Hulu has moved to block international viewers from trying to access it using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and proxy links.
The move means that UK viewers won’t be able to watch the latest Family Guy episodes for free when they are broadcast in the US.
Users trying to access the site using VPN connections are starting to receive this error message: “Based on your IP address, we noticed that you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the US. If you’re in the US you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”
The message is different from the standard message shown to users attempting to watch content without using a VPN. This advises users that “currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States”.
According to a report from TorrentFreak, Hulu has compiled a black list of IP addresses used by a number of VPN services including VikingVPN, Private Internet Access and TorGuard.
Following the detection of such an IP address, the service displays the error message and prevents viewing of content. The move is also previenting US users who use VPNs for the increased privacy they bring. One example is when a user makes a VPN connection when using public WiFi for increased protection from hackers.
As Hulu now checks IP addresses against its database, there is nothing to stop VPN services simply using new IP addresses to work around the restrictions.
Ben Van Pelt, TorGuard CEO, told TorrentFreak that users are now purchasing add-ons that give them individual IP addresses that were unlikely to be blocked from using Hulu.
This is similar to how proxy versions of sites blocked by UK ISPs sprang up to circumvent court ordered IP-level blockades of high profile sites like the Pirate Bay. Since then, ISPs have been ordered to block proxy sites related to big-name torrent sites including Pirate Bay, Fenopy and Kickass Torrents.
It’s possible for Netflix subscribers to access the US version of the streaming service – which features a different catalogue than the UK edition – by using VPNs. Netflix has not yet announced whether or not it will follow Hulu’s lead.
While the US and UK Netflix catalogues do differ, Netflix has endeavoured to release its exclusive Originals content, like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black at the same time in different parts of the world.