How to unlock and stream blocked content

If you want to watch foreign media content such as videos or series, you will quickly encounter a message that denies you access. Among those blocked contents are, for example, Facebook or YouTube videos or soccer matches on Sky. Abroad, on the other hand, the contents of media libraries like that of ARD, ZDF, RTL, Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes are blocked by geo-blocking as well, so that you can neither access Facebook contents nor your favorite German series on holiday. Here’s how to circumvent these barriers.

Blocked streams due to geo-blocking

Many Sky users assume that they can easily view their contents by using Sky Go when they are abroad. But, for licensing reasons the provider may only broadcast its programs – including the on-demand services – in Germany and Austria.

The so-called geo-blocking uses the IP address to determine your location when you try to access the offer. If you’re located outside Germany or Austria, the content is being blocked. Likewise, you may face that kind of problems if you try to access foreign contents. While German broadcasters do not have international broadcasting rights for contents of foreign media libraries such as television productions or sports programs, streaming services such as Netflix are limited to the country in which a customer bought his subscription. Among other providers, YouTube also makes use of this ban.

Circumventing country blocks with VPN software

However, this block can easily be circumvented on both a Windows and an Android device with a so-called VPN tunnel. The tool disguises the user’s location and lets the provider see an IP address from another country. It does so by establishing a secure connection with the target computer, i.e. the media library, and redirecting it to a server of the VPN provider which encrypts the signal. Since the actual IP address is neither visible to the Internet provider nor to the website, users of VPN software browse the web anonymously.

Some tools offer the option of selecting a country whose content you wish to access. However, you can, of course, only access pay TV channels and streaming services via VPN if you’re a paying subscriber. Your VPN software should be a high-performance provider that does not limit bandwidth or data volume because streaming transfers large amounts of data at high speed. So that the connection does not break off in between, the performance of your connection should be at least on a level of DSL 1.000, better still DSL 2.000. Free VPN tools are only to a limited extend suitable for excessive streaming because they offer a rather low bandwidth.

The legal side

There are usually no legal consequences, as using a VPN is at most a violation of the general terms and conditions. If you confine yourself to streaming and do not start downloading contents, you cannot speak of a copyright infringement. For this reason, you may indeed be banned by the provider; however, since you’re a paying subscriber, it’s rather questionable whether the provider will really keep the ban up.

A new EU regulation, however, is good news for subscribers of paid streaming services in other EU countries. With the cross-border portability regulation of January 2018, the European Parliament decreed to abandon geo-blocking restrictions – with the exception of free media libraries.

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