There’s something particularly rankling about regional video restrictions on the internet. Despite all assertions that the internet is a free and open medium in which anyone from any corner of the globe can interact with anyone else, the laws of individual countries often throw up roadblocks for people attempting to watch certain videos that their government, for one reason or another, has deemed unsuitable for viewing, even on international sites like YouTube. Not exactly “free and open,” is it?

This strange inequity is what lead one German High School student known only as Malte to create ProxTube, a free add-on for FireFox and Chrome that allows people anywhere to view YouTube videos that would otherwise have been blocked. It works by providing proxy servers within the US to unblock the website itself, while the actual video is loaded on the user’s end in order to prevent lagging. Users may then access the video just like they would be able to in a country without such restrictions.

“Apart from being fascinated by the opportunities the internet offers, I’m trying to solve everyday problems by technological means,” writes Malte.

While the use of proxy servers as a workaround for regional restrictions isn’t new, this endeavor is certainly one of the most holistic in nature. Malte’s inspiration to create this add-on came from Germany’s rather authoritarian organization known as GEMA, which manages musical and performing reproduction rights within the country. GEMA is notorious for blocking any videos containing copyrighted material on YouTube for German internet users, regardless of the legality of the copyrighted content’s use. The reason why was the result of GEMA attempting to raise the fee charged to YouTube for showing copyrighted works in Germany in March 2009. The ongoing dispute and subsequent embargo of YouTube videos in Germany has even received criticism from members of the music industry that you wouldn’t often expect to be on the side of internet freedom, including CEO of Sony Music Edgar Berger.

“I suspect that some members of GEMA’s supervisory board have not yet arrived in the digital era,” said Berger. “We want to see streaming services like VEVO and Spotify in the German market. [These platforms] must not be blocked by GEMA any longer. Artists and music companies are losing sales in the millions.”

While the use of proxy servers as a workaround for regional restrictions isn’t new, this endeavor is certainly one of the most holistic in nature and highlights a growing trend among internet users to wholly reject such needless confinements for internet browsing. Until certain organizations, whether they’re governmental or corporate in nature, realize that the internet should be a more open and free platform than its current state, we can at least take comfort in knowing that programs like these are now becoming more and more commonplace in their use. Its not a solution, but it helps.