Geoblocking – Limiting Access by Geographies
Depending on the type of product they are selling, software vendors often have to contend with different legal requirements and access restrictions in different countries. Some things simply cannot or must not be sold in some countries. But how to comply with these restrictions? One solution is geo-blocking.
Geo-filtering and geo-blocking sound dramatic, but the terms refer to something that virtually everybody has experienced at some point. We all have a favorite streaming service or Internet radio, but if we try to catch up on our local news on holiday, we often encounter a familiar error message: “This function is not available in your region.” This is particularly common in TV streaming services: We cannot watch our usual shows, because they are not licensed in the country from where we are accessing them. Or we are trying to watch our favorite team’s latest match, but we suddenly find that the match is only carried on pay TV in this country. What gives, and is there a way we can get around such restrictions?
These restrictions can be applied because, in theory, every time anything is accessed via the Internet, the IP address of the Internet location can be identified and linked to a real world location. IP addresses are assigned to telecommunications services providers, which helps understand which country the user is based in or, more specifically, from where they have accessed the Internet.
This points to one of the essential weaknesses of the method: Technologies like virtual private networks can establish a tunnel to access the Internet from a completely different geographic location. It would appear to the world that the user is located at the end of that virtual tunnel. Still, not everybody has such a VPN connection.
IP addresses do not necessarily translate directly into exact geographic locations. There will be cases in which data is assigned to a country that the user is not actually located in, and the allocation of IP addresses to regions is constantly being changed by different providers and projects.
Despite these two reservations, geo-blocking is one of several powerful means to restrict access to content or services. If access is restricted in this manner, it can safely be assumed that any user circumventing the restrictions does so consciously and deliberately. Medical technology is an interesting case in hand: Devices and software often need to pass separate certification and approval procedures in every country. To make sure that the certified products are only used in the countries they were certified for, vendors can either take certain precautions in their sales process, e.g. with separate online shops, or they can use CodeMeter licenses and take the right measures to allow their activation only in specific geographies. Whatever the user tries to do to circumvent these restrictions, the vendor has done everything in their power to prevent this.
Many software developers rely on Wibu-Systems’ Operating Services to handle their license management via CodeMeter License Central. The system works through certain user-facing interfaces, WebDepot or Gateways, which can be restricted for selected countries to prevent CodeMeter licenses from being activated in regions where they should not be.
The same restrictions work with CmCloudContainers: Software vendors can restrict access to their licenses for defined regions.
If you are interested in geoblocking, please visit our support portal.
KEYnote 43 – Edition Spring/Summer 2022