Did you just try to visit a website only to be met by a message that says Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons?

In a nutshell, this error message indicates that the website owner or your local government/authority has blocked access to the website in order to comply with the law in the country from which you’re browsing, even though the website itself might still be working for other visitors.

However, if you really need to access the site, there are some ways that you can “fix” (or bypass) this error message to still view the website in question.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything that you need to know about the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message, including the following:


What Is Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons?

An example of the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message
An example of the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message

The Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message is an HTTP error code that displays when the website you’re trying to access has been blocked by the government/authority of the country from which you’re browsing OR when the website owner has blocked you in order to comply with laws.

The error code – 451 – is a reference to Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi novel, Fahrenheit 451. Because of this, you’ll also see Error 451 sometimes called the “censorship error.”

In the error message, you should see details about the name of the organization requesting the block, along with the reasons for the block.

Here’s a humorous example from Mozilla that’s based on Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

HTTP/1.1 451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons
Link: <https://spqr.example.org/legislatione>; rel="blocked-by"
Content-Type: text/html
<html>
<head><title>Unavailable For Legal Reasons</title></head>
<body>
<h1>Unavailable For Legal Reasons</h1>
<p>This request may not be serviced in the Roman Province
of Judea due to the Lex Julia Majestatis, which disallows
access to resources hosted on servers deemed to be
operated by the People's Front of Judea.</p>
</body>
</html>

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What Causes Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons?

Unlike pretty much all other HTTP errors, the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message usually has nothing to do with either the website server (hosting) or the client (usually your web browser).

Instead, the error usually means that your internet service provider (ISP) has blocked the site at a network level.

The website could be functioning perfectly normally and your browser could be functioning perfectly normally, but you’ll still get this error because the ISP that you’re using for internet service has blocked the website.

In some cases, the website that you’re trying to visit might display the error by itself in order to comply with a legal order or avoid legal issues, even without the ISP’s involvement. For example, a small number of sites block European traffic and display this error message because the sites don’t want to comply with the GDPR. You can see an example of this in the screenshot from the previous section.

Either way, the important detail to understand is that the error is not caused by any widespread issue on the website or your computer – it’s specifically because of compliance with a law or legal order.

How To Fix Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons

Because the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message indicates that a website is blocked for legal reasons, there’s not necessarily any way to “fix” it in most cases (short of hiring a lawyer and going to court).

However, if you’re trying to access someone else’s website, there are several ways that you can effectively bypass the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message.

1. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Using a virtual private network (VPN) can let you bypass the error 451 message by encrypting your connection and routing it through a server in a different country.

Because it looks like you’re browsing from a different country and your ISP is no longer able to see what sites you’re looking at, you should be able to access the site.

Just make sure that you choose a VPN server in a country that isn’t blocked. For example, if you live in France and you’re trying to access a website that blocks European traffic because of the GDPR, choosing a VPN server in Germany won’t solve the problem because German visitors are also blocked. However, choosing a VPN server in the USA would.

To learn more, you can read our full guide on how a VPN works.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can use a free VPN such as ProtonVPN. Or, for more connection options and features, you can consider a paid VPN service such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or others.

2. Change Your DNS Resolvers to Cloudflare

Whenever your computer/web browser tries to connect to a website, it needs to use DNS resolvers to look up the IP address of the actual server behind the site’s domain name.

In some situations, you might be seeing the Error 451 because your ISP is blocking the website via the default DNS resolvers that your computer uses.

To try to bypass this, you can use a different DNS resolver. We recommend Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 as the best option, as it’s 100% free and privacy-friendly.

Google also offers its own public DNS resolver, which can be another option to consider.

Cloudflare maintains detailed instructions for how to change the DNS resolver for all popular operating systems and devices. You can find them by going here and scrolling down to the “Setup on…X” section:

Cloudflare's instructions for how to change DNS resolver
Cloudflare offers detailed documentation for all platforms

3. Enable HTTPS

In some cases, switching to the HTTPS version of a site instead of the HTTP version might help you to bypass the Error 451 message.

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Without HTTPS, the data that passes between your web browser and the website is available to anyone sitting in the middle, including your ISP.

With HTTPS, that data is encrypted in transit, which means that your ISP and others can’t snoop on the actual data (though your ISP can still see the site that you’re connecting to, which is why this fix isn’t enough most of the time and a VPN offers more protection).

To see if this will work for your situation, try changing the http part of the domain name to https. If that works, you can use an extension like HTTPS Everywhere to try and automatically force HTTPS usage whenever possible.

4. Use a Proxy Server

Using a proxy server provides another way to route your browser connection through a different server, which can help you bypass the error 451 block.

It works similarly to a VPN, but there are some important differences between a proxy server vs a VPN.

In general, we recommend using a VPN instead of a proxy server whenever possible because quality VPN services are more secure and privacy-friendly. If you’re using a VPN, you do not need a proxy server because the VPN already accomplishes the same thing.

However, if you’re unable to use a VPN for some reason, a proxy server provides another alternative that usually won’t cost any money.

5. Use Tor Browser

For a virtually foolproof way to get around government blocks, you can use Tor via the Tor Browser.

Tor was built by the United States Naval Research Laboratory specifically to protect communication online.

It works by bouncing your connection through a random path of relay servers in the Tor network. Because everything is encrypted and there’s no way to see where the connection originated from, Tor will help you get around the error 451 message (as well as most other types of online censorship).

This is why we recommend Tor Browser as one of the most secure web browsers.

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Summary

The Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message indicates that the website you’re trying to visit has been blocked by the government or other “legal obstacles”.

The website could be functioning normally. However, if the authority in your country has issued a legal order, your internet service provider (ISP) can block your access to the site by displaying the Error 451: Unavailable Due to Legal Reasons message.

In some cases, the website owner might display the error code itself to comply with local laws, rather than relying on the ISP. Again, one example is a small number of sites proactively blocking European traffic to avoid complications with GDPR compliance.

To bypass the Error 451 message, you can use tactics that hide your browsing location, such as a VPN, proxy, or Tor Browser. In some cases, changing your DNS provider to Cloudflare or accessing the HTTPS version of the site might also work.


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