CNN has an article on how business for Virtual Private Network (VPN) software companies is booming these days, thanks largely to China and Iran. The article is entitled, “Cashing in on Internet Censorship,” and it discusses how foreign companies are profiting from software that allows circumvention of government internet controls.
The article quotes co-blogger Steve Dickinson as saying those businesses offering up their firewall avoidance software in China are violating Chinese law: “Steve Dickinson, a China-based lawyer with Harris Bricken, an international business law firm, said that companies supplying VPN products in China are technically breaking Chinese law.” But then Steve points out how this hardly matters because those doing the violating are not in China:

“China has no jurisdiction over such persons. As long as they do not physically enter China, there is no risk,” he said in an email to CNN.

Completely true and more relevant than people realize.
There are a number of internet businesses that are legal in their company of operation but illegal in one or more countries in which they are actually doing business. I know that many years ago, there were internet businesses selling medications from countries in which a prescription was not required into countries (like the United States) where a prescription was required. The US government then tricked some of the people behind these companies to come to the United States, where they were arrested. Not saying the same thing is going to happen with respect to people at the companies selling illegally into China over the internet, but it might. Let’s just say that if I were the president of one of these VPN companies, I would at least think long and hard before going to China. And if I were super paranoid, I might even want to know which countries might or might not extradite me to China.
While on this subject, I just read a very interesting post, entitled, “What If….” over at the China Outsider blog. The what if is Google offering and widely publicizing a free VPN. I would love for the technologically savvy to read that post and answer some of the questions posed there. Am I wrong in believing it would be relatively easy for China to block access to such a network, without really impacting anything much else?

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.