Even the arrival of a local version of streaming heavyweight Netflix may not be enough to stop consumers using technology that allows them to access the international versions of these platforms, says Nicholas Hall, an associate at law firm Michalsons.
“In a lot of jurisdictions where Netflix is available, consumers are still using [virtual private networks] and other methods to get access to the service’s United States content because the regional offering is not deemed as good by viewers,” Hall said.
But using technology to get around Netflix’s geo-blocking is not legal, he said. Geo-blocking is used to restrict the content a user can access based on their geographical location.
Bypassing geo-blocking breaches Netflix’s terms of service, he said. It is also potentially a criminal offence under the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
The Act lists a number of cybercrimes, including bypassing security measures meant to protect information.
Using software to divert geo-blocking, which is arguably a security measure, could be viewed as a civil crime, Hall said. This has not been tested in South Africa’s courts, however.
Although many South Africans pay Netflix for the content, this can still be deemed copyright infringement, argued Hall. He said when a studio licences content to the likes of Netflix, part of the agreement covers the regions in which the material can be released.
Consuming such material in another region without authorisation from the licence-holder may infringe on copyright.
This article originally appeared on Mail & Guardian and is republished with permission.