Using VPN Services to Access Geo-Blocked US Sites Violates US Law - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

LinkBack Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes

post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-22, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: 43° N, 81.2° W
Posts: 8,186
Using VPN Services to Access Geo-Blocked US Sites Violates US Law

This is according to a recent US court ruling by a US District judge. The ruling makes it illegal to ‘knowingly circumventing one or more technological or physical measures that are designed to exclude or prevent unauthorized individuals from obtaining that information.’ That means that Canadians using VPN services to access US TV services that are blocked to Canadians are technically guilty of an offense that carries criminal charges in the US. The 1984 law, originally meant to prosecute hackers who hacked government and military computers, is now being used to prosecute people and companies who use IP masquerading to circumvent IP blocking in order to access business sites.

LINK: IP Cloaking Violates Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Judge Rules
ExDilbert is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 02:42 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 662
Question A Quantum Leap in judgement

Wow, that's a big leap! is available to Americans, but some Americans were/are blocked from streaming content due to the Time Warner vs CBS battle.

If those blocked Americans use a VPN or other trickery to stream content from the CBS website, what's CBS going to do? Threaten to sue them? Nonsense!

Canadians don't have access to without the use of a VPN or other trickery, but again, what's CBS going to do, to legally stop us? Absolutely nothing!

VPNs will have to be outlawed, the users' VPN logs will have to be accessed and then some folks can be taken to court, or at least be scared into a settlement.

When's that going to happen in North America? 2017? 2020? Never?

More likely, the majority of websites will require some sort of cable/satellite subscription key to access various content, which will make it a bit tougher for foreigners to gain access to the content.

Canadian Prisoner A: Hey babe, what are you in for?

Canadian Prisoner B: I streamed Grey's Anatomy from instead of

Canadian Prisoner A: You're a dumb blonde! Why didn't you just pay the fine?

Canadian Prisoner B: I tried to, but my husband cleaned out our joint account before I had a chance to pay.

Canadian Prisoner A: No worries, babe. I'll be your new husband. Besides, haven't you heard? Orange is the new black.


Even the article you posted notes that normal internet-surfing behaviour shouldn't be affected by this ruling:

The judge added that he believes the decision isn’t going to penalize normal internet-surfing behavior:

Nor does prohibiting people from accessing websites they have been banned from threaten to criminalize large swaths of ordinary behavior. It is uncommon to navigate contemporary life without purportedly agreeing to some cryptic private use policy governing an employer’s computers or governing access to a computer connected to the internet. In contrast, the average person does not use “anonymous proxies” to bypass an IP block set up to enforce a banning communicated via personally-addressed cease-and-desist letter.
[Masking IP address a no-no ... But who's going to sue Joe Average?]

In short, this is a decision applying only to a narrow, specific circumstance.

Hanni M. Fakhoury, staff attorney for the EFF, disagrees with the decision, "The court held that since everyone is 'authorized' to access a publicly accessible website under the CFAA, a party (here Craigslist) has to prove that this authorization was somehow revoked. In this case, the court said Craigslist's act of blocking 3Taps IP address and the cease and desist letter were enough to 'revoke' the authorization. We disagree that IP address blocking is a sufficient type of technological circumvention to prove 'access with authorization' under the CFAA since (1) its common and easy to mask your IP address; and (2) there are legitimate reasons to do so."

But could this decision affect you and your use of such IP masking technologies?

Fakhoury replied, "As to whether it would impact other technologies like Tor, etc., the decision doesn't criminalize those steps in isolation. The opinion only says that if you use one of these techniques to work around the revocation of your access, there's a CFAA claim." So, while not a correct decision, it's still rather narrow in its potential application.

Last edited by PokerFace; 2013-08-23 at 03:01 AM. Reason: CTV.CA, not .com
PokerFace is offline  
post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Gatineau and Ottawa
Posts: 11,104
Very interesting. Since some Canadian proxies are not on US soil do they convince the Canadian authorities to charge/raid them? Would the Canadian authorities issue a court order to get access to the proxy logs? I know this happens with ISPs and torrents but do the proxies even keep logs? Or is the end user not the target?

I would think the Canadian BDUs will be jumping on this shortly. They will benefit as it has the potential to restrict competitive services like US based iTunes, Netflix, Hulu etc in Canada.
Jake is offline  
post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 09:23 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,054
Netflix or iTunes should not be affected because you do not need VPN service to access them since they provide legal service in Canada , hulu plus is another story , and I guess there is a chance that someone could be charged for using that service in Canada.
bev fan is online now  
post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 09:32 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 223
I still get a kick out of that.

I realize it's not as simple as I tend to make it out, but for some reason when I imagine the Hulu Plus folks taking action, I hear Patton Oswalt's voice scream - "those people are going to extreme lengths to give us revenue when they don't have to - arrest them !!"

Last edited by 57; 2013-08-23 at 09:57 AM. Reason: UQR
thebone is offline  
post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 10:08 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,054
I don't think hulu plus cares if their services are accessed from Canada.
bev fan is online now  
post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 10:11 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Gatineau and Ottawa
Posts: 11,104
Bev my post indicated I was referring to US iTunes, Netflix etc. Not Canadian iTunes, Netflix etc.

As you know many Canadians are using proxies to access this US-only content.
Jake is offline  
post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 10:17 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 662
Exclamation VPN: The Final Frontier

Yes, Canadians use browser extensions, VPNs and other trickery to access ALL the content from various Netflix countries, which violates the Netflix terms of service. Is Netflix going to void millions of subscriptions because their users are violating its terms of service? No, but what happens if VPNs become illegal in more countries? Will Netflix Canada subscribers start cancelling their subscriptions if they can no longer access Netflix USA?

Canadians also use the American version of iTunes to access exclusive content ... we are naughty by nature!

Illegal VPN countries: Iran, North Korea and China apparently block illegal VPN ports making it more difficult to surf the Internet in those countries.

Will Australia, Canada, The UK and The USA eventually join the anti-VPN club?

Killing VPN-type services would be much worse than simsubs. Ouch.

I used to watch Star Trek: Voyager on VPN, or was that UPN?

BitTorrent is tired of being blamed for piracy and is currently looking to form new partnerships with Hollywood.
[BitTorrent Says It's 'Literally Impossible' to Illegally Download on Its Platform]
[How Long Before VPNs become Illegal?]

Since there are legal uses for BitTorrent, and many reasons to use a secure VPN, here are some recommended VPNs with security explanations that fit this topic:
[Most Secure VPNs]
[Top 10 VPNs]

Disclaimer: The above links were provided to expand your knowledge about security protocols and should not be used for illegal activities.
Katie888 likes this.
PokerFace is offline  
post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-23, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Gatineau and Ottawa
Posts: 11,104
Is Netflix going to void millions of subscriptions because their users are violating its terms of service? No
They would not void the subs they would restrict them to Netflix Canada.

Also, the government in Canada stepping in to regulate and enforce would not be a first. Anyone can see the parallel with the grey market satellite dish crackdown coming a mile away.
Jake is offline  
post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-26, 12:36 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: New Brunswick
Posts: 265
Thumbs down

Yes! Welcome to Canada where we want to legalize Marijuana so we can focus our time, effort and money on going after the evil US TV viewer! Insane logic, yet entirely possible.
woodsie is offline  
post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-08-26, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1,573
Legalise it, ridiculous that it's illegal, then everyone will be too stoned to care about us watching Netflix US/UK/etc.
brownstar is offline  
post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-09-02, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: 43° N, 81.2° W
Posts: 8,186
I don't think it's a big leap for Canadians to be prosectuted for using VPNs to access US streaming or download sites. The groundwork is already there in the new Canadian copyright act. Violating a copyright carries a $100-$500 fine for each occurrence. I doubt a judge would care if bitorrent or a VPN was used. The law doesn't care about the method, only that a Canadian copyright was violated.

As to the US law, it's not streaming sites we need to be concerned about, it's copyright holders. They are concerned about copyright violations and have taken many people to court. This case shows just just how far the US courts are willing to stretch the application of this particular statute. Extending it to cover using VPN for other purposes is not a stretch at all. All copyright owners need to do is prove that a particular user was given notice that the site or content is not available to Canadians. If that user then uses a VPN to access the site or content, the ruling applies. I'm not saying they are going to chase Canadians across the border either. It's more likely they will just file a warrant for violation of the law. Then one day, while travelling to, in or from the US a routine check will lead to an arrest. Pay the studio a big fat fine and they will let you go home. Of course, you could choose to stay and fight it in court.

Link: Protecting Your Privacy Could Make You the Bad Guy
ExDilbert is offline  
post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-09-02, 06:22 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 662
Lightbulb I stream, you stream; we all stream because we can.

It's a leap, alright. A mighty big one in fact.

But since I'm probably not going to leave Canada ever again, let's pretend that this CFAA ruling took place on Canadian soil and was part of Canadian law.

What are they going to do?

Uh, yeah, Mr. Teksavvy, we want to go through your records to see if any of your customers have been streaming Grey's Anatomy from the website. CTV owns the Canadian streaming rights, so all Canadians are expected to stream that content from Failure to do so, violates the terms of service and CTV potentially loses tens of cents in online advertising dollars. It's a copyright violation that only the dumbest Canadians can't get around. That's why we are hoping to get $155.69 in fines, from a guy going by the username of GeoCracker.

Wow. The settlements and court cases would hopefully deter other Canadians from streaming foreign content that is also available on Canadian websites, but that would be one of the silliest uses of our court system.

We're getting closer and closer to the grey market satellite dish area as far as the popularity of online streaming/downloading goes.

But you can tell we're still at the early stages of this streaming bonanza because there are still many companies in Canada and around the world that don't require cable/satellite subscriptions to access the copyrighted content on their websites.

Shaw leaves its online streaming content open to all Canadians, but Bell has a stricter approach with its limited content and limited freebies for cord-cutters or cord-shavers.

Once we get to the point where cord-cutters/shavers become greater threats to the current business model, that's when Shaw will probably become more like Bell and limit the free content.

Some copyrighted content has been purposely uploaded to torrent sites by the very companies hired to crack down on piracy, as a means to an easier payday for that content, through entrapment and intimidation; content that illegal downloaders would never have bothered to download or watch in the first place, had it not been free.

If millions of Americans were believed to be streaming Comedy Central content from Bell's Comedy Channel website, simply change the policy so that a Canadian cable/satellite subscription key is required for streaming access. Problem solved, except I don't think enough Americans would even bother visiting the Comedy Channel website in the first place, simply because it's just as easy to stream the content elsewhere from file lockers.

If the powers that be want to make VPNs illegal, fine, then institute a VPN/DNS registry, punish the companies selling VPN/DNS-type services to unregistered Canadians, and then prosecute any unregistered Canadian VPN user.

DNS-type companies and browser extensions could also be outlawed, but enforcement would also be difficult, if not impossible.

It's not enough to simply tell Canadians that they shouldn't watch or subscribe to American satellite services, thus, it's now illegal, or at least that's what I'm led to believe.

We're going to sue you for watching our free streaming content! Really? Well, if you're successful in court, that content wouldn't be free, so we'll gladly ignore it, and also say goodbye to Internet streaming.

The Entertainment Industry should get its house in order, and simply accept the fact that child-proof geo-locks are not going to be enough to curb an adult's enthusiasm for sampling free content from all over the world.

Empty threats are a waste of breath. Simply install better locks if you want to greatly reduce the unethical foreigners from streaming your precious content.

The ball should be in your court, NOT MINE!

I'm out of order? No, you're out of order!!!
PokerFace is offline  
post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-09-02, 10:44 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: 43° N, 81.2° W
Posts: 8,186
I tend to agree but I guess you haven't been following the case of a small studio that is suing thousands of people for downloading their movies with bitorrent. It's a cash grab by the studio but it's happening anyway. It's a small leap for the studio to extend the cash grab to users of VPNs for streaming. In the US, criminal actions often precede civil actions. One successful test case is all that will be required for studios to launch thousands of law suits. I agree that the legal system itself is not interested in prosecuting users of VPNs but copyright owners have a well established history of pressuring governments to allow criminal and civil proscecution against individuals and small companies. They don't care if the courts get clogged with trivial cases. They just want everyone to pay up.
ExDilbert is offline  
post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 2013-09-02, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,054
I do not think that studios sue people just to make money , they do it to deter illegal downloads that cost them millions of dollars every year.
bev fan is online now  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome