How to buy cheaper movies, books and music online

IT'S no secret that Australians are getting ripped off when it comes to movies, books, music, computer software, games and gadgets.

You only have to see what people are paying overseas to see that prices can be anywhere from 50% to 100% higher.

The problem is so bad that a parliamentary committee last week recommended consumers find legal ways to get around 'geo-blocking' programs that mean something on your Australian iTunes will cost far more than the US version.

So how do you do it?

Getting around geo-blocking by companies like Hulu, Netflix and Adobe can be slightly confusing and requires the use of proxy or VPN software, most of which has been reserved for the tech-savvy until recently.

The idea behind both types of software is that your browser or you entire computer sends its internet traffic to a special server that then disguises your data's origin: making it appear as though it came from somewhere else.

Once this is set up, you can pay US prices in US online shops or access services like BBC iView or Netflix without being blocked or charged the higher Australian price.

Finding a proxy is as easy as going to your browser's extension section and searching for 'proxy'.

The one you eventually decide to use depends on your set-up and needs, but always read the extension's reviews before installing.

One of the more popular proxy extensions is Hola!, but you might need to try several and see what works.

Hola! works brilliantly in Chrome, taking you straight to a list of geo-blocked services it can help you use.

One of these services is Netflix, which lets you establish an account but won't let you subscribe to without an American credit card or Paypass account.

It may be possible to find gift cards on ebay to pay for the account, but this is risky and not recommended. A friend in the US would be a better bet.

Another solution, though not usually free, is to have your computer connect to the Internet through a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

VPNs are a turbo-charged type of proxy system that disguises all of your Internet traffic, not just what's coming from your browser.

These systems tend to be full software packages but are more likely to be reputable and work cleanly.

I've used Hamachi personally and, while not perfect, have not been burned by it. Other suppliers worth investigating are BolehVPN, Astrill VPN, Private Internet Access, and Witopia.

How do I set up a US iTunes account?

Setting up a US iTunes Account gives you access to a much broader range of content and doesn't require any of the above software.

In iTunes, first log out of your account. Once logged out, click the iTunes store link on the left.

At the bottom of the screen, find the Australian flag and click on it to reveal a page of flags. Click on the US flag.

This will let you in, but it's only once you've installed an app (it could be any so pick a free one) that account creation starts.

When asked, give iTunes a different email address for the US account but don't use a fake one. Setting up a spare email on Gmail is easy and works well for this.

You'll also need to give it a US street address, so google a US-based business and use theirs.

When asked for a payment method, select none, as you'll need to use iTunes gift cards bought in the US. These can be bought on eBay or on trips to the states.

You'll now have two accounts for iTunes, one for Australian content and one for US content.

Stay tuned for more tutorials this week.



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