New Zealand ISP Slingshot is letting customers hide their location so they can access overseas online services that would normally be restricted to specific markets.
Slingshot markets the “Global Mode” service as one that allows visitors to New Zealand to access the same online services that they would at home.
But there’s nothing to prevent local Kiwi customers using the service to bypass so called “geo-coding” that is used to prevent customers in certain countries having access to services based on their IP address.
Overseas services blocked to Australian users include online movie service Netflix and video service Hulu, both based in the US.
Other companies, such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, charge different prices for services like music downloads based on a customer’s location.
Video-based services such as Netflix and Hulu are often restricted to US audiences due to copyright demands imposed by the owners of TV shows and movies.
But with users in other countries often forced to wait weeks or months to watch US shows without resorting to illegal downloads, services such as Slingshot’s could catch on in other markets.
Chief of the Telecommunications Users Association of NZ, Paul Brislen, told The Wall Street Journal that moves such as Slingshot’s helped put New Zealand on an equal footing with other markets.
“It’s the World Wide Web in name only,” The WSJ reported him as saying,
“It’s really the US-wide web and then a whole bunch of other places, and unfortunately we are the other places and they don’t see the need to provide us with the same content.”
Australian consumer advocate Choice reported in May that Australians pay an average of 50 per cent more for PC games, 34 per cent more for software and 52 per cent more for music bought from Apple’s iTunes than American customers are charged.
Choice says that the legal status of bypassing geo-blocking measures is unclear. While unlikely to be illegal, bypassing restrictions may breach the terms and conditions of the service being offered, which may result in accounts being closed, credit forfeited or other sanctions.
Kiwis have a history of chafing at copyright rules in the online world. Founder of file sharing site Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, is fighting extradition to the US on copyright and money laundering charges after his site was shut down in early 2012.
Police raided his home in January. Dotcom has accused New Zealand Prime Minister John Key of collaborating with Hollywood movie studios in the extradition case.
But Dotcom has not been put off offering online services similar to Megaupload, with his new service Mega offering encrypted file sharing.