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Media Piracy Privacy The Internet

Hulu Blocks VPN Users 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-get-there-from-here dept.
New submitter electronic convict writes: "Hulu, apparently worried that too many non-U.S. residents are using cheap VPN services to watch its U.S. programming, has started blocking IP address ranges belonging to known VPN services. Hulu didn't announce the ban, but users of the affected VPNs are getting this 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 U.S. If you're in the U.S. you'll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.' Hulu may make Hollywood happy by temporarily locking out foreign users — at least until they find new VPN providers. But in so doing it's now forcing its U.S. customers to sacrifice their privacy and even to risk insecure connections. Hulu hasn't even implemented SSL on its site."
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Hulu Blocks VPN Users

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  • Privacy is bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:10PM (#46844815)

    How dare you try to bypass our arbitrary and senseless restrictions, and how dare you try to obtain a bit of privacy!

    • Not their fault (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:21PM (#46844891)

      Oh I'm sure they think it's just as senseless, but if they don't restrict it, then Hollywood won't let them use their IP as cheaply as otherwise (or at all). I'm not associated with Hulu but I've worked for another internet streaming company, and trust us, we really hate Hollywood restrictions--they are shoved down our throats, we have no choice.

      Do you /really/ think devs in the industry would implement DRM if we didn't have to? It's a pain in the neck to code and it keeps some of our customer base from using it at all! Half of us are Linux users at home and are just as pissed as you are when things won't work with it.

      • Re:Not their fault (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Solozerk (1003785) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:52PM (#46845139)

        Do you /really/ think devs in the industry would implement DRM if we didn't have to? It's a pain in the neck to code and it keeps some of our customer base from using it at all! Half of us are Linux users at home and are just as pissed as you are when things won't work with it.

        Then leave. Find a job elsewhere. Or even better: spend some of your free time writing and publishing (anonymously, of course - use tor) DRM-defeating software based on what you implemented at work - you already have the tech details since you implemented the DRM stuff (or just publish the tech details anonymously and let others implement the stuff). They can't continue playing this kind of games if no developer are helping them.

        And I don't think doing so would stop the release or funding of entertainment stuff, either (be it games, movies or music); people have been making music & art for thousand of years without that kind of shit, and people are genuinely ready to pay for content if it's quality, easily available, and reasonably priced; even if it's available elsewhere for free. They are also ready to pay to finance that kind of development even when a release is not certain (look at the many successful crowdfunded projects). It would certainly decrease the amount of shitty games/movies created, though.

        The very fact that we have the technological capability to massively distribute culture at a very low cost and we don't because of greed/artificially enforced scarcity is truly depressing.

        • Re:Not their fault (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rogoshen1 (2922505) on Friday April 25, 2014 @07:08PM (#46845247)

          man, while DRM is total bullshit, suggesting someone to do something that almost certainly would end with them getting fired (that's the best case, worse is being sued into oblivion) is just as bad.

          • man, while DRM is total bullshit, suggesting someone to do something that almost certainly would end with them getting fired (that's the best case, worse is being sued into oblivion) is just as bad.

            Um... you didn't get that GP was recommending they quit anyway?

            There DOES come a point at which your principles are worth more than a fat paycheck. Some people seem to have forgotten this.

            • well no shit. but leaking details on how to circumvent what you're doing is not the solution. Sometimes the opportunity to snark outweighs reading comprehension i guess.

          • Re:Not their fault (Score:5, Interesting)

            by PRMan (959735) on Friday April 25, 2014 @10:52PM (#46846227)

            One time, my company asked me to write a spam engine. Seven of us developers go together and threatened to quit. And we would have.

            They also tried to get me to write gambling software for an offshore casino. I refused that as well. I told my boss not to take the contract. They got investigated by the FBI shortly thereafter.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Previous AC again: The streaming we have now is a lot better for our culture than what we had 10 years ago, and it's a lot more accessible to more people and cheaper than DVDs. I'm very okay with this kind of "freedom" proceeding slowly, even taking a couple steps backwards once in a while, because the advancements that it does bring are completely worth it when compared to not-100%-perfect ethical mores. It's region control of an entertainment luxury, not killing puppies...I don't think I would call it "

          • Re:Not their fault (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Solozerk (1003785) on Friday April 25, 2014 @07:37PM (#46845435)

            I'm very okay with this kind of "freedom" proceeding slowly, even taking a couple steps backwards once in a while, because the advancements that it does bring are completely worth it when compared to not-100%-perfect ethical mores.

            I'm not - why should we settle for small steps, when we already have the capability to make giant ones ? where would we be right now as a species if even half the money spent in DRM schemes/IP protection stuff had been thrown in global network deployment (there are still large parts of the planet's population with no access to the Internet, or even no electricity) and putting online courses/teaching material/culture online ?

            Technology advances the fastest when people with LOTS of money have their way

            While the rest of your post seems pretty reasonable and possibly less utopic/optimistic than mine, this I strongly doubt. It seems to me that the very resources inequalities we're seeing currently - the very fact that some people posess thousands times more money/power than most - is a major part of such an artificially enforced scarcity. It's just concentration of power, and people in power wanting to keep that power.

            Maybe I'm just too young / not cynical (call it realistic if you will) enough; that being said, once again, having the capability to diffuse culture massively and willingly limiting that capability seems like a form of madness to me. Makes you wonder what'll happen when material, real-life scarcity will no longer be an issue (and I personally think we're not that far of).

            • Re:Not their fault (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @08:18PM (#46845685)

              I don't think I was quite that idealistic back in the day, but I've gotten more cynical over time, yeah.

              Resource inequality is a bad thing, but I have a hard time getting mad about entertainment luxury inequality. (Some things, like textbooks, are pretty inexcusable--but we have Wikipedia, and I grew up back in the day where encyclopedias were ungodly expensive, so I'm in a good mood about that at least.) But there's certainly good things that have come from pursuit of money. Oh yeah, great evils too, but also plenty of good.

              Example. Modern blockbuster movies with stupidly large budgets. Directors do that because they think they'll get their investment back and then some. Sure they enjoy the act of creating an impressive creative work (well, some movies are), but movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars need more inspiration than just "I like making movies". Sure lots of them suck...but you know what, I think I'm glad that they spent all that cash on the Avengers movies. They are turning out really good, in my opinion at least. I don't think they would be so good on a Creative Commons budget.

              Anyway...Funding those movies. They make some of that back in theaters, but there's a VERY long, fat tail on that income--and that income is kept large by some of the stupid restrictions they have. Like, while it's in the theaters you can't get it at home; for X weeks out of it goes out of theaters, you can buy it but not rent it; then you can rent it but not televise it. It's a careful curve to maximize money.

              Region control is part of the same scheme, and it's not always to customers' detriment. If you can't afford to see a movie in theater for $20, maybe you can afford to buy it for $15. If you can't afford that, maybe you can rent it for $5. But if you could rent it right away, you might not see it in the theater at all. Similarly: Americans are rich enough to buy a movie for $15. In eastern Europe, where money is more scarce, the industry might sell it for $5 instead. If the price was the same everywhere, then either eastern Europe gets shafted, or they make less money in the USA, and like it or not, that money does let them make better media. Region control is super important to let them charge different amounts in different regions, and *if done correctly* the consumer in secondary markets is better off.

              Of course, in practice, companies are dumb about actually using region control, and they put off actually selling things to secondary market for months or years (sorry Australia) or they don't ever export them at all. But just because the technology is not optimally used, does not mean it is bad! Much like theoretical capitalism, or theoretical communism, a theoretical region control really does give optimal prices to every user, where they can pay a fair price for their location, and everyone wins. It's not free, but see above...if it was free we wouldn't get modern special effects.

              Look, modern DRM is universally badly implemented, but it's getting better, and in a truly perfect world it isn't hostile to the consumer. In the little picture, yeah, it's bad for you personally, but in the big picture it enables some sweeping market reforms that are pretty cool for people that otherwise couldn't afford stuff. It's hard to see from the consumer level, but if you look into the market forces at work...well, they don't actually suck. Anyway, just because we're not at a perfectly customer-unhostile implementation yet doesn't mean we should scrap the technology altogether; Rome wasn't built in a day and getting this stuff right (on the technical side and the social side) are both hard as hell. Current stuff hurts the consumer, most obvious solutions tend to hurt the media cartels, but I think someday there will be implementations that don't hurt customers or publishers. I'm okay with paying for my media--and someday, I hope that imperfect implementations won't keep me from actually using it.

              In any case...I think I'm going to go watch Netflix now, and r

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Hollywood owns Hulu, jointly owned by several studios and broadcasters, in fact. The idea was to own and control content distribution of TV over the internet while avoiding fracturing the market, and they've done a pretty good job of it.

      • by russotto (537200)

        Oh I'm sure they think it's just as senseless, but if they don't restrict it, then Hollywood won't let them use their IP as cheaply as otherwise (or at all).

        Hulu IS Hollywood. They're not so much a streaming-media company as a PR move so Hollywood can say "See, look, we even have Hulu and these freetards still pirate! You need to pass the Ban Computers And Throw Everyone In Pound Me In The Ass Federal Prison Act NOW!"

    • Re:Privacy is bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Friday April 25, 2014 @08:02PM (#46845603)

      Because you need my money to exist. I don't need your product to exist.

      Guess who needs who.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        I don't need your product to exist.

        hahahaha oh you silly consumer thinking you have free will in the matter.

        The problem is that most of the world works around psychology of consumerism. Only the strongest of mind are able to exert the kind of free will that says "I don't need your product." Many think they can, but suddenly they NEED that product when the word "Sale" is written next to it, or when they see it on the back of the bus, or when their favourite celebrity endorses it.

        They don't need your money to exist. If anything companies can c

  • If you're in the U.S. you'll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.

    I suspect, it is the anonymity, that they wish to defeat — to be able to track users and sell the information.

    Hulu may make Hollywood happy by temporarily locking out foreign users

    That may be only a secondary concern.

    • by um... Lucas (13147) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:19PM (#46844877) Homepage Journal

      Regardless of the users IP, Hulu can track those users and sell their information, VPN or not. They've got those subscribers billing credentials, after all. A VPN is useful if you don't want someone else looking into your connection, but for the site you're visiting, especially one that needs your credit card, a VPN isn't meant to be a protection from them getting your info. Your ISP won't (or at least shouldn't) have a clue that you're visiting Hulu, should you be using a VPN, though.

      So no, there is no attack on anonymity here.

      • by asmkm22 (1902712)

        I'm pretty sure the people they are blocking aren't actually subscribers...

      • by orasio (188021)

        Regardless of the users IP, Hulu can track those users and sell their information, VPN or not. They've got those subscribers billing credentials, after all. A VPN is useful if you don't want someone else looking into your connection, but for the site you're visiting, especially one that needs your credit card, a VPN isn't meant to be a protection from them getting your info. Your ISP won't (or at least shouldn't) have a clue that you're visiting Hulu, should you be using a VPN, though.

        You are mostly right. About your ISP, it would probably be very easy to know what you're up to, by comparing your data usage pattern against other online video users usage. Hulu and other services with heavy traffic probably have a specific traffic usage signature that they can identify, even if you are using a VPN.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:46PM (#46845093)

      If you're in the U.S. you'll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.

      I suspect, it is the anonymity, that they wish to defeat — to be able to track users and sell the information.

      Hulu may make Hollywood happy by temporarily locking out foreign users

      That may be only a secondary concern.

      No. Hulu is owned by Hollywood. This is entirely about them controlling content. Hulus biggest problem from the start has been all the disparate interests of all the media companies involved in its ownership and operation. It benefits from sweet deals with those companies, but suffers from their idiotically uncreative ideas about how video on the Internet should work.

  • How terrible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Leo Sasquatch (977162) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:20PM (#46844889)
    I mean, it's not as if there's any other sites on the net where you can get streaming video, or canned video, or torrents, or people sharing their favourite shows.

    It's not like it takes about 5 mouse-clicks to find an alternate source for practically anything. No, Hulu clearly have everyone completely over a barrel and we must just do everything they say if we're to be allowed to consume their entertainment the way they want us to.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:24PM (#46844915)

    where you can find TV set the size of the Berlin wall with a resolution so high you can't see the pixels up close, so thin they can be hung on the wall and look like paintings, able to display movies in 3D, almost affordable by ordinary people, and that display content controlled by cartels who decide who can watch what, where, how and for how much, like in the middle ages.

    • by tepples (727027)
      How is it controlled by cartels? You can watch video that you have produced or video under a Creative Commons license on nearly any device in any country. So why, seriously, isn't such video good enough as of 2014?
  • Generally when you sign up for a paid service with license terms, part of the deal is sacrificing enough of your privacy to be able to sign the deal and identify yourself as a licensed customer (even for a free service) when you try to use it.

  • by dejanc (1528235) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:37PM (#46845019)
    1. Rent a cheap VPS
    2. Tunnel connection through it (e.g. via a SOCKS proxy) or set up your own VPN
    3. Keep the IP to yourself so you don't get flagged

    That's how I get to watch BBC's premiers at the same time people in London do, and if I care about something in the US, I just switch to another VPS.
  • Cheap VPN Howto (Score:2, Informative)

    by goruka (1721094)
    1) Rent AWS or any other VPS provider in the US, or just ask a friend to give you an account in his box.
    2) ssh -D proxyport
    3) configure proxy on localhost:proxyport

    watch hulu
  • One thing the USA has is cheap Virtual Private Servers. I've seen them as low as $25/year. That plus a little bit of time to read up on setting up OpenVPN or a SOCKS proxy would be worth it.

    Not only could you tunnel Hulu, you could tunnel many other services. Maybe store some encrypted backups of important data if you really need to justify the cost.

  • by Corporate Gadfly (227676) on Friday April 25, 2014 @06:56PM (#46845179)

    Rent a cheap VPS and run your own tunlr clone (similar to other commercial DNS-based geo-unlocking services like Unlocator, unblockus, etc.)
    http://corporate-gadfly.github... [github.io]

  • by astro (20275)

    I am a citizen of the USA, and I pay monthly for services (not Hulu) that I am not easily able to watch in my country of residence, Germany. It's really annoying to have restrictions on content that I PAY FOR.

    I don't pay Hulu, I am not interested in their content, but there is a certain other major US-based content network that lulls me to sleep with usually shitty (but occasionally brilliant) movies and television shows.

    I did get off the commercial VPN services and roll my own OpenVPN, as suggested by othe

    • by Shados (741919)

      Content is licensed by locations, which means in this case its for US residents. Your citizenship has jack squat to do with it. That's why someone visiting the US in vacation can and you can't.

      You can complain about the licensing model, sure, but this isn't a government service. Your citizenship means nothing in this argument.

  • To quote from Wikipedia:
    "Hulu is a joint venture of NBCUniversal Television Group (Comcast),[5] Fox Broadcasting Company (21st Century Fox) and Disney–ABC Television Group (The Walt Disney Company),[6] with funding by Providence Equity Partners, the owner of Newport Television, which made a US$100 million equity investment and received a 10% stake.[7] In October 2012, Providence sold its 10% stake in Hulu.[8]"

    So why exactly are you surprised?

    • by RyoShin (610051)

      Aye. The only reason I use Hulu primarily is because I can get it for free, and in exchange for that I'm fine with the ads. But the minute that the free version goes away, or the average commercial time per show outpaces regular TV (right now I believe it's 25% less or so) I will completely drop them and get a Netflix account.

      If Hulu Plus were ad free or, hell, I could just watch the "Free" content with no ads for the same (or even double!) the price, I would have signed up years ago. Their excuse for still

  • by jacobsm (661831)

    I'd be really PO'd if the BBC did this. How else can I watch new episodes of Doctor Who prior to them being shown on BBC America?

    • Go to Great Britain and watch it live on a taxed television set.

      Oh, you mean how can you watch it without the hassles of international travel? Why didn't you say so in the first place? :^)

      If BBC got smart, it would change its international licensing agreements with companies like BBC America to reserve the right to show all future shows world-wide on an on-demand, a la carte basis. It might have to agree to charge a minimum-but-affordable per-episode fee to not completely gut the overseas television marke

  • Tor would be overkill for this, but is there any lighter-weight p2p based VPN system, ideally where you could select you out node's country or something?

    I'd let a Brit route through my home connection a little, if I could get to the BBC sites in return.

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