BBC tells Australian govt to treat VPN users as pirates

Back in the 1990s, VPNs were still research tech and part of the crypto rights civil liberties movement and a cypherpunky thing to work on.

By the early 2000s, VPNs were a tool I used to telecommute to work. Now that it’s the mid-2010s, my phone has several different flavors of VPNs that it uses for different applications, as well as my laptop having them.

If the Beeb wants to start calling VPN users “pirates”, then a couple of large US phone companies are going to start saying things about “Yarr!” at them**, plus we’re going to have to bill them for the petrol our UK and European workers will need to use to start commuting to our US HQ offices.

** (That’s my personal opinion, not the official corporate position of my employers at $DAYJOB)


I found the actual doc (doc download) that they sent to the Aussie Gov’t. They are so incredibly unhelpful. According to them:

It is reasonable for ISPs to be placed under an obligation to identify user behaviour that is ‘suspicious’ and indicative of a user engaging in conduct that infringes copyright. Such behaviour may include the illegitimate use by internet users of IP obfuscation tools in combination with high download volumes. The determination of what an ‘illegitimate’ use of such tools is, and the threshold of what would be considered a ‘high’ download volume over a period of time, would need to take into account legitimate explanations in order to avoid false positives and to safeguard the fundamental rights of consumers — such matters would be open to further industry discussion and agreement.

No, that won’t prove to be a problem at all. Gads.

This is what they had to say about other ways to handle the issue.

Other Approaches

9 . Are there alternative measures to reduce online copyright infringement that may be more effective?

Yes, alternate measures do exist, however BBC Worldwide is of the view that the measures proposed by the Government strike a balance between ISPs and rights holders. Any alternative measures would be supplementary to the proposed new regime. At a high level, BBC Worldwide considers it important to provide for a toolkit of enforcement measures, to effectively tackle the different types of online copyright infringement.

They just really, really want some people paying fines.

I have often said the the BBC is one of the worst examples of a company that engenders piracy. They do it in so many ways, and then they whine about it happening over and over again - even though people tell them they’re the ones who need to change.

They really don’t want to change, and I think part of that is what it could mean for the TV License. After all, if British viewers got their media at the same time as international viewers, they’d be losing one of the “home team” benefits. I believe (and have for some time) that their “eek! a pirate!” behavior is all about them trying to capitalize on the international market without losing any funding from home.


Avast! I be required by me employer to use a VPN to work from home, me hearties!


Oooh, sounds like someone who should be paying their ISP for a ‘business’ line.

It’s almost certainly worse than myopia: for every person who simply doesn’t understand the potential, there’s a better paid one who is willing to wait for somebody to develop the potential for them, and then slice it, dice it, and charge extra for it.

Because of the utility of VPNs, including data-heavy ones, I’d be virtually certain that there will be internet connections available where such traffic will be treated with courtesy and an SLA. They…just won’t be the cheap ones. However, everyone loves a little market segmentation, and ‘legitimate’ VPN users are clearly catered to, so what could possibly be wrong, the oh-so-smarmy defenders of the idea will ask…

but you are probably not slurping up gigabuts of data per day.

Fuck the BBC full stop. Their craven toadying to Cameron and his pals has killed off any last respect I had for them.


Any mentions of consumer rights in there?

This phrase makes my head hurt. What does ‘illegitimate use’ even mean (in plain language, as opposed to corporate newspeak)? Are thieves and robbers ‘illegitimate users’ of oxygen? Are getaway drivers ‘illegitimate users’ of petrol?


in a way this reminds me of all of those “municipalities” around st. louis county that rely on fines and court costs for 40% of their funding. wow!

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I should also point out that BBC Worldwide have just launched a channel on Foxtel where most of the BBC’s first-run programming will be shown. (Doctor Who on the FTA ABC is about the only exception to this deal, as far as I know.)

Foxtel is half owned by Murdoch. Strange bedfellows…

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The whole thing is bloomin’ stupid. When I was working in film and television, it was a requirement that connectivity between us (a post-production/VFX studio) and the clients were using over a VPN. We transferred large amounts of data, as you can imagine. And many of those endpoints were sent over public ISPs, not specialist media ISPs like Sohonet. Which is the whole point of VPNs.

Perhaps broadcasters and studios should get their own houses in order when it comes to piracy before they start trying to put the blame on others and having other people and organisations trying to second guess everything.


I get the feeling that the BBC is running a 'how to make sure people steal our content" experiment with their brain dead tone deaf geographic restrictions.

Embed commercials in your video stream, make the stream public, and make money off the commercials. You know, just like you do when you broadcast on freeview. Market to your advertisers that they can now reach a global viewership.

EDIT: yes I am aware that the BBC does not broadcast commercials domestically. They can’t. There is no such restriction on their broadcasts outside the UK.

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If you use VPN when you work from home, I guess you’re screwed.

None that I saw.

The document spends initial time discussing the amount of money BBC brings to Aus. (“look how important we now are to your economy - you must bow to our whims!”) and the reported cost of piracy to “Content rights holders like BBC Worldwide and its related entities” it says nothing about what they could be doing better through their own actions to stop piracy - nor does it bother to explain why piracy happens specifically to them in large volume.

It demands laws be created - because they want them and they can’t see any other way to do the job. It also claims that if they get legislation, it will be making use of “reasonable steps” so as to legitimize the actions against those who do find themselves sued.

I find the most offensive thing to be the fact that this company doesn’t acknowledge that even legitimate users don’t want people knowing what it is they’re doing on the internet for privacy’s (not “piracy’s”) sake. “Obfuscation” - give me a break. BBC has been pulling this crap for years. Because you’re in the area they treat as “covered by home rule”, I really recommend you download and read.

That is PRECISELY what I’m saying.

Even though there are well-documented studies telling companies what not to-do to reduce piracy, the BBC steams on ahead and continues to do them over-and over. Then, every time, they act surprised and demand some outside force fix the issue.

When it came to the Doctor Who leakage, apparently this was because the material was uploaded to the receiving party dealing with whatever it was via anonymous FTP.

Now, in post-production circles, this is not uncommon. Indeed, we operated an anonymous FTP server ourselves (we’re talking around 6-7 years ago now). But you’d only ever were be able to upload to specific paths and you’d never get to see the contents of those paths that we agreed upon in advance with the client - only those staff operating internal to the company network could access that once the upload was complete. There were the usual lockouts and never had problems with people trying to dump illicit stuff there. Nevertheless, I was pushing for fully encrypted FTPS or SFTP, but was told that clients (mainly advertising agencies) preferred the anonymous method rather than having to deal with usernames, passwords or pubkey authentication.

bangs head against brick wall

What film studios, post-production companies, and anybody else working in media where content is valued needs is an infosec manager. Somebody to oversee, implement and enforce policies which prevent anybody from ever deliberately or accidentally releasing material (whether it be through the internet or via physical media), but should it happen, you’d have audit logs or something to show how that material went astray.

But it is up to the film companies/post-prod studios to do this - and not put the blame squarely on the consumer who is going to be penalised because non-technical management are huffing and puffing at their own mistakes.


Oh believe me, I’ve been following their foolishness. They’re like farmers that want no gates and wonder why the sheep keep going missing. Those oh so tasty, and very expensive sheep.

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But…but it’s the inspiration for one of my favorite episodes of The Young Ones.


They’re idiots.

I’d happily pay the licence fee for access to their programming in the USA. Forget awful BBC America.

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If I were in Austrailia, I’d be a false positive under their criteria given my job. I strongly suspect they mean to identify people by the protocols they use and not the specific servers they connect to. Targeting specific VPN providers is a whole different can of worms. Encrypted traffic throttling is hell on our client’s China branch. Weirder kludges to get around this from a service level involve making information retrieval services that provide authentication and ip filtering over http. Obviously, these kind of solutions aren’t perfect and one must factor of how critical it is protect the information from interception. Weirdly enough, the easiest workaround is very similar to the problem.

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