Proxyrack - December 5, 2023

What is geo-blocking?

The internet can feel a little like the Wild West at times, with users being able to free-roam wherever they like, the availability of just about anything and the increasing risk of cyber crimes.

There is a lot of risk involved for companies and businesses, and with that in mind, companies put specific measures in place to maintain a little bit of control.

Geo-blocking is one of the few measures that companies often employ.

In this guide, we explore the big wide world of geo-blocking. We’ll look at how geo-blocking works, why it’s used and how you can bypass geo-restrictions to access the content you want.

The what, why and how of geo-blocking

Geo-blocking is the practice of using special technologies to restrict access to a website or the content on its pages based on a user’s physical location. 

Geo-blocking is typically achieved by analyzing the user's IP address or other location data and then allowing or denying access to content or services. 

How does geo-blocking work?

Geo-blocking restricts access to online content or services based on the user's location.

It works by identifying a user's IP address and comparing it to a predefined list of allowed or blocked locations. If the user's IP is in a blocked area, they're denied access; if it's in an authorised location, they can access the content. This technology is commonly used to enforce copyright laws, control regional access to content, or comply with local regulations.

Why does geo-blocking exist?

Geo-blocking is often employed to comply with regional legal regulations, control distribution and consumption, or abide by specific market requirements.

It can be frustrating for users who encounter restrictions, but it's also a tool for businesses to maintain control of their offerings by managing licensing, pricing, and content availability.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the main reasons why brands and businesses might want to use geo-blocking on their websites.

1. Legal reasons

Websites may use geo-blocking to adhere to different laws and regulations in whatever place they are operating.

Laws vary from country to country, so a website has to be compliant with copyright laws, age restrictions, and censorship requirements wherever it can be accessed.

2. Market control

In some cases, companies may want to control the release and distribution of their products or services in specific markets, staggering releases or pricing in line with demand and competition.

3. Licensing agreements

Geo-blocking is often used to honour licensing agreements,  such as instances when there might be a need to grant exclusive rights to distribute content or services in certain regions.

You see this with companies like Netflix, where certain shows are only available to stream in some countries.

4. Security and privacy

Geo-blocking can be employed to enhance security by limiting access to specific geographic areas and to protect user privacy by complying with data protection laws and avoiding data breaches.

5. Resource management

By restricting access, websites and services can manage their server load, ensuring a smooth and consistent user experience on their site. This is especially relevant for high-priority websites or ones that experience provoked fluctuations in traffic, like clothing websites that do exclusive "drops" and ticketing platforms when the latest Taylor Swift tour goes on sale. 

6. Tailored content

Geo-blocking allows companies to tweak their content and marketing strategies to suit the cultural norms of specific regions. Minor adjustments like this are likely to help their reputation and business later down the line by appealing to a greater number of potential customers from their very first interaction.

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Use cases for bypassing geo-restricted websites

For people struggling to grasp why they may want to bypass geo-blocking, here are some of the most common use cases to consider:

  • Getting the most out of online streaming services: Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ offer different shows depending on geographical location. If you want to watch all the shows a company has to offer, or if you’re travelling and want to keep up to date with the latest series you’re binge-watching whilst abroad, you’ll need to bypass geo-restrictions.

  • Accessing product releases on international sites: Shoppers might use geo-spoofing (the act of hiding your true location and making it appear as if you’re somewhere else) to compare prices on e-commerce websites in different countries and find the best deals. This scenario is relevant for ticket sites, too, so check out our Ticketmaster proxy guide if you want to learn how to get your hands on a pair of tickets to your favorite artist’s next tour.

  • Bypassing censorship: In some countries, websites are blocked or censored by the government. Bypassing geo-restrictions can help people access websites that are otherwise unavailable in their area or enable visitors to those countries to retain access to the content they regularly consume at home.

  • Seamless remote work: If someone is working remotely, they might need to access resources exclusively available within their company's network or from a specific location. Bypassing geo-blocking will give them access to these resources and allow business to continue as usual.

How do you bypass geo-blocking?

Luckily, for those with the tools and know-how, there are ways to access geo-blocked content.

The two main methods for bypassing geo-restrictions are using either a proxy server or a virtual private network (VPN). Let’s take a look at both of these in a bit more detail.

Use a proxy server

The first way to get around geo-blocking is to use a proxy server.

In short, these servers work by giving users a different IP address than the one on their device. This way, users can digitally claim to be elsewhere and bypass geo-restrictions from the location change.

Residential proxies are a popular choice for geo-spoofing practices, as they are reliable, provide specific locations and are undetectable by websites.

Want to feast your eyes on more information about IP addresses? Check out our full guide on the what, why and how of hiding your device’s IP address

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

A second option to bypass geo-blocking restrictions is to use a VPN.

VPNs work by masking your IP address and changing it on the surface to an IP address in the location of your choice. Once you've chosen a VPN and downloaded it to your device, you must create an account and select the area you wish to appear from within the application.

However, it is worth noting that more is needed in some cases, as some websites and apps also check for GPS locations and DNS leaks, which can still be visible with a VPN.

VPNs can be used for several things, for example, getting cheaper subscriptions to your favorite services.

Read our full guide on what to look for when choosing a VPN for more information.

Is bypassing geo-blocking legal?

When we get down deep into the legalities of bypassing geo-blocking, things get a bit hazy, as there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

A lot of it depends on the country you’re in and its laws, the licensing agreements in existence between content providers and broadcasters, and the nature of the content in question.

From a purely technical perspective, if bypassing geo-restrictions means you break copyright rules (e.g. if you’re accessing content that only a specific broadcaster or streaming service has the rights to share in a particular country), this is against the law.

In practice, though, many websites are reluctant to issue penalties because there are many legitimate use cases for accessing content via a proxy or VPN, meaning it’s hard for them to differentiate between users who are in the right and those who are in the wrong.

Legalities aside, a lot of the websites you’ll come across that use geo-blocking will state that bypassing location blocks violates their terms of service. If you break the rules, you do run the risk that a site will ban you from accessing its content in the future, which is why using the most secure proxies and VPNs (aka not the freebies) is essential.

Get more guidance by reading our full guide on the risks of using a free proxy server.

Bypass geo-blocking with the help of Proxyrack 

If you’re interested in any of the perks of bypassing geo-blocking that we’ve mentioned above, why not try a proxy?

Can’t get enough of Netflix? We can help with that.

When it comes to proxies, we know our stuff. With a Proxyrack subscription, you can access thousands of IP addresses, meaning you’ll be able to tackle geo-blocking on sites worldwide from one simple interface. 

Unsure about whether proxies are the solution for you? Try all our proxy products with a FREE 7-day trial.

FAQs

What websites are geo-blocked?

Many different websites are geo-blocked for a range of different reasons, but you’re most likely to come across geo-blocking on streaming services that choose to restrict access to their content due to regional licensing agreements. Examples of streaming providers that use geo-blocking are the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and live sports channels such as ESPN and Sky Sports. 

Is geo-blocking effective?

Geo-blocking is quite effective in restricting access. Thanks to geo-blocking, many online content and retail companies have managed to gain control of their markets in this fashion to control what users can do, depending on where they are and limiting who has access to what offerings.

How to turn off geo-blocking

There are a couple of ways a person can turn off geo-blocking restrictions in their area, which take little effort to execute.

  1. Using a VPN.

  2. Using a Proxy.

You can learn more about bypassing geo-blocking by reading up about our offerings on proxies.

What is a Smart DNS?

A Smart DNS is a service you can use to access geo-restricted content. This way, it doesn't change your IP and does not encrypt your connection like a VPN does. It is commonly used for streaming, as it offers good speeds for watching video content.

What are IP addresses?

 An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique string of numbers that is assigned to each device connected to the internet, whether it’s a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.

IP addresses help devices on the internet find and communicate with each other, similar to how a street address helps people find a physical location. 

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