You may have heard about how some people have gotten into trouble for downloading illegal copies of movies and TV shows. This happened because, while they were doing it, their internet address was visible to the copyright holders, who then took action. Essentially, it is like someone going in to rob a bank without covering their face: they’re pretty easy to identify as a result.
However, just as a bank robber can always put a ski mask on, internet users interested in stealing content have a way of disguising themselves. VPNs (or Video Private Networks) are a subscription service that allows users to hide their internet address by offering alternatives, some even in other countries. Thus, let’s say you are in Buffalo, New York and download an episode of GAME OF THRONES. If you are using a VPN at the time, the copyright police acting on HBO’s behalf might actually see an address leading them to Oslo, Norway, Toronto, Ontario, London, England…essentially anywhere but Buffalo.
Subscribers also have the option of choosing the country for their address. Ever try to watch a clip from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE only to receive a notice saying that it is not available in your country? No problem, just switch your VPN to an American internet address and you will be enjoying Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonation in no time.
In addition to angering copyright holders, VPNs are thorns in the side of authoritarian countries like China and Russia. Both of those nations have a large list of internet sites they do not want their citizens to see, so people there have been using a VPN to access them. However, that is no longer possible in China and will become illegal in Russia on November 1st.
Have you ever used a VPN to access content? What is your take? Is this a freedom that all internet users should have? Let us know in the comments!