You may have seen the occasional complaint in our forums that a US or Canadian user was blocked from watching content on the site due to their region. It may have happened to you and left you wondering how this can happen. Read on.
As you’re probably well aware every computer as an address on the internet. You and I access the internet using web addresses (e.g., http://www.theanimenetwork.com) but our computers use numeric address (e.g., 22.214.171.124). Those addresses, TCP/IP addresses as they’re called, are what our computers actually ask to connect to. All the intermediate computers, gateways and routers map a path from your computer to the server to request data. Then the server returns the data to your computer using your IP address.
The world’s a big place and there are billions of addresses to map back and forth. For simplicity and management, the addresses are grouped together in blocks known as classes A, B and C. These blocks are further sub-divided and handed out to regions of the world as needed. For the most part, they stay put. An address block handed out to a US ISP stays in the US. Occasionally they move.
There are databases that track where in the world a given IP address is located. When a company wants to know whether a user is in the US, Canada, Japan or anywhere else they consult one of these databases. They’re quite accurate but not perfect: as I noted above, address sometimes move. When an address is re-allocated to a new region the databases have to be updated.
Sometimes an address comes online because it’s never been allocated before or perhaps not for a long time. The databases have to be updated.
We receive new address updates on a regular basis. Sometimes address allocations and updates happen before we get an update. Once in a while it affects one of our users. We then have to make a manual entry into our database to fix the problem which is why users have to post a message to let us know they’ve been blocked.
You might be wondering at this time why mess with address at all. In a word: licensing. When Anime Network licenses a show we buy distribution rights for certain regions. By and large we buy North America (US and Canada). Contractually we have to enforce those restrictions.
We can’t just use billing addresses because users travel and unfortunately our licenses aren’t for “North Americans”. They’re for the North American region. So even though a user may be from North America, as soon as the user leave the US or Canada we have to block access.
Mapping users by their IP address is pretty accurate and doesn’t require the user to do much to prove where they are: just visit the site and try to watch a show.
We apologize for the inconvenience this sometimes imposes. Hopefully this explanation helps mitigate the frustration with some insight into why.
 Note to Networking Geeks: Yeah, we know the IPv4 space has been fully allocated to the Regional Internet Registries. For anyone who wants more details about IPv4 exhaustion, read this Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_exhaustion.