Geoblocking Not A Threat

Published Saturday, February 21, 2009 -

Geoblocking, or sometimes called geofencing is a technique for making sure only the people within (or sometimes outside) a specific geographical region can view online content. The problem stems from the way things are set up in the world of domains and the licensing of the content presented on the web.

Michael Geist, Canadian Research Chair of Internet and e-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, says " A common use for the technology is to avoid legal problems tied to online content or services that are legal in some jurisdictions but not in others."

Software can determine a website visitor's location by looking at his or her computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address. This is a numeric code assigned to every computer connected to the internet, whether it's an individual user's laptop or a large corporation's web server.

Depending on the type of internet access you have, that number may change every time you connect to the net or remain the same for as long as you stay with your internet service provider. The IP address is a telephone number of sorts for your computer, except that there isn't a public phone book. An IP address targets the location of the computer to which it is assigned. IP addresses are given to internet service providers in blocks, so the first digits of the address identify the provider and the country of origin. This in no way identifies the actual user.

To dodge geoblocking, operators use a service that relays the internet connection through a server in another country, so that you appear to be in that country. Content providers haven't found a way to prevent this, so they just put up with it. There is also no way at present to apply geoblocking to mobile phones that can display video. This being something that the industry would like to find a technical solution for, but have not as yet been able.

There will always be some geoblocking, particularly for things like online gambling, Mr.Giest notes, where laws vary between countries. Live online gambling has always found ways to thrive, its almost a sure thing a little geoblocking won't stop it.

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