The following is a Plus Edition article, written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Comments posted to this newsletters' website recently have highlighted a common problem: not all the information on the World Wide Web is available worldwide. For example, many television programs are converted to computer videos and made available online. However, the audiences often are restricted. Web users in the United States are blocked from watching the BBC version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" This is because the BBC wishes to restrict access to episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" to U.K. residents, and the web server in the U.K. knows whether you are in the U.K. or not by looking at your IP address, the Internet Protocol address your computer is using while you are online.
Actually, many other web sites do the same, even if they are not providing television programs. For instance, web users in Australia are frequently blocked from accessing some of the books on Google Books in the USA. In this case, the reason for the blockage is that Google Books has to deal with copyright laws in all countries, and those laws vary from one country to the next. Google doesn't always know all the laws in all the countries; so, the company takes a conservative approach. Google typically complies with U.S. laws and therefore allows U.S. residents to access all content. Users in other countries often are blocked from some books because Google cannot guarantee compliance with all copyright laws in each country.
As one newsletter reader wrote, "It is disappointing to see a book mentioned on a genealogy mail list only to find we can't download it because we don't live in the USA."
These examples of blocked web access point to a reality of the online world: your connection to the internet has an IP address (Internet Protocol address). This is your online identity, and it is exposed every time you visit a website. When you try to visit a desired web page, web servers can look at your IP address and, if it is not an acceptable address, decide to block your access.
If your IP address causes a web server to block your access to a TV show, a book, or any other online content, you still may be able to get to that content. All you have to do is use an IP address that shows it is in the country where such information is displayed.
Can you change your IP address to appear to be located someplace else in the world? Yes, although the process isn't simple. However, once you have an IP address showing in another country, you can access all content available to residents of that country.
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