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Geoblocking – What It Is and Why it Matters

Geoblocking is the practice of restricting access to internet content based on a user’s geographical location. This is typically achieved by using technology to determine the user’s IP address, which identifies the country or region from which they are accessing the internet. With this information, content providers can then either allow or deny access to specific content.

1. Geoblocking: What Is It Used For?

  • Legal compliance: Some content may be restricted in specific regions due to copyright laws or local regulations. For example, a movie might be copyrighted and only permitted for viewing in certain countries.
  • Business Strategy: Companies can employ geoblocking to implement varied pricing strategies based on geographical regions or to manage the release of products and services tailored to specific markets.
  • Content Optimization: Content is often tailored to the language or culture of specific regions. Geoblocking ensures that users access only content relevant to their location

2. Geoblocking: How does it work?

  • IP Address Identification: When a user accesses an online service, their IP address is automatically detected. This IP address provides geographical information about where the user is accessing the internet from.
  • Content Restriction Based on Location: Based on the detected IP address, the content provider can apply restrictions that block or allow access to certain content. For example, a video streaming service may only have rights to show a particular movie in certain countries.

According to the 2024 annual Special Report 301 by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), assessing the actual situation of copyright infringement in Vietnam, Y2Mate, a stream-ripping site, initially restricted access to users from certain countries (the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) as a voluntary measure – possibly in response to legal pressures or copyright enforcement concerns in those regions. However, it mentions that despite these restrictions, access was eventually restored, and alternative sites were set up, likely as a means to continue providing service to users from those geoblocked countries.

3. Geoblocking: How does it impact?

  • Access to Content: Geoblocking affects how and where users can access certain types of content, including movies, music, and live sports broadcasts.
  • User Experience: It can lead to frustration among users who find themselves blocked from accessing content or services because of their geographical location.
  • Privacy and Avoidance Techniques: Some users may turn to VPNs or proxy servers to mask their real IP addresses and circumvent geoblocking, which can raise privacy and legal issues.