Geoblocking is the name of the technology used by TV stations and video portals to unlock their media content only for certain countries. Such barriers are annoying, but at the same time technically easy to circumvent. No, this is not about the countless instructions on the web on how to stream and download paid films and series for free – that is forbidden. But those who only want to see the same as at home during their holidays, but can’t, ask themselves: What’s going on, why doesn’t it work?
This is due to so-called geoblocking, i.e. the regional blocking of Internet content. This is based on the concept of the rights owners of films and TV series to license the broadcasting of media material only for certain countries or regions. In addition, there are different copyright laws: Many Youtube music videos that are otherwise freely available are blocked in Germany, because in this country the Gema (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte) charges a fee for each call. Google as Youtube owner and the Gema have been arguing for years, an end of the legal dispute is currently not in sight.
Geoblocking in practice: Holiday ban for ARD, ZDF & Co.
Let’s say you are driving over the Alps on holiday. Arrived in “Bella Italia” you want to see then in the evening on your Smartphone or Tablet a German transmitter, which is missing on the hotel television. “No problem”, you think? Oh, yes, it is. Because neither live TV nor the media library apps or the apps from Magine and Zattoo work on the mobile device.
Another way to bypass the geoblocks of German stations abroad is to have your own TV server at home (on your PC or network hard drive). This requires a receiver suitable for the TV signal and software. DVB Logic offers the TV-Butler for 99 Euro, a software/hardware combination that processes DVB-T/T2 and DVB-C as an input signal. Apps for the smartphone or tablet allow live TV and viewing of recorded programmes. A fixed IP address is also required for mobile access. You can read how to set it up in our guide .
- Pick a Smart DNS provider from http://www.bestsmartdns.net/
- A look at Zattoo‘s FAQs makes it clear that television streaming only works in five countries, namely Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Denmark and the UK – licensing reasons, it says succinctly.
- Television about Magine’s competition is even more restricted, even if you pay for a paid subscription in Germany.
- All this is not understandable from the point of view of German holidaymakers, because after all it makes no (big) difference whether you want to watch television with one and the same account north or south of the Alps. This is also the view of the EU Commission, which is now vehemently against blocking countries on the Internet.
And another example of this: Exactly one year ago the US-American streaming service Netflix started in Germany with a lot of fuss, but then disillusionment spread. Because with the enormous selection, which the citizens can call up in the USA, the offer has to do here in Germany only little. The US portal, on the other hand, is closed here for licensing reasons.
A similar picture emerges with other US video platforms, such as Hulu or Pandora. It says “Sorry, currently our video library can only be watched from within the United States” and “We are deeply, deeply sorry … We believe that you are in Germany (your IP address …)”. The result is always that the German viewer is denied access to the program.
Proxies, VPN and DNS against blocking IP addresses
The background to the complicated licensing rights in the trade with films and series is that the producers and owners of the copyrights want to make as much profit as possible. As a result, the films are often available for a limited time and place. For locally restricted access, the film industry usually relies on the matching of IP addresses. If the country-specific IP identifier does not match the United States, it will fail the IP check of the US video portals.
Conversely, when German holidaymakers try to access German television content abroad, the opposite happens: Here, too, the foreign IP address – whether connected to the Internet via mobile phone, WLAN or LAN – does not match the content. Live television and access to the German TV media libraries will then be blocked.
If streaming is actually only controlled by checking the IP address, it is easy to circumvent. This is because a potential user sees what he wants to see with a different, i.e. “false” Internet identifier. Other features such as geolocalization via HTML5, the language of the browser or the time zone of the computer are usually irrelevant.