Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a safety belt

While my daughter was working on a school project, she was looking for a fully searchable text of “Animal Farm” from George Orwell and found it on the Australian web site Project Gutenberg Australia. The offer was legal, but had she downloaded the text, she would have committed a serious crime, a copyright violation. Two more, and our entire family would be eligible for disconnection from the Internet – at least in some European countries.

A little background: prior to the US-Australian Free Trade Agreement from 2005, copyright in Australia expired 50 years after the authors death. After the FTA was signed in 2005, copyright now expires 70 years after the authors death. That’s how it is in Europe, too.

George Orwell, the author of “Animal Farm”, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, and four other novels, died January 21st, 1950. So in Australia, his works where in the public domain since 2001. And that didn’t change with the FTA from 2005. While George Orwell’s novels are not in the public domain and are still under copyright in Europe, the opposite is true for Australia. That’s why Australian web sites like Project Gutenberg Australia can legally offer George Orwell’s works for download. George Orwell’s works are also in the public domain in Russia and Canada. In Europe, his works will be in the public domain in 2021, and even later in the US.

Who does expect a kid to know that? If I buy a book, I can legally lend it to as many people as I like. That I can lend it to only one person at a time is a technical limitation of the thing called “book”. Files containing text, music, or film don’t have that technical limitation. Copying and giving it to as many people simultaneously is possible and intuitive. That’s why kids do it all the time. That copyright violations by copying files are described as “stealing” is also counter-intuitive. After you copy a file, it’s not taken away from the original owner, but you’ve made one thing more. If a kid finds something useful on the Internet it will probably use it in intuitive ways: copy it, share it – and thereby potentially breaking the law.

Ok, you can educate the kid in order to minimize copyright violations, but – as shown with “Animal Farm” – you cannot eliminate them completely without making your kid a copyright lawyer. Other options are removing access to the Internet or supervising your kid all the time.

Accessing the Internet via a trustworthy VPN (virtual private network) service provider is another option. My VPN service provider is Ipredator. How to set it up on Windows and OSX is shown on their web site. Instructions for Ubuntu Linux can be found here. I’ll now show you how to set it up under Android 1.6:

Go to “Settings > Wireless controls > VPN settings” and add a new VPN with “Add VPN > Add PPTP VPN”.

Enter the following information:

VPN name: Ipredator
Set VPN server:
PPT encryption is enabled

Now, you’re ready to connect to the VPN. Tap on “Ipredator” to connect.

Fill in the required account information (user name and password). Hit “Connect”.

You’re now connected to your VPN service provider – see the key in the status bar marked red (I added the marks with Gimp)?

Safely surf the Internet.

While surfing the web, you can get information on the VPN connection.

To Disconnect from your VPN service provider, go to “Settings > Wireless controls > VPN settings” again.

Tap on the VPN named “Ipredator” to disconnect.

If you switch from 3G network to WLAN, you’ll be disconnected from Ipredator. Just reconnect.

I know that PPTP is vulnerable to some sorts of attacks, but using VPN with Ipredator (or other VPN service providers) that way is more of a political statement: we need to change copyright law! All non-commercial copying and sharing of files needs to be legal. Otherwise it’s done anyway and as safely as possible. Trying to prevent people from doing it is like trying to prevent people from Iran or China to access certain parts of the Internet: it will not work.

5 comments… add one
  • Robert Link Reply

    Well, I can connect with ipredator via vpn, but when it’s connected, I can’t browse the web or use any application which requires Internet. It just don’t connect to any site.

  • Trell Link Reply

    I second Robert’s post. Should the DNS have anything filled in it?

  • Yes, I – and many others – can confirm, that VPN via PPTP is broken in Android since Froyo. It’s still broken in Gingerbread.
    There’re lots of open issues regarding VPN via PPTP.
    Ipredator only offers PPTP at the moment.

  • Esoteric Knowledge Link Reply

    Nice site! I agree T.W. There is definitely a hightened litigious nature brought on by xenophobia of the internet.

    Governments are destroying laws all over. Copyright laws were once used mainly to stop mass reselling other people’s work for a profit. Today, some humans have just gone crazy … lost in a fog of fear, intolerance and ignorance.

  • I got my Samsung Galaxy Nexus (with the official ICS “yakju” build) from Amazon (Germany) just two days ago. One of the first things I tried was to establish a VPN to with PPTP. To my great delight, it’s working. Finally.

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