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Services like netflix, BBC iPlayer or uitzending gemist apply region block in their streaming services. These blockages are easily ignored with either a VPN or a DNS located in a country where the blockage doesn't apply.

The only reason I can think of that this work around isn't allowed is due to copyright laws. But that doesn't make sense. First of all, especially in the case of netflix, you need a paid subscription anyway. So you are paying for the content. Furthermore it is allowed to buy a dvd abroad, when traveling and watch it at home upon return. Only the technology differs when it arrives in your home as an IP stream. Further more all the content available through the BBC iPlayer is also available through satellite dishes and the ASTRA satellites.

Especially as an expat using a VPN or DNS is very interesting, since they allow a link with home.

My current hypothesis is that these region blockages are to prevent long distance congestion and as such using the VPN or DNS tricks are allowed. Is this a correct assumption, or am I missing something else?

  • Is it allowed by whom? The local government? That depends on the local government. By the media company? that depends on their terms of service. This question is too broad to answer. – Flimzy Mar 26 '14 at 19:46
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    My current hypothesis is that these region blockages are to prevent long distance congestion and as such using the VPN or DNS tricks are allowed. Is this a correct assumption, or am I missing something else? I don't think Netflix cares about network congestion in remote corners. They do care about is their distribution contracts with various media companies. They generally only have license to re-sell their content to specific regions. By bypassing their region limitations, you are no doubt in violation of your contract with them, and violating their contract with the copyright holders. – Flimzy Mar 26 '14 at 19:48
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    This is completely based on the terms of service of the different players. Generally they will disallow it, and they will have a good reason: copyright law. Netflix and other streaming providers (usually) don't own the things they stream, they just licence it from the copyright holder. And the copyright holder for the same artwork can be completely different in different countries. Also the copyright holder can only licence the artwork inside the countries they have rights to licence it. It doesn't matter where you are a citizen, what matters is where you are a resident in this case. – SztupY Mar 26 '14 at 19:48
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    If you want a legal analysis, it's very complicated (there are several layers of contracts here and only made possible by copyright law and treaties in the first place). Technical impact might be complex as well. One way to turn this into one or more practical, answerable questions would be to ask how likely you are to get in trouble for using a VPN/whether content provider actively fight VPN services/etc. – Gala Mar 26 '14 at 22:37
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    Lawyer's analysis why it would be illegal. In this case in Australia, but most like arguments would apply most anywhere else. – vartec Mar 26 '14 at 23:15
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Your first hint was right. This is mostly (if not only) due to copyright. The rights on any production is subject to a contract that you implicitly accept when you watch a video, read an article or listen to a podcast. And these contracts depend on the territory you are on.

As you mentioned, you can find DVD sold abroad. But in that case, there is a contract between the producer, the artists, the seller to distribute the DVDs abroad. These conditions of the contract are usually decided from the beginning of the production, mostly because it implies a lot of people (for a movie you can think of actors, director, screenplay author, producer, musicians, sellers, TV networks, possibly movie theatres, and any other person involved).

I mostly have French references to back that up. The French public TV network has some "catch-up TV" website with a specific subset for French expatriates to watch the programs. At the Parliament, its members representing the French from abroad often raise the issue of the too limited set of programs available to viewers from outside of France.

There is the problem of sport competitions, movies and the kind, that want to make the most money out of it so they sell these rights (for example the Olympic Games are usually sold to one TV network for each country) and this is probably expensive for few expatriates, but there is also the problem of other programs that are only made for one TV channel. And even in that case, the contract does not allow easy share:

« les conditions de diffusion en télévision de rattrapage des œuvres audiovisuelles dépendent directement des contrats passés avec les producteurs » relatent Lefebvre, Mariani et Schmid. Ces producteurs rechignent à céder leurs droits dans le monde entier et la loi ne peut forcer la main puisque « la cession de droits de propriété intellectuelle ne peut relever que d’accords contractuels. »

Which can more or less be translated as the fact that this territorial constraint mostly depends on the contract between the TV channel and the producers. The producers are not willing to give the rights to broadcast it abroad. And the law cannot be used to bypass these contracts.

As you saw, there is a part of the website for French expatriates, so there is no technical limitation. But there are legal limitations.

And by the way, if you have ever tried to buy ebooks from abroad, you would notice the same limit. It is harder or impossible to buy/read an ebook abroad for the same legal issues (downloading an ebook does not require much bandwidth).

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There is definitely a copyright issue, the media/content service providers (netfilx, bbc, etc) usually have only a very limited permissions to sell/distribuite/rent/licence the content in some (or only one) countries and they usually put such restrictions in the terms and conditions you have to agree to sign up to their services.

Usually in each country there ate different licencing permissions, not only for business/opportunity reasons but also for different local laws and taxes.

Checking the clients' IP is an easy way for the content service providers to enforce their licensing obligations and usually they also check the credit card country issuer. If you want to pay for Netflix in USA, you may need to have a credit card issued in the USA, it's a little bit difficult to have such card without being in the USA.

With a VPN you could "easily" bypass the IP restriction and pretty much nobody will find out what you are doing, but it very likely you are breaking the terms and conditions of the service and the provider could terminate your account without any notice.

I don't think this kind of violation qualify to be a criminal offence in any countries, but nobody is going to give you a medal either.

  • Legal issues aside, if you are not afraid for roll up your sleeves and dive into Linux and The Cloud, this guide shows how to implement a solution to get around BBC iPlayer geo-restriction in Australia: blog.belodedenko.me/2014/12/… Also, having a few friends share a solution like this is significantly cheaper than individually paying $5 a month for a commercial service. -- ab1 – ab77 Dec 12 '14 at 14:55

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