Anti-Piracy Threats Trigger Massive Surge in VPN Usage

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Piracy is a hot topic around the world and in Australia the issue has made mainstream headlines over the past week. After the announcement of a new anti-piracy scheme and the news of copyright trolls coming Down Under this week, VPN usage has surged to unprecedented levels.

ausThis week news broke that the makers of Dallas Buyers Club have the court’s approval to go after 4,726 alleged movie pirates in Australia, opening the door to many more copyright lawsuits.

Around the same time the country’s largest Internet providers submitted their online anti-piracy code, announcing that 200,000 piracy warnings will be sent out each year.

Facing increased monitoring and potential legal action many file-sharers have taken counter measures, hiding their IP-addresses so their sharing activities can no longer be linked to their ISP account.

Early March, the initial announcement of the warning letters already increased interest in VPNs and other anonymizing services, but this week’s surge broke new records.

Data from Google trends reveals that interest in anonymizing services has soared, with searches for “VPN” quadrupling in recent weeks. This effect, shown in the graph below, is limited to Australia and likely a direct result of the recent anti-piracy threats.


The effects are clearly noticeable at VPN providers as well, in both traffic and sales. TorGuard, a VPN and BitTorrent proxy provider, has seen the number of Australian visitors spike this week, for example.

“Over the past week TorGuard has seen a massive jump in Australian subscribers. Traffic from this region is currently up over 150% and recent trends indicate that the upsurge is here to stay,” TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt tells us.

“VPN router sales to Australia have also increased significantly with AU orders now representing 50% of all weekly shipments.”

TorGuard traffic from Australia

The recent events are expected to drive tens of thousands of new users to anonymizing services. However, it appears that even before the surge they were already commonly used Down Under.

A survey among 1,008 Australians early March showed that 16% of the respondents already used VPNs or Tor to increase privacy. The Essential survey shows that anonymizing tools are most prevalent among people aged 18-34.

While copyright holders don’t like the increased interest in these evasion tools, it may not all be bad news.

In fact, to a certain degree it shows that pirates are spooked by the new initiatives. Where some decide to go underground, others may choose to pirate less. And for the “trolls” there are still plenty of unsecured file-sharers out there.


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