When File Sharing And Streaming Proceed With Caution

Ever since music was digitized and TV went onto VHS tapes, people have found ways of sharing content, often illegally, by either copying or sharing media. From people making VHS copies to ripping movies onto DVDs and selling them at yard sales, copyright theft has been alive and well across the world for quite some time.

Early audio file-sharing websites such as Napster were eventually closed down by government decree, but as quickly as a court order closes one online portal, half a dozen more, with the same functionality but different names pop up.

An obvious example of this is the Putlocker platform, which, after it was legally shut down, has now taken the form of innumerable mirror sites across the internet. Whilst it isn’t illegal to watch any content on Putlocker or its alternatives, a person could be prosecuted for copyright theft for viewing something that has been uploaded there illegally. It’s true that the chances of a SWAT team abseiling through your apartment windows with stun grenades is unlikely, nevertheless there have been hefty fines and jail terms meted out to repeat copyright transgression offenders.

However, it’s very tempting to watch one of the latest movies illegally  if Apple TV wants around $10 for you to only rent it. There are those who say it’s a harmless crime, as the people who own film studios and Hollywood producers are already stunningly wealthy, so it’s a bit like stealing a candy bar from Walmart – it’s not going to bankrupt them overnight. Then again, if everyone watched copied movies, the film industry wouldn’t have the money to put together such amazing blockbusters like ‘Titanic’, ‘Dunkirk’, Star Wars’ or ‘Jurassic Park’.

In any case, the law is the law. If a person was still determined to watch copyright infringed material, they would do well to hide their identity and location by using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN places an intermediary ‘third-party’ encrypted server between the VPN user’s device and their internet service provider (ISP). This encryption means that the user’s location and identity are hidden, from the ISP themselves and any analytics software that might be employed by the visitor’s target websites. In short, by using a VPN, nobody can tell who you are nor where you are located.

This encryption also allows VPN users to take advantage of other things, both when adapting to software changes and in addition to streaming even legal content. Let’s take a quick look at the most useful benefits:

Legal Streaming And GEO Restrictions

If you’ve paid your Netflix or Apple TV subs, then you can, of course, watch any content on those sites perfectly legally. But certain content is still restricted geographically. If you normally live in Texas, and you go on vacation to Mexico, then you’d be unable to log onto hotel Wi-Fi and catch up on your favorite Apple TV show back home. But by using a VPN, you can simply choose a Stateside server to access the internet, and you can be watching ‘For all Mankind’ within a minute or two.

Secure Wi-Fi Hotspots When Traveling

If you’re on that vacation in Mexico, you might drop into a beachside bar to hook up to Wi-Fi and check your email. Such unrestricted hotspots in public bars and hotels are breeding grounds for hackers, who set up phantom networks. If you log on, you might receive an email from the network host, purporting to offer a free coffee voucher or whatever. But as soon as you click the link to download that voucher, you could have just installed malware on your device to record all your online activity. This is how cyber-criminals steal credit card details, passwords and the like, because while individual computers don’t often obviously go wrong when compromised, entire computer systems can be infected. Imagine going back to the US and logging into your work email system after having gotten a virus on vacation. Not good!

But by using a VPN, the encrypted server would detect any malicious activity and immediately disconnect the device from the Wi-Fi before any harm could be done. It’s reassuring – like having a policeman sitting next to you – but unlike the real cops, he’s only there when you want him!

Data Throttling

Some households are very heavy data users. Imagine a home where Mom is a work from home (WFH) graphic designer in a creative advertising agency, Dad is a video editor, and their two teenage children are avid gamers. That domestic router is going to get through gigabytes of data per day. Some ISPs ‘throttle’ the connections of such households, to encourage them to pay more to upgrade to a more expensive data package. But if the users of the internet at that address all have VPN extensions on their devices, the ISP can’t throttle a connection if they don’t know who the customer is, nor where they are located.

Dynamic Pricing

If you were to walk into a burger restaurant and get charged, say $3 for a cheeseburger, but then the person standing behind you in the queue was very expensively dressed in a business suit, who got charged $6, you’d be dumbstruck, and he’d complain or leave. But this happens online constantly when dealing with accommodation or travel ticket resellers. This is because AI isn’t just used in the workplace anymore, it’s all around us in almost every piece of software we use, in one way or another.

Reseller websites’ AI-driven analytics check your IP address and instantly know where you’re located. They then note the type of device you’re using to access the site. So if you have the very latest phone and you log on to your ISP from Manhattan, that’s a giveaway that you’re either a rich NYC resident or businessperson. However, if you use a VPN, and you’re looking to book a hotel room in Mexico – you can choose a Mexican IP address. In that case, the hotel room you’re seeking will almost certainly reduce in price and, what’s more, the site will offer to let you pay in the local currency of Pesos, again saving you money.

In summary, whether you’re watching questionable copyrighted material, or traveling away from home, a VPN looks after your security and keeps you anonymous wherever you go. Happy trails folks!