help but wonder where that falls on the moral spectrum.

I've never used a VPN (mostly due to current living budget) so my perspective is very limited here. I'd love to hear from other people, whether you've used one or not, and see what you think about this topic.

  • Should it be illegal to use a VPN to watch region-locked content?
  • Should it be illegal to use a VPN to watch content that violates your countries' copyright laws?
  • Should a VPN company be held liable for making it seem like it's okay to do if it isn't?
  • Is it even possible to know if someone is viewing "blocked content" on a device if they're using a VPN?
  • Do VPNs create an interception point between the user and organizations like the NSA?

First off, morality and legality... while not completely different, they are far from the same. Their venn-diagrams would overlap slightly and namely because many times legality is derived from an authority figure using their morality to provide the basis for what becomes a law. That is an entirely different conversation though... There's quite a bit going on in US politics at the moment that really exhibits this right now, but as that's a recognized touchy space we shall leave it be at the moment.

 

On to your bulleted questions - my responses:

1) Yes - if content is region locked it should be illegal to watch it without appropriately acquiring it. There are two aspects to this. First, is it simply not provided by the source in your area? Second, is it provided to your area but banned, outlawed, or some other form of restricted there? My answer is primarily a firm yes it's illegal in the case of the second instance here as your local, regional/state, or federal governing entity has deemed it so. In the first instance, the act of ingesting the content is generally legal but the method of acquiring it would be illegal. It's a form of piracy at the end of the day.

2) Simply, yes. My rationale is above.

3) This depends. If the company has a super small font post in the ad or in the terms you agree to upon installing the software that removes that liability, they're going to be in the clear. 

4) Short answer, yes.

5) Short answer, yes... but unlikely. Remember that you're using a service you don't control to create a virtual tunnel from point A to point B while making it look like you're connecting from point C. Ultimately you're placing your trust in that software to make said connection and there's nothing that stops them from routing that through a tertiary location along the way. I say this is unlikely because it takes work to establish those connections and unless they're benefiting from doing so, why waste the effort?

 

Edit: For what it's worth, it's worth noting that countries like China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and some others have banned or made it illegal for their residents to use VPNs. On a side note, I use a VPN on a regular basis for work.

Edited by MadCast: Lurama
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.