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The Internet may connect the whole world in one glorious whole (assuming individual governments allow their people to be netizens) but that hasn’t stopped media companies from trying to limit who can access their content along territorial lines. Hence we have the dark art of geo-blocking.

Geo-blocking is practiced by websites or Web services seeking to keep their content within the confines of a particular territory. Geo-blocking is a contentious and controversial issue, as are the various methods – such as premium VPNs How to Get Full Access to American Netflix Selections on Your UK Account - With Any Device! How to Get Full Access to American Netflix Selections on Your UK Account - With Any Device! A common complaint about UK Netflix (and it's competitor LoveFilm, though I still maintain the selection and interface of Netflix is far superior) is that the updates are so infrequent that the choice of movies... Read More – people employ to bypass the restrictions place on them. Views on this whole issue formed the basis of last week’s ‘We Ask You’ column.

What Do You Think About Geo-Blocking & How Do You Circumvent It?

We asked you, What Do You Think About Geo-Blocking & How Do You Circumvent It? Many of you chose to air your grievances against this practice, and some revealed the methods they use to beat the geo-blocking websites at their own game. Most people begrudgingly understand why geo-blocking is implemented on a legal basis, but that doesn’t make them any happier about its widespread use.

Great points that were raised include how the practice of geo-blocking is making piracy or illicit file-sharing much more likely. If people had access to all the content they wanted, even if they had to pay for it, then far fewer would choose to cross the fine line between legal and less-than-legal means of obtaining said content.

In terms of circumventing geo-blocking efforts most people use either free proxy servers Access Blocked Websites using Proxy Servers Access Blocked Websites using Proxy Servers Read More or premium VPNs. But neither of these methods are really open to those tech-unsavvy individuals out there. Which means geo-blocking is still an issue for mainstream Internet users.


Comment Of The Week

Comment of the week goes to DaveyJacobson, who won with this comment:

I’ve encountered many geo-blocks in my day of wanting to watch content based in other countries (e.g. the UK, Ireland and Australia). Certain groups (e.g. [UK], [Ireland], [Australia]) employ a block that can only be bypass using a VPN connection whereas other sites (I won’t mention which ones) can be bypassed by a simple HTTP proxy.

There are many free proxies and/or services out there but often times their reliability isn’t the best. Is a VPN service worth it? For me, if I had the money I would definitely subscribe to a service like HMA or TunnelBear Premium because I watch a lot of international sports and some of which is only available through websites that require a VPN connection.

Hopefully, one day they’ll drop geo-licensing and make content available to the world. While I understand that they must make a profit, instead showing advertisements aimed at their host country, why not show advertisements based on the users IP address? I’m sure it would be a very lucrative gesture for company A to reach out to company B (whose based in another country) and have them pay for ad time on company A’s website because a lot of their traffic comes from users who live in company B’s country. I think it would be a great move! Does anyone else?

While the actual method suggested may be difficult or even impossible to implement, this comment questions the very existence of geo-blocking. Media companies, which are the main culprit for geo-blocking, are missing out on huge audiences and consistent revenue streams by limiting who can consume their content.

Advertising may not be the answer to everything, but when it comes to monetizing any aspect of the Internet it’s the primary choice. By opening up and advertising on a global rather than local scale, the rewards could be massive.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. ‘We Ask You’ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: ToastyKen

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  1. Dave
    October 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I really can't stand it as I use a mobile dongle (landlord won't let me install broadband), and I get geo-blocked for UK content DESPITE the fact that I am actually in the UK. This is beyond a joke.

  2. Justin
    July 15, 2012 at 5:33 am

    I extremely hate geoblocking as us Australians have such limited acess to media content (we can't access Hulu, Netflix or anything like that) and the content we can acess is crap in that it is usually old replays or it is delayed (we view programs 5 months after they have aired in the U.S. geoblocking should be outlawed in favour of digital content harminisation. I am so over Hulu saying they are trying to obtain liscenes etc.. How frustrating.

    • Saikat Basu
      July 16, 2012 at 10:45 am

      I guess it's the same across Asia. We in India are also in the same situation. Most of the good streaming services are not accessible. So, I agree with you there.

  3. Darren
    July 2, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Geo-Blocking is majorly flawed.

    If a movie is released in another country first then I can understand why they would not want others to see it before release, However I've had issues with Coldplay, Alexandra Burke and Girls Aloud on Youtube. All British Bands and I live in the UK.

    SO yeah, hate it altogether.I use Tor to get round it.

  4. ender
    July 1, 2012 at 11:02 am

    usually geoblocking doesnt bother me, because I dont stream much anyway.
    and the few music vids that i want to watch and that are blocked, I can go around by using firefox addon, that sent a fake IP .
    that works.
    and for all other show, movies, etc?
    I usually download them, after ten years being in social networks, and having friends across the world, and most important, in US, any show I might want, is online through 1click hosters several hours after it has been aired /streamed anyway.
    I havent had to resort to torrents for at least 9 or 10 years.

  5. Cliff Mccullar
    June 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    To me geo-blocking is nothing more than censorship, and while i get that not all countrys are as open as others, i still find it an abhorrent practice. Not to mention a futile one, look at china trying to stop the protests and violence from making its way online, or any number of other examples. the age old "if their is a will their is a way" apply's doubly so to the internet. "Information wants to be free" this isnt just a saying about money, but about when something is discovered, created, or even thought of, that it is almost impossible if not impossible to keep the cat in the bag. Gov has tried for centuries to stop the spread of what it considered dangerous thoughts(to itself) and only ever accomplished hurting itself even more when the "truth" eventually became wide spread. too me it falls under the category of "when will they ever learn?"

    • Dave Parrack
      June 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      I think you're spot-on. Eventually the media companies will learn that they cannot control the flow of content, so they'd be better to embrace and montize the process than try to stop it altogether.

  6. Sree Kumar
    June 28, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I do come across while watching some videos. I do not like this feature of GEO Blocking. I try to avoid it with proxies or use greasemonkey scripts sometime to overcome this issue.

  7. Manide
    June 28, 2012 at 7:10 am

    "Not available in your country/region (yet)" notice makes me sometimes to get angry. The only solution I've used was Tor.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Tor is an extreme solution, but if it works for you :)

      • Manide
        June 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        Yeah... "extremely" extreme. But since it happens quite rare to see those "not available in your country" occasions, I didn't bother to find another alternative.