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Geo-blocking is the method used by various websites to prevent people outside of a particular territory gaining access to their services. Most of the sites employing the method are those providing content that is subject to regional licensing. Online television and movie streaming in particular.

There are ways to beat geo-blocking, some more permanent that others. James has recently written about premium VPN services 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 , and there’s also Tunlr Use Tunlr to Enjoy Streaming Services Anywhere in the World Use Tunlr to Enjoy Streaming Services Anywhere in the World While American internet users can quite happily watch Hulu, the fact that I live in the UK means I can't. Likewise, BBC iPlayer is free for UK citizens; but if your physical location says America... Read More , which sees you changing the DNS IPs on devices in order to gain access to previously blocked services.

This Week’s Question…

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

This week’s ‘We Ask You‘ is all about geo-blocking. You’ll probably have experienced geo-blocking at least once in your travels around the InterWebs. Anyone outside of the U.S. who has tried to watch a show on Hulu, or outside of the UK who has tried to watch a show on BBC iPlayer How To Watch TV On The Web With BBC iPlayer [Mainly UK Only] How To Watch TV On The Web With BBC iPlayer [Mainly UK Only] The Internet is becoming an increasingly important source for content of all media. There are legal and not-so-legal ways of listening to music, watching television and movies, playing games, and obtaining software. All via a... Read More , are just two examples.

We want to hear your views on geo-blocking. Do you think it’s a good or a bad thing? Should the global nature of the Internet lead to an end of regional licensing? Do you still respect media companies’ efforts to control consumption of their content in this way? Do geo-blocking restrictions simply lead to people obtaining content by less legal methods?

We also want to hear your experiences of circumventing geo-blocking measures, if you have ever done such a thing. What methods have you used? Have you found one to work above all others? Have you been frustrated by the game of cat and mouse played between media companies and those trying to find the chink in their armor? Is a premium VPN worth paying for, and if so how much are you willing to pay for one?

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Drawing Conclusions…

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what ‘You Told Us’. One reader will be chosen for the coveted ‘Comment Of The Week’, having their name put up in lights for all to marvel over. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

‘We Ask You‘ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to start a conversation. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf social media obsession with anonymity social media obsession with anonymity Read More is nothing without you.

Image Credit: ToastyKen

  1. Wally Ewen
    November 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    About Geoblocking,
    I first thought the major news networks, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc., were being blocked by Homeland Security.
    NOT SO. - U.S. citizens, living abroad, like myself, that want to hear the news
    from their country, in their language, on-line, are being geoblocked by the networks themselves for 2 reasons. 1. they depend on their advertisers to stay solvent, and they ask foreign servers to pay for their programing.
    NPR and PRI do not depend on advertising, and do not geoblock. That has certainly made a "contributer" out of me.

  2. Paul Guy
    September 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I think its great that more and more people are making use of the various VPN services on offer to get around the ridiculous practices that Media sites use.

    I TOTALLY understand Content producers wanting to protect their work from piracy as this gets money into the hands of organized criminals, but I don't believe genuine people should be restricted from viewing or buying, based on where in the world they live!

    People are fighting back against the big Media companies who think that keeping their advertisers & shareholders happy and making enormous profits, should be how ANYONE else in similar circumstances should do business and audiences should just put up with, and agree with it!

    Not everyone agrees and eventually they'll have give in to over-whelming public pressure to give up their pathetic and archaic business practices eventually! People are tired of having fingers poked into their chests and being virtually told what they CAN and CAN'T watch or buy!

    For now though, may the fightback continue!

  3. venkatp16
    June 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Internet itself is a open place for complete world to use,watch,browse..... i think Geo-blocking is a non-sense thing. Now most of the countries have started this kind of method to restrict access to file sharing sites, torrents etc... for which many people are using third party VPNs, proxy services etc...

  4. illegal3alien
    June 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    From a legal perspective I can see why it's done, but all it really does is encourage users to (illegally) circumvent it.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      That's true. Those who know how to bypass it will do, those who don't will pirate the content instead. The media companies don't win either way.

  5. Ravi Meena
    June 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    In my opinion
    Geo-blocking = less or selected audience = less chances of the products being successful = less profits
    and when the product is successful, there will be more chances of the product getting pirated in the places it is blocked.

    for example internet is full of pirated TV shows which are free to watch on the websites of the producers of those TV shows. by being open to everyone they can earn more money with ads.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree. Piracy could be virtually wiped out if the system for getting content was made easier and global.

      • Laga Mahesa
        June 23, 2012 at 4:11 am

        Yup. I'd stop pirating if I could actually buy anything. I already did with software a long time ago.

  6. Paul Harris
    June 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I know how to circumvent it via VPN, but don't bother. If those sites want to live in their own particular tiny world and never let outsiders see it, then so be it.

    Their online advertisers should be concerned though, as their ads are also limited by this.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      Unfortunately advertising is only one aspect of it. Look at how the cable companies hold sway on content in the U.S.

  7. Tom Sobieski
    June 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    !) It sucks Rhino
    2) VPN (paid) + proxy (free)

    How else can I watch ANYTHING while living in Mexico?

  8. tueksta
    June 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Absolutely hate it. Undermines the whole point of the internet.

    "This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

    Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for."

    I am already thinking about getting a fake-location in the US, as I did with Apple ID, and use a proxy located there. If I wanted companies to outsmart me, I wouldn't be on the internet in the first place.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Who is that quote by? Excuse my ignorance.

      • Tom Sobieski
        June 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        The Mentor, "The Conscience of a Hacker"
        Google IS your friend

        • Dave Parrack
          June 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm

          Thanks. I should have just Googled it really lol.

        • Dave
          June 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm

          No, people who quote others should give the proper credit. You throw some quotes on something, you shouldn't expect others to work at finding the source. Anyone who has written a grammar school level paper knows that.

  9. Laga Mahesa
    June 22, 2012 at 9:14 am

    GEO Blocking in one form or another is nothing new, it's been here for a long time and will be with us for the indefinite future.

    It generally doesn't affect me. Whether it's digital content, physical content with arbitrary region locks, or international deliveries... If I'm not eligible for something, then I'm not eligible. Usually there's a good reason and I'll move on - three minutes later I'll have forgotten about it anyway.

    There is actually an upside to GEO Blocking. I see a lot less advertising than people in the US or the UK, and a lot less spam.

    Now, before I said that it 'generally' doesn't affect me. There is one particular GEO Block I am not happy with - the regional availability of iTunes paid content. The only things I can buy on iTunes are apps - books, movies, music... all of that is blocked, and with books only the free guttenberg offerings are available.

    This has put me in a difficult position - having sworn off physical media (I threw all my CDs and DVDs in the trash a while back), I am now unable to legitimately acquire digital content, leaving me with only one option.

    Oh well.

    • Trevor L
      June 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Isn't it just the greatest when you WANT to pay hard earned money to acquire digital content but they won't let you.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

      The iTunes problem can be expanded to all digital content though. Most people would be happy to pay for it in some way but they're not even given that option. It's no wonder file-sharing is so popular.

      • Ceridwen
        June 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        That's exactly my problem. If mp3 files are made available through, for instance, why can't I who live outside the US/UK buy the files using a paypal account? Why can't I buy e-books on Barnes & Noble website, also using paypal? It's ridiculous!

        A while back I checked the Amazon policy to know why they don't allow mp3 to be sold to people living abroad, and that's because they have to issue an invoice and send it by snail mail to an address in the US territory! This is so old fashioned! I buy books from a local website and they send the invoice by e-mail! I wonder why Amazon couldn't do the same.

        As for geo-blocking, I find it very annoying and disrespectful, as most of the content I'm interested in, I can only find in US/UK websites. As was suggested above, they should aim ads at the users whether local or international, share copyrights with their local representatives and this way, make the content available to all.

        If internet were accessed only locally, geo-blocking would be just part of its nature, but as internet can be accessed worldwide, the services should be sold to any customer anywhere. The only reason that isn't done yet, it's because there are many greedy people who are also very short-sighted. There have been some improvements in the last few years, so I think one day we may have content available internationally on the internet. I hope it won't take that long. :)

        • Dave Parrack
          June 22, 2012 at 5:06 pm

          I have agree, eventually this will all change and everything will be available everywhere at the same time. I fear it's not going to be a fast change though.

          The whole concept of territorial licensing is going to have to be addressed at some point in time.

  10. Bob Henson
    June 22, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I seems a pity to me that ex-pats are not always able to watch TV in their own language. Two friends of mine have been in that situation. Since they have paid their TV licence or equivalent thereof in EU countries, It seems a tad harsh to be unable to listen to their own free-to-air UK (hence EU) TV channels. The same applies even more so to UK residents who have paid for their UK TV licence, and are temporarily abroad.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:53 am

      That's a great point. That's even more annoying than just normal folks wanting to be able to access all content, no matter where it's being aimed at.

  11. Susendeep Dutta
    June 22, 2012 at 7:03 am

    If the company doesn't bothers to give us a chance to enjoy their service then don't care for them.Its not worth to take all hassles to watch their content when they don't have nay respect for us.

  12. Ben
    June 22, 2012 at 7:01 am

    I have encountered geo-blocking and I am not particularly against it. Various countries will have various laws that govern content on the Internet. I think one impression that the Internet creates is that, what is on it is for all, which is not and should not be the case.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Do you not think the Internet has changed the nature of territories and providing content only for certain groups of people though?

      • Ben
        June 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm

        True, the nature of territories has change because of the Internet. Geo-blocking can be looked at as a way of redefining territories as we know them offline (Outside the Internet).

      • Peter G
        November 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm

        you can not access from outside the us, because all the movies and series on that site made contracts with actors, musicians, directors, etc... for a US release only.

        you would have to pay the actors, musicians, directors, etc... more money if you want to sell the result world wide.

  13. Dylan
    June 22, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I've been fighting Geo-blocking for a long time, I've use a lot of services like Tunlr, Unotelly, Proxydns etc.

  14. Timothy Bow
    June 22, 2012 at 4:23 am

    It is rather annoying but nothing that can't be worked around.

    • tueksta
      June 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Well, there is always the option of putting a part of the internet (the real one) under UN law.

      • Tom Sobieski
        June 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm

        That's just what we need, more laws and regulations. Meh!

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Some companies make it exceedingly hard though.

  15. DaveyJacobson
    June 22, 2012 at 3:55 am

    I forgot to mention this in my last 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?

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

      That's a great idea. Sadly media companies are stuck thinking that the world can be divided up into territories, but as the Internet becomes an ever more intrinsic part of all our lives that will cease to be the case.

      • Peter G
        November 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        this is complete BS.

        it is a simple rule of business:

        if i sell a song to a movie production company, i sell it for - let's say - 1 000$ for the use in the united kingdom only.

        the rights to use it for a broader, world wide audience wouldn't be so cheap.

        simply because the production company can make more money world wide, and my song is worth more to them.

        it's not the companies, who are stuck. it is the artist who tries to feed his family and/or fill his ferrari with gas.

        • chris
          November 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

          No it is businessmen who make the business model. The rich guys are the ones in suits.

          Most artists don't even own their own content. Very few drive ferraris.

          I suspect if broadcasters where much more selective about which free to air broadcasts they really needed to geoblock, the world would be a better place.

        • Peter G
          November 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

          complete BS again :D

          i have multiple VOD sites, and i sell many movies from my company in germany. there are also a few american titles.

          i am glad, if you guys break my geo blocking system and watch my content to which i only own the german VOD-rights. this means i paid for the content less (vod rights for germany only are cheaper then world-wide rights) and made more money with it.

          go on, share the knowledge, share the methods!

          this is piracy, that for once benefits the distributers ;)

          love you all!

  16. DaveyJacobson
    June 22, 2012 at 3:42 am

    When it comes to geo-blocking, I believe it's nothing more than a hurdle one needs to jump over in order to get to the finish line. Regardless of whatever "blocking" mechanism a website will employ in order prevent people in other territories gaining access to their content, someone, somewhere, will find a gap in that mechanism and exploit it.

    Until then, groups who offer "premium VPN" services or free proxies for people to use can profit from them in whatever manner they choose to. If the day comes that geo-restricted licensing becomes a thing of the past (which I think is inevitable), I'm almost certain they'll conjure up another "service" that consumers will feel is "worth paying for."

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