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Can You Get In Trouble for Watching Illegal Streams?

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You can be fined, jailed, blacklisted by ISPs, or have your computer confiscated if caught streaming movies online from unlicensed platforms.

You can also risk your online privacy and security. Why?

First, using an illegal streaming site is a violation of copyright law.

If caught watching an illegal stream, the authorities or copyright holders might get involved.

Additionally, a pirated stream is hosted on shady websites full of malware and other malicious software. This increases the risk of being infected with viruses.

Today, I’ll explore all there is to know about illegal streaming online, the potential repercussions, and legal alternatives you can try.

So let’s roll.

What Constitutes Streaming Illegally?

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The line that separates legal and illegal streaming depends on many factors, the biggest being the country you reside in. But overall, the following are common activities that qualify as illegal streaming.

Copyright Infringement

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Copyright infringement occurs when a person unlawfully copies or distributes copyrighted material. This includes sharing copyrighted music, movies, or other media without the copyright holder’s permission.

One example of copyright infringement is illegal streaming.

It’s where someone watches or listens to copyrighted material without permission (most times, without paying). This is done through websites or applications that offer pirated content.

The consequences of copyright infringement can be severe.

Copyright holders can sue for damages, and infringers can be fined and jailed.

In some cases, copyright holders can get an injunction to stop the infringing activity.

Unlicensed Streaming

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Unlicensed streaming is a little more specific than copyright infringement, as it narrows down to the consumption of copyrighted material through the internet from illegal streaming sites.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and dedicated streaming sites like Twitch.tv make streaming easier. And while most people streaming live video are doing so legally, there are always those who flout the law.

A recent example of unlicensed streaming comes from the major streaming platforms, Amazon and Netflix. The two companies recently filed a significant lawsuit against Jason Tusa (a serial mass copyright infringer).

Additionally, unlicensed streaming is also dangerous.

These sites are never official nor regulated. They’re teeming with hackers and phishing threats. In addition, unofficial streams are often taken down quickly by the copyright holders, meaning you won’t finish watching a show or movie.

Piracy

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This is the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted material.

This includes movies, TV shows, music, and software.

An example of pirating is through illegal streaming sites.

Another way is by downloading movies and shows from unauthorized sources.

This includes torrent sites and peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

Digital piracy is a serious problem for the content industry.

It costs companies billions of dollars in lost revenue each year, leading to job losses and stifling the growth of the content industry.

Camcording Movies in Theaters

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Did you know that camcording movies in theatres is illegal streaming? It’s a violation of the Terms of Use for most movie theatres.

When you purchase a ticket to see a movie, you agree to these Terms of Use.

One of the terms states that you can’t record the movie.

There are a few reasons why camcording movies is illegal:

  • It violates the film’s copyright. When a movie is released in theatres, the studio owns the exclusive rights to distribute that movie. By camcording the movie, you’re making an unauthorized copy of the movie, which violates the studio’s copyright.
  • Camcording a movie can ruin the experience for other moviegoers. It can be distracting.
  • The resulting product is usually very bad quality. And frankly, it never makes sense to watch something that bad online.

You could be kicked out of the theatre or permanently banned if caught.

You could also face civil or criminal penalties.

What Are the Consequences of Watching Illegal Streams?

The punishment for illegal streaming varies from one place to another.

And although there are cases where people face the law due to illegal streams, the chances of that happening are usually very low.

There are way too many people who stream illegally, and the authorities tasked with dealing with this just don’t have the resources to arrest everyone.

However, once in a while, they nab some people. Therefore, it’s best to avoid illegal streams altogether to be on the safe side.

So what happens when you get nabbed?

You Could Be Fined

The first and most obvious consequence of watching illegal streams is that you could be fined. For example, in the United States, the maximum fine for illegally streaming copyrighted content is $150,000. That’s no small amount.

Steven King, a UK local from Coventry, is very familiar with the repercussions of illegal streams. He was fined £963,000 and handed a 7-year jail sentence in 2019. This was for broadcasting Premier League streams illegally to over 1000 venues around the UK.

You Could Go to Jail

In the US, thanks to the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020, individuals can be jailed for up to 10 years for illegal streaming. The first casualties of this law were two computer programmers in Las Vegas who spent 12 months in prison and paid over $1 million in fines.

ISPs Could Blacklist You

When you access an illegal stream without a VPN, your IP address is exposed.

This can lead to your ISP taking action against you, including blacklisting your IP address. You’ll no longer have access to the internet through your ISP.

The most significant development in this area happened in the US in 2022.

ISPs were instructed by the government to block pirate streaming services with immediate effect.

The Copyright Holder Could Sue You

Another consequence of getting caught streaming copyrighted content is being sued for copyright infringement. It carries heavy penalties, and you could be ordered to pay damages and, in some cases, face jail time.

Of course, not all streaming is illegal. There are many legitimate sources of online content that you can stream without worry (and I’ll cover that in a bit).

But if you’re not sure whether a particular stream is legal, err on the side of caution.

After all, remember that in 2021, Netflix and Disney jointly sued AllAccessTV and Quality Restreams for streaming content they’re not supposed to.

The matter is still in the courts.

Your Computer Could Be Seized

If you’re caught watching illegal streams on your computer, authorities could seize your device. This is because it’s treated as a form of piracy, a crime in many countries.

While there are cases of people having their computers seized for watching pirated content, this isn’t the norm. Most people caught streaming illegal content usually get a warning or fine.

However, repeat offenders caught streaming pirated content or distributing copyrighted material will face more serious penalties.

This includes your computer getting seized.

How to Watch Illegal Streams Without Getting in Trouble?

If you still insist on streaming content from unlicensed platforms, the next logical thing is to protect yourself from detection. Here are the few reliable methods you can turn to.

Use a VPN

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A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a server in another location. This makes it impossible for anyone to track what you’re doing online.

That includes your ISP, the government, and anyone else who might snoop on your activity.

There are other benefits of using a VPN as well. For example, many ISPs throttle internet speeds for users who stream video, and a VPN can get around that.

This means better streaming quality.

Additionally, a VPN like ExpressVPN can help you bypass geo-restrictions.

If you’re trying to watch a stream only available in certain countries, connecting to a server in that country will get you there.

Use TOR

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TOR can be a great option to help you stay safe from potential legal trouble.

TOR, or The Onion Router, is free and open-source software that enables anonymous communication. Your IP address and other personal information will be hidden.

Several features make TOR ideal for streaming illegal content:

  • TOR routes your traffic through a series of servers, making it even more difficult to trace your activity.
  • TOR is available on various platforms, so you can use it on streaming devices like PC and mobile.

However, TOR isn’t a perfect solution. While it can help protect your identity, it’s painfully slow. You’ll not enjoy streaming at all due to constant buffering.

Use a Proxy Server

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A proxy server is an intermediary between your computer and the internet.

When you use a proxy server, your requests to view websites are routed through the proxy server instead of sent directly to the website.

This can be used to access blocked websites in your country or region and mask your IP address from the websites you visit.

A good example of a proxy server is hide.me.

There are a few advantages of using a proxy server to watch illegal streams.

  • Proxy servers can help hide your identity and prevent tracking by government authorities or anybody else.
  • They can also help you bypass restrictions that have been placed on the stream you’re trying to watch.
  • Proxy servers can help improve your internet connection speed by caching frequently requested content.

Use an IPTV Service

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Using an IPTV service is a great option if you’re looking for a way to watch illegal streams without getting in trouble. A good example of an IPTV service is IPTVTrends.

IPTV services offer several features that make them ideal for watching illegal streams, including:

  • Access to a wide range of channels: IPTV services provide access to many channels, including many that offer illegal streams.
  • Anonymous browsing: IPTV services offer anonymous browsing, which means your identity will be hidden when you access illegal streams.
  • High-quality streaming: IPTV services offer high-quality streaming, so you can enjoy a smooth and uninterrupted experience even when watching illegal streams.

Using an IPTV service is a great option, but beware of potential security issues, as it isn’t as watertight as a VPN.

Use a Streaming Aggregator Site

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A streaming aggregator site is a website that collects links to online video and audio content. This site helps find illegal streams, as it can help you avoid getting in trouble. A good streaming aggregator site is Realgood.

The features of a streaming aggregator site that make it ideal for watching illegal streams include:

  • The ability to search for specific content.
  • The ability to filter content by language.
  • The ability to view content from multiple sources.

What Are Some Legal Alternatives to Streaming Illegal Content?

Legal sites for streaming exist, and despite most of them having regional restrictions, you can easily access them without any legal blowback by using a VPN.

On top of hiding your IP address, a VPN offers global servers that you can choose from to access any content from any streaming platform.

Netflix - Movies and Shows

streaming spiderman homecoming movie on netflix

Netflix is one of the most popular streaming providers with various movies and TV shows. The main reasons Netflix is a great alternative to illegal streaming sites:

  • It’s a legal way to watch movies and TV shows. Netflix has a license to stream all the content it provides on its platform. You won’t be breaking any laws.
  • Netflix offers a rich selection of movies and TV shows. There are thousands of movies and TV shows available on Netflix. You’ll never get bored.
  • It’s affordable. You can get a Netflix subscription for as little as $7.99 per month. This is a very reasonable price, especially compared to the cost of going to the movies.
Top 5 Netflix Shows

Stranger Things

Man Vs Bee

The Umbrella Academy

Better Call Saul

The Lincoln Lawyer

DirecTV Streams - Live Sports

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DirecTV Streams is a new live streaming service that provides a great live sports alternative to unlicensed streaming. It includes football, basketball, baseball, and more.

Additionally, it offers a variety of other content, including news and entertainment. DirecTV Streams also has a user-friendly interface, great picture quality, and can be watched on any streaming device.

Top 5 DirecTV Streams

ESPN Sports

NFL Sunday

CNN

ACC Network

Movies and Shows

Crunchyroll - Anime

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Crunchyroll is a great legal alternative that provides a rich source of anime for free, though you can also purchase a premium sub. Plus, it also has a lot to offer in selection and quality.

Top 5 Crunchyroll Streams

One Piece

Attack on Titan

Ranking of Kings

Spy x Family

The Rising of the Shield Hero

Disney+ Hotstar - Bollywood Movies and Shows

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Disney+ and Hotstar are two of the most popular streaming services in the world. While both offer a wealth of content, Disney+ is particularly well-known for its family-friendly movies and TV shows.

However, many people don’t realize that Hotstar also has a rich selection of Bollywood movies and shows. In addition to Bollywood content, Hotstar has Hollywood movies and TV shows, local news, and sports programming.

Top 5 Disney+ Hotstar Streams

Masoom

Escaype Live

Sneakerella

Home Shanti

Obi-wan Kenobi

The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020

On December 27, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 (PLSA). The law amends the federal criminal code to create a new offense for streaming copyrighted content without authorization.

Under the PLSA, unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The PLSA copyright act was introduced in response to a Supreme Court ruling.

It stated that streaming copyrighted content without authorization isn’t a violation of federal law against unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works.

Still, the law applies to anyone who “knowingly and willfully” streams copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner.

The law includes several exemptions, such as for non-profit educational institutions, public performance rights holders, and internet service providers. It also exempts from liability any person who streams content for criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

What Does This Mean?

This law puts the power in the hands of the copyright holders, allowing them to pursue cases that used to be hard and costly due to ambiguous laws.

Now, rights holders can take advantage of all the digital tools at their disposal to detect any form of copyright infringement and use it as evidence that can stand in a court of law. This is bad news for major illegal streaming platforms.

That said, PLSA doesn’t pose a serious threat to individuals who consume illegal streams. Still, it’s best to secure yourself with a VPN if you choose to watch illegal streams.

FAQs

Streaming illegal content is a direct violation of the law, so there’s no way to stream illegal content legally. It’s a federal offense that can result in hefty fines and criminal prosecution. If you’re caught using illegal sites, you could be subject to legal action from both the government and the copyright holder.

If caught streaming illegal content, you could be subject to various punishments. The severity of the punishment will depend on the country you’re in and the laws in place. In some cases, you’ll receive a warning.

In other cases, you can be fined or jailed.

So, you must be aware of your country’s laws and ensure you’re not streaming any illegal content. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution and avoid streaming anything that could get you in trouble.

People have been prosecuted for illegal streams. In the United States, one man was sentenced to prison for 12 months and fined over $1 million in damages for running illegal streaming sites.

In the United Kingdom, an individual from Coventry was sentenced to jail for over 7 years and fined over £900k for distributing illegal streams of the Premier League.

You’re less likely to be jailed for watching illegal streams.

However, you can be fined heavily per offense if you illegally download or stream copyrighted content. Willful copyright infringement can also lead to criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

While it’s unlikely that you will be arrested for streaming illegal content, it’s still technically against the law.

To avoid any legal trouble, only watch streams from legal sources.

Final Word

Streaming through legal channels is the best way to go, as it puts money directly into the creators’ pockets. This allows them to create more.

However, not everyone can afford premium streaming services, opening the door for unlicensed streaming.

If you must go down this route, ensure you use a reputable VPN like Surfshark, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN. They’ll protect you and give you access to legal content from any global location.

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