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Geoblocking is the process of limiting user access to the internet based on their physical location. It is typically implemented by telecommunications companies, websites and other content providers and intellectual proprietors, often for the sake of copyright restrictions. Databases that map out IP addresses’ physical locations are often used to manage and enforce geoblocks.
Geoblocking often uses encryption in order to protect content that is intended only for specific regions. Throughout its history, the practice has faced a number of challenges. A notable example is the case of a German student who tried to purchase geoblocked content from UK-based Sky TV in the early 1990s, only to be denied by the company. The undergraduate then studied Sky TV’s proprietary encryption tool, and developed Season7, a piece of decryption software that ultimately allowed viewers all over Europe to access Sky TV’s content for free.
Today, although geoblocking remains in use by many major content providers (such as Netflix) the restrictions can be circumvented using a number of different methods (such as virtual private networks).