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How to Navigate Region-Locked Content Online

Written By:  Emily Willings

If you’re a long-time Youtube user, then chances are you’ve stumbled across at least a few cases of a region lock, also known as geo-blocking. Usually, this means you’re greeted with a message similar to ‘This content is not available in your area’, though sometimes the errors can be far less intelligible.

As the internet is supposed to be a method of global connection, such issues seem to fly in the face of what the web stands for. Not all is lost, however, as there are ways in which we can address these problems.

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Why Do Region Locks Exist?

Most commonly, region locks exist because of the disparity of laws within a website’s host system. In other words, the people who create a form of media only have a legal right to sell their virtual wares within certain borders.

By enabling region locking in these instances, the companies can protect themselves from crossing the laws of other countries. Choosing to cross these lines, despite the law, could result in much larger overall bans of their media. 
 

Finding Your Way Around

The easiest way to get around a region lock is to simply look for an alternative source with the correct rights. For specific videos, this can be as simple as turning to other major online video vendors, such as Daily Motion or Metacafe. For certain TV series or films, a standard TV licence means that you may be able to enjoy this content legally and easily on iplayer and similar on-demand websites.

Individual Searches

For websites concerned with other pursuits, you’re going to have to rely on individualised searches. A common example we’ve come across on this front relates to issues in playing the Irish lottery in Northern Ireland. In this case, you can play the National Lotto online at Lottoland, which we found after a quick Google search. Because of how they have set their site up, they allow users to bet on the winning numbers of lotteries far and wide.

Just remember to bookmark any such websites you find, so you can easily return next time. Another example is music; sometimes, musicians choose to make some of their content freely and legally available to download online, on websites such as Soundcloud or elsewhere. Googling the title of the album or the name of the artist will show the way.

Browser Addons

A less simple but also effective method can be found through the application of browser extensions and add-ons. Note that these are limited in scope, and tend to more available for Firefox browsers than they are for the now very confined Chrome – which is developed by Google, which is also behind YouTube. These also run the risk of being outdated, as browser updates can change the framework on which they operate.

VPNs

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Virtual Private Networks, often called VPNs, are a more complicated but especially effective way of circumventing region locks. These paid services effectively trick your internet connection into thinking your computer is in another country, which the owner can usually specify.

Many savvy users have even used these systems in conjunction with services like Netflix and Hulu to expand their entertainment libraries. You might not know, but the US library of television and film on these systems tends to far outweigh the libraries of other countries. By creating an overseas account in this case, users can get themselves much more bang for their buck.

“VPN Keyboard Red” (CC BY 2.0) by BitsFromBytes Check Around

We would recommend simply searching the internet first for alternative hosts to any region-locked media. While the other methods are effective, they are also more complicated, and they come with far greater risk of human error.

We know it’s frustrating, but with a little effort, you should hopefully be able to find everything you want.

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