If you like to watch videos online from various parts of the world, you’ll likely run into some problems eventually. Namely: Geo-blocked content. Here’s a guide you can use to help get around restrictions on Geo-protected content, in many cases, so that you can enjoy the content you’re looking for.
What is geo-blocked content?
First off, Geo-blocked, Geo-locked or Geo-restricted content is content, usually video, that cannot be viewed by people outside of a specific area. Generally, geo-locked content is restricted to a specific country or set of countries, but it can be limited to a state, province or even a small region. That I am aware of, geo-restrictions on video are due to licensing restrictions by the copyright owners.
In some cases, a website may have multiple measures in place to restrict content viewing to a certain area, but for the most part, your ability to view Geo-locked content is determined by your IP address. IP addresses are assigned to specific companies that are supposed to operate in specific areas, so restricting video access by an IP address is a fairly simple and somewhat-accurate way of being sure videos can only be seen by the intended audience.
Bypassing video Geo-blocking with a VPN
Amongst the many things that VPNs, or virtual private networks, are good for, VPNs allow you to surf the web with a new IP address. Essentially, this new IP address can make it look like you’re accessing the internet from a different geographic location, which will allow you to bypass some or even many websites’ Geo-blocking efforts.
Example using Private Internet Access
I live in the United States. However, if I wanted to watch a video on France 4 from my home internet connection, I’d be presented with something like this:
Which states, “Pour des raisons de droits concédés à France télévisions, cette vidéo n’est pas disponible depuis votre position géographique (US)”, or along the lines of, “Because of rights given to France Televisions, this video is not available from your geographic location”.
However, if I open up Private Internet Access and pick a French server, I am able to watch the video from my home internet connection:
I’ve personally bypassed Youtube geo-blocking (“This video is not available in your country” / “The uploader has not made this video available in your country”, etc) and numerous other websites that had some form of Geo-blocking in place with Private Internet Access.
How to pick a server using PIA
With Private Internet Access, if you’re using the desktop application, you can scroll through the available countries (3,200+ servers in 49 locations, 29 countries as of this writing). In order to bypass Geo-restrictions, you’ll need to pick a server in a country where your intended content can be streamed. In cases of some Youtube Geo-blocking, you can just pick a country that isn’t the United States to bypass some of those restrictions.
If a country has multiple servers available, you’ll see a little right-facing triangle next to the country name, and then you can select between the states, provinces or cities available, depending on the country. With Private Internet Access, some countries have 1 location available with some servers available and other countries have multiple locations with hundreds or even over 1,000 servers available.
I’m using Private Internet Access as an example as that’s the VPN service I’ve used for a long time and recommend. However, I expect that most paid VPN services can help you view Geo-restricted content, and possibly some free VPN services could help, though free services will generally be less reliable.
Limitations VPNs in Bypassing Geographic Content Restrictions
VPNs are not magical things that will automatically allow you to view Netflix, ESPN, HBO, Amazon Prime, etc from foreign locations. First and foremost, services like these generally require a credit card and billing address in the country where the content is intended to be viewed. That is beyond the scope of this article and beyond what this website will ever cover.
Second, it is very easy for a website to determine whether a visitor is using a home internet connection or a VPN. Most websites or streaming services will not outright block VPN traffic because there are plenty of uses for VPN use besides geo-unblocking video content. However, some service or website operators may purposely block specific VPN networks, which may affect specific VPN providers. Generally speaking, this probably happens faster with free VPNs than paid VPNs, but either type of VPN service can be blocked just as easily depending on how the website operator decides to run their website.
Bypassing Geo-restricted content is not 100% reliable on 100% of websites that choose to restrict content by country or area. However, there are numerous websites that have these restrictions in place that can be bypassed by simply setting up a VPN and connecting to the internet through that. Feel free to check out the list of VPN services if you don’t already have a service that you use.