Geo-blocking

  • Fabian Sinner
  • February 27, 2024

Table of content

    Geo-blocking

    Geo-blocking is a technique used to restrict access to Internet content based on a user’s geographical location. This restriction is made possible by recognizing the user’s IP address, which provides an indication of their geographical location.

    What is geo-blocking used for?

    Geo-blocking is used, for example, to ensure compliance with copyright laws and license agreements. Certain content may only be shown in certain regions or countries, as the rights to films, TV shows, music and other media are often regionally restricted.

    Websites can also use geo-blocking to customize content and advertising based on the user’s location in order to be more relevant and appealing.

    In some countries, there are legal regulations that restrict access to certain types of content. By geo-blocking, companies can ensure that they comply with these local laws.

    Companies can also set different prices for their products or services in different regions based on purchasing power, local competition, and other factors.

    By controlling access to content based on geographic location, companies can better distribute the load on their server networks and allocate resources more efficiently. This can improve performance and reduce operating costs.

    Geo-blocking can also serve as a security measure by restricting access from regions that have been identified as high-risk areas for fraud, cyberattacks or abuse. This helps to protect company resources and user data.

    In some cases, geo-blocking can also help to promote local content and culture by ensuring that certain content is available in the regions for which it is most relevant.

    How does geo-blocking work?

    Geo-blocking typically works by recognizing a user’s IP address, which is a unique identifier for a device on the Internet that provides information about the user’s geographic location. The process of geo-blocking involves several steps and technologies to restrict or enable access to content based on the user’s location.

    1. Detection of the IP address: When a user accesses a website or online service, their device sends a request containing their IP address. This address can be used to determine the user’s approximate geographic location, such as the country, region or sometimes even the city.
    2. Geolocation: The IP address is analyzed by a geolocation service that uses databases containing information about the mapping of IP address ranges onto specific geographic locations. These services can determine the location of an IP address with a relatively high degree of accuracy.
    3. Content filtering based on location: Based on the location information, the server of the website operator or online service decides whether to grant or deny access to the requested content. If the content is restricted in the user’s location, access will be blocked and the user may receive a message that the content is not available in their region.
    4. Application of access rules: The specific rules for geo-blocking may vary depending on the content provider’s objectives. This may include completely blocking access to a web page, displaying different content, or redirecting the user to another page specific to their region.

    Is the usage legal?

    The legality of geo-blocking depends on its application and any local laws. It is often legal if it is used to comply with copyright, license agreements and local regulations. However, in the EU there are regulations that restrict unjustified geo-blocking in the single market to promote the free movement of goods and services.

    Geo-blocking is used by companies worldwide to restrict content based on geographical location. Despite its legal use in many cases, it fuels debates about Internet freedom and equality of access.

    EU legislation aims to reduce unjustified geo-blocking, yet the practice remains legal and widespread in certain contexts, such as the protection of copyrighted content.

    Can geo-blocking be circumvented?

    Circumventing geo-blocking measures is a legal gray area and its legality can vary depending on the laws of the respective country, the terms of use of the service, and the specific context.

    Many online services and content providers explicitly include the circumvention of geo-blocking measures in their terms of use. Users who circumvent such measures (e.g., by using VPNs or proxy servers to simulate an IP address from another country) may be in breach of these conditions. This may result in access to the service being restricted or the user account being blocked.

    In cases where geo-blocking is used to make copyright-protected content accessible only in certain regions, circumventing geo-blocking technologies can be considered an infringement of copyright. This can have legal consequences, especially if content is consumed or distributed illegally.

    The legality of circumventing geo-blocking may also depend on local laws and regulations. Some countries have specific laws that prohibit or restrict the circumvention of access restrictions to digital content.

    Within the EU, there are specific regulations concerning geo-blocking, particularly in the context of the Digital Single Market. The EU has taken measures to prevent unjustified geo-blocking and promotes cross-border access to goods and services.

    Nevertheless, circumventing geo-blocking, especially for copyrighted content, is a complex legal issue.

    Examples of usage

    Geo-blocking is used in many different areas:

    • Streaming services: many streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ use geo-blocking to restrict access to their content offerings depending on the user’s geographical location. This means that certain films or series are only available in certain countries or regions, based on license agreements with the content providers.
    • Sports broadcasts: Live sporting events are often restricted by geo-blocking so that users only have access to the broadcasts in certain regions. This is due to the fact that broadcasting rights for sporting events are often sold regionally, as in the case of the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, or national soccer leagues.
    • E-commerce: Some online retailers and manufacturers use geo-blocking to redirect shoppers to regional websites or restrict access to certain products and prices based on the user’s location. This can be to support local market strategies or to take into account different tax regulations and import laws.
    • Digital media and news websites: News websites and digital media platforms may use geo-blocking to restrict access to certain articles, videos or content, often for licensing reasons or to promote local versions of content.
    • Software and services: Some software products and online services are only available in certain countries due to export controls, local laws or licensing restrictions. Geo-blocking helps to control the availability of these products and services accordingly.
    • Music streaming services: Similar to video streaming platforms, music services such as Spotify and Apple Music restrict access to certain music tracks and albums depending on the licensing agreements with music labels and artists in different regions.
    • Gaming: Video games and online gaming platforms such as Steam, PlayStation Network or XBox Live can use geo-blocking to regulate access to games, DLCs (downloadable content), or special offers based on the player’s location.
    Bot Traffic: What You Need to Know
    Difficult times for banks due to DDoS
    X