05 February 16
PayPal has begun blocking VPN and DNS masking services from using the money transfer platform, in the latest push against online cloaking technology.
More commonly known as unblockers, VPNs -- virtual private networks -- allow internet users in one part of the world to appear as if they're visiting sites from another, and are often used to access geo-locked content. However, PayPal has cancelled the account of UnoTelly, a company offering VPN services, because of copyright infringement concerns.
VPNs usually charge a small fee per month, ostensibly to cover bandwidth costs. Paying for a VPN doesn't automatically mean users are pirating content though -- for instance, Netflix users still need to pay for a subscription to the streaming video provider, wherever they access it from. They also have uses aside from circumnavigating content locks, such as providing bloggers in politically sensitive countries more freedom to speak out.
"Under the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy, or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction," UnoTelly was told, according to TorrentFreak.
"This includes transactions for any device or technological measure that descrambles a scrambled work, decrypts an encrypted work or otherwise avoids, bypasses, removes, deactivates or impairs a technological measure without the authority of the copyright owner."
UnoTelly has had its accounts "permanently limited", and been told that the decision cannot be appealed. The wording of PayPal's decision could see it apply the ban to other VPN providers, too. It's not clear why UnoTelly was target now, or first, or whether any specific content owner demanded action.
PayPal's move comes less than a month after Netflix stopped turning a blind eye to subscribers using VPNs from accessing its variable content libraries -- most commonly non-Americans wanting to view the US selection. At the time, vice president of content delivery architecture David Fullagar said that Netflix content varied between countries due to "the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories", alluding to it being an outdated practise on content owners' parts.