Hulu Blocks Anonymous Access

We recommend VPN primarily to protect your online privacy.  There are a number of other uses for anonymous services like accessing content while in another country.  Up until now that’s worked quite well for sites like Hulu and Netflix.  For the first time we’re seeing Hulu attempt to block anonymous access to their service.  Here’s a copy of the message shown when trying to connect through a VPN.  It was posted on Reddit a few hours ago.

Hulu blocks VPN

Hulu offers their premium streaming service to users in the United States.  Up until now you could simply go through a server in the US to access the site.  Now it appears they are trying to stop that from happening.  I understand where they’re coming from in that they don’t want anyone outside the US to access the service.  I also think Hulu could lose a number of paying customers and hurt their reputation by blocking users.

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios in which Hulu could be blocking anonymous access:

  1. A user lives outside the United States and relies on a VPN or proxy to access the service.  This is likely the scenario Hulu is trying to block.
  2. A user lives in the United States and is traveling abroad.  Again they are using an anonymous service to connect to a server in the US to access the site.  Hulu may agree with blocking this as well since the user isn’t currently located in the United States.
  3. A user is in the United States military and is stationed abroad.  They use an anonymous service to access Hulu from a server in the US.  Again they are blocked.
  4. A user lives in the United States and is accessing the site from their home.  They care about their online privacy and therefore run all traffic through a VPN service.  Perhaps through their system or even a router to protect their entire network.  It appears Hulu will block them as well.  I think this is a big mistake!  One that could damage Hulu’s reputation given the public’s focus on privacy related issues.

Hulu’s decision to block anonymous access baffles me.  The entertainment industry spends a fortune fighting online piracy.  Hulu is a legitimate way for users to pay for content.  Let’s face it they could easily find the content elsewhere.  Instead they are paying for it through Hulu.  Whether they access from an anonymous service or not shouldn’t matter.  I sincerely hope that Hulu will reconsider their decision to block anonymous access.

I should also mention that leading VPN companies are use to being blocked.  They deal with censorship issues all the time.  This is a technical game of cat and mouse and so far the VPN’s are winning.  The same will likely be true for Hulu.  I tested from a number of leading VPNs and the site is accessible.  Any IP-based blocking that Hulu had done was already circumvented.  Hopefully Hulu will discontinue blocking anonymous access.