If you want to circumvent a geoblock for streamed content

This post is à propos of nothing. I am not advocating any behavior. This is also a highly technical issue, so I strongly suggest that you discuss any steps you take regarding your devices with an experienced person who knows what they are doing and knows what the applicable laws and risks are in your jurisdiction. I am writing this very vaguely and on an elementary level on purpose. The legality of what I am describing here is questionable at best and the laws and likelihood of being noticed and punished differ strongly depending on one’s location.

The most frequent reason that one cannot see free content from another country over the Internet is due to geoblocking. In geoblocking, the server that offers the content has a list of ranges of IP addresses (numerical designations attached to your device that indicate where it is) that it will serve and/or a list of ranges that it will block. You are familiar with this problem if you’ve ever clicked on a YT or BBC iPlayer video and gotten the message that the content is not available in your country. Geoblocking, when erected by a content provider, typically protects contractual arrangements that differ according to jurisdiction (as when a television show is sold to NBC in the US and also to Sky in the UK, where the price is often determined by projected advertising or subscription revenue), or seeks to preserve audiences as future markets for content. As annoying as I find geoblocking, content providers do it in order to protect their financial interest in their content, which includes paying the artists we love. Martha de Laurentiis, whose company produced Hannibal, has been very vocal about her conviction that piracy and illegal viewing led to the ratings decline that led NBC to cancel the show. Whether that explanation is true or not, it is undeniable that many people watched Hannibal via various illegal mechanisms. In such situations, even paying for content when it becomes available for purchase does not make the original viewing legal.

Users who want to circumvent a geoblock need to change their computers’ actual IP addresses so that they look, to a server that is deciding whether to serve the device, as if they are somewhere other than where they are. Making this change is one of the functions of a genre of software called a VPN or anonymizer (a form of proxy server). Not all uses of a VPN are illegal. Those who travel for work and have to log in to secure networks for that reason may already be running a VPN; for a long time, a VPN allowed me to access my home library’s databases from abroad.

VPNs do many useful things in addition to allowing a person to overcome geoblocking; among them, a VPN typically provides encryption for all transferred data. Anonymizers do much less, as their only purpose is to try to prevent a user from being traced or geoblocked. Typical Armitage fan users may not need all the advantages of a VPN unless they are frequently connecting from public wifi hotspots, but these days most people who attempt to circumvent geoblocking are operating or connecting to a VPN or have installed a browser plug-in that connects one to a VPN. There are paid and free options for VPNs. For the person who intends to circumvent a geoblock only very occasionally, a browser plug-in is probably sufficient. Some popular ones are Zenmate, Hide My Ass, Stealthy, ProxyMate, and Hola, although Hola is to be avoided as it can inadvertently turn your device into part of a botnet, which could cause far greater problems than a copyright violation. Hola should never be activated on a work computer. Which plugin you can use depends on which browser you are using.

Some things to know about VPNs: They do slow streaming down — especially the free ones. (So switch yours off if you’re doing unproblematic browsing.) Every VPN I’ve encountered specifies in its terms of service that it may not be used to conduct illegal activities. So using one to circumvent a geoblock only disguises your IP address to let you see what you want to see; it does not make the circumvention itself legal. The record of VPN companies in maintaining confidentiality of their users is mixed. Not every VPN counters every geoblock because some geoblocking is accomplished on a higher level than simply the IP address.

All that said: if what you want to do is watch free content that is being streamed on YT in the US, which is a common “teaser” strategy for television networks these days, this might be an easy solution. Circumventing a geoblock might also enhance your access to other kinds of free tv sites where you might find the same content. Of course, you might find these sites on your own, and depending on where you are in the world, some of them would not require you to circumvent a geoblock, either.

~ by Servetus on August 1, 2016.

5 Responses to “If you want to circumvent a geoblock for streamed content”

  1. One of the handy methods to load region-blocked Youtube vids is to just replace the “tube” in the URL with “pak”.

    From my limited experience, I’ve found Zenmate to be pretty good. I have a poor connection, but its proxy servers are fast enough that I don’t feel the loading times as painfully as other services.


    • Interesting. I had no idea. I can see the vast majority of what I want to see, so I haven’t had to get all that creative.

      I think the negative on Zenmate is that it limits the number of places you can appear to be. Or that used to be the case, anyway.


      • Yeah, that’s still true. Free users only have access to a handful of locations. They’ve been pretty reliable for me whenever I want to view something that’s US-only though, so I can’t complain. 😀


  2. […] you’re in the UK or per me, in the U.S. If you can’t see these links, I suggest trying this strategy. Thanks to […]


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