What is Geo-Blocking?

Geo-blocking, also known as geo-filtering, is a technology that restricts users from accessing online content based on the user's geographical location

what is geo-blocking

Geo-blocking is a technology that restricts access to an online service based on the users' geographic location

What is Geoblocking?

Geo-blocking is a technology that restricts access to an online service based on the users' geographic location. When you connect your computer or any other device to the internet, you are assigned a unique identifier: IP address.

An IP address looks something like this: 23.48.0.11. An IP address can be used to determine a user's location, which in turn determines the content available in a given territory. Services use geo-blocking technology to restrict access based on a user's geographic location.

geo-blocking

Geo-blocking is an important tool for both copyright enforcement and consumer protection that has been much debated during the negotiation of EU rules aimed at fostering online cross-border access to content.

Service providers signaling their willingness to provide cross-border access would be required under the proposed regulation to inform consumers, upon request, whether any geoblocking restrictions apply and whether they can circumvent those restrictions.

History of Geo-blocking

If such an arrangement is not reached with rights holders (such as a broadcaster or content provider), then the Member States may permit that service provider to apply geoblocking restrictions after 1 January 2016.

Service providers would also be obliged to make available any relevant information necessary for users to enjoy cross-border access (for example, the European TV schedule).

Users should therefore receive adequate information about their online rights and how they can exercise them. The regulation does not specify what form this information should take, but the Commission will closely monitor how this provision is applied in practice.

What does Geo-blocking do?

The phenomenon of geo-blocking refers very broadly to the restriction then access or provision of content, applications, and/or services from a point outside a given country. In practice, it is the refusal to supply consumers in certain countries with products and services that have been purchased legally elsewhere.

Geo-blocking can take many forms:

1) geographic blocking makes it impossible or difficult for users to access certain Internet content, applications, or services because their IP address indicates that they are outside the territory of the country where the requested service is provided.

2) Geolocation involves determining the geographical position of an Internet user, which can then be used as a basis not only for geo-blocking but also to apply content regulation (e.g., age rating, censorship), financial charges (e.g., roaming), or even access to certain categories of legal content (such as online gambling).

3) Geo-blocking is the combination of both geographic blocking and geolocation, i.e. restricting users' access to products and services based on their geographic position without necessarily verifying their actual location.

The practice of geo-blocking can be confusing because it is often carried out using different technologies and for various purposes.

Geo-blocking does not enable copyright holders to prevent copyright infringement but forces consumers to access certain content illegally if they are unable or unwilling to make legal purchases in the country where they live.

Many legitimate websites that offer copyrighted material for purchase on the Internet network use geo-blocking to prevent access by consumers in Europe, based on their IP address or other factors.

There are ways to bypass geoblocking, the most common method is to use a VPN service that spoofs your geographical location.

Where does Geo-blocking work?

Geo-blocking is usually based on the consumer's IP address, which can be automatically checked against a blacklist of geographical locations. Such systems generally rely on databases identifying specific IP addresses associated with certain countries (or even individual service providers).

These can easily become out-of-date or inaccurate if, for example, a person changes ISPor rotates their mobile connection to use a different set of IP addresses when they travel, or if inaccurate listings are used by geo-blocking services.

Geo-blocking is also being used increasingly in combination with credit card identification systems, using the country code of the consumer's payment details instead of their Internet protocol address. This can be particularly problematic since the credit card billing country and the country where a consumer resides can be different.

Geo-blocking is used regularly by mainstream online content services such as music services (Apple Music), film and TV programs (HBO Now, Amazon Prime), e-books (Google Play Books, Amazon Kindle), games, and sports broadcasts (NFL bypass geo-restrictions).

Why is Geoblocking used?

Geo-blocking is widely used in the audiovisual sector (TV series, films, and sports events), online music, ebooks, and video games. Geo-blocking is moreover frequently used for online gambling, although the European Commission considers that such blocking should be prohibited by law.

Moreover, EU data protection rules GDPR also allow the Member States to enable controllers to restrict access of their users in order to protect minors from harmful content. Indeed, even though some providers already apply age-verification checks on their users, national laws can require additional measures. Internet service providers include details that proxy servers are useful for online retailers with private internet access to drag internet traffic.

Geo-blocking is also used in the field of transport and logistics: for example, it makes it difficult to book a lorry online and directly with the provider in another country when you live there (but want to use this service while on holiday or business travel).

Similarly, if residents of a small country such as Luxembourg wish to purchase products or services from an online store that is not present in their country, they often find themselves blocked even if the same product is available and accessible within the next neighboring country.

These practices create additional burdens for consumers and businesses and can lead to de facto discrimination based on nationality and place of residence.

Is Geo-blocking illegal?

A few weeks ago, a Dutch football fan was unable to watch his national team playing in the semi-finals of the World Cup because he wasn't able to buy a ticket for a different country. He couldn't watch it at home either, because his local pub only offered screenings from the bar's homeland.

He had no access to other paid or free streaming sites either. He, therefore, decided to sue the Dutch pub for discrimination, by blocking him because he was a foreigner.

Will this be the start of sports fans' lawsuits all around Europe?

Geo-blocking is when online sellers want to restrict access to certain websites depending on the user's location. Some companies justify this tactic, in order to avoid too many orders from one country or to comply with local television rights. For example, a French online DVD rental service doesn't allow non-French customers.

If you try to access the website of this company while being in another European Country, you will get an error message saying that the content is not available in your country.

The price of a DVD may be cheaper in France, but the shipping costs are too high for a small order, which makes it impractical. A smart DNS service will include free proxy servers to virtual private networks.

Geo-restrictions

Geo-blocks are allowed under certain conditions: if there is no discrimination between nationalities, and the restriction only concerns the number of products bought or sold. Fortunately, there are some ways you can get around geo-blocking on streaming services. 

In any case, online buyers can contact their local Consumer ProtectionAgency or their national Consumer Rights Protection Organisation. They might be able to enforce a change in the company's policy. The bypass geo-blocking with internet censorship and proxy server will offer exclusive benefits to an internet service provider.

In this case, the Dutch football fan used another argument: he stated that geo-blocking was against European law because it prevents buyers from accessing special offers available only on foreign websites. The European Commission is currently looking into this matter and will report on its findings by the end of September.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geo-blocking

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