Do you use a streaming service that allows you to get tons of newly-released movies and TV shows for an amazingly low price? If you’re using a streaming service on your computer, Android-based set-top box, tablet, or another Internet-connected device that seems too good to be true, it’s probably illegal.
I just read that a major studio is about to sue Popcorn Time and force them to disclose the IP addresses of everyone who uses their service. They could then sue folks who use the service. I thought, maybe this is a good time to write about my thoughts on illegal streaming services.
I don’t use illegal services and I advise my readers not to as well. I don’t want to get sued, I don’t want you to get sued, and I like to sleep at night knowing I’m doing the right thing. Starting with this, I’ll run down some reasons why you shouldn’t use illegal streaming services.
1. You Could Lose Your Payment
As illegal services become identified and shut down by Hollywood due to copyright infringement, it’s pretty unlikely that any subscribers will get refunded for loss of service.
When an illegal service gets shut down, they usually just stop answering the phone, and they delete all social media accounts, leaving subscribers with little recourse for reimbursement.
2. You Could Get Sued
You might think that it’s not worth anyone’s time to sue a consumer who occasionally watches a movie for free instead of paying $5 or $10. Well, that may be true, but it’s also true that the studios are losing millions of dollars on illegal viewing and just might want to make an example of some people, no matter how small the infraction. I don’t want to be one of those unlucky people.
This article says that settlement amounts of those who cooperated were below the statutory minimum of $750, but can exceed $1000 due to legal fees. It goes on to say:
” Traditionally, settlement offers in these type of cases have been around $3,000 per infringed work, although we have seen agreements detailing settlements of up to $14,000″
Here’s another article about downloaders being sued.
While it’s unlikely you will be used, do you really want to take that chance? Is it really worth saving $5 or $6 to rent it?
3. You Could Lose Your Internet Provider
Internet providers like Comcast may suspend your Internet service if you repeatedly violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. What does that mean? From their website:
our customers and users may not store any material or content, or access, share or distribute any material or content using Xfinity Internet services, in any manner that constitutes an infringement of third-party copyright rights.
If you don’t comply after repeated notifications, they can suspend your account.
4. You’re Not Only a User, but Also a Supplier
If you are using a BitTorrent-based service like Popcorn Time, you’re not only downloading movies, but you’re part of a network of computers that is uploading content to other users. That’s what the BitTorrent concept is all about – streaming content from all users of the network.
This means a couple of things. First, your bandwidth is being used for OTHER people to watch illegal movies. If you have bandwidth limits from your Internet Service Provider, watch out.
Second, it makes you an even bigger target for legal action by the studios, because as much as they hate people who download illegal movies, they hate people who supply those movies to other people even more. And if you are using a BitTorrent service like Popcorn Time, guess what, you’re a supplier!
Check out this excerpt from an article about Popcorn Time:
“The problem is that sharing copyrighted content is illegal. While all users may not be aware, a stipulation on Popcorn Time’s FAQ does indicate that a customer is in fact uploading a movie at the same time they are watching it. Hollywood executives, copyright enforcers, and law enforcement officials have spent well over a decade in pursuit of violators, and uploading content is widely considered to be one of the riskiest online behaviors a person can engage in.“
5. You Could Get a Virus
Many of these sites are riddled with viruses and other malware. If you’re using a PC to watch the illegal content, your computer could be vulnerable.
I recently checked out a site called “Project Free TV”. Sure enough, I got a fake popup saying my computer was infected and urging me to click a link. I closed the browser immediately.
6. You Could Compromise Your Privacy
Do you think the providers of these free, illegal services are concerned about your privacy? As I mentioned before, your IP address is being exposed, opening you up to future litigation if the service is subpoenaed. I don’t want to think about what they do with your personal information if you actually sign in to one of these sites.
7. You’re Stealing
Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re stealing if you use these services. You can say it’s only a tiny amount, and the studios make huge profits and try to screw over consumers. It’s still stealing.
Another way to look at it is that the cost of this theft is passed on to honest paying customers, so it’s not just “stealing from a large corporation”, but from everyone else who rents or buys content, or who watches it in a theater.
How to Spot Illegal Streaming Services
Basically, if the deal seems too good to be true, it’s probably illegal. For example, if it offers thousands of channels including the latest content from Netflix, Disney+, and HBO plus cable channels for $20/month, it’s illegal. Look at the cost of each service and add it up. The Antenna Man talks about more ways to spot illegal services:
What to Do Instead
For these reasons, I only endorse legal sources of free and cheap TV and movies on DisableMyCable.com. So, feel free to use any of the services that I mention on my site without fear!
I personally pay very little for TV and movies, because I use an antenna to get FREE HD-quality broadcast TV, and I watch a lot of YouTube, which has some really great content. I have Amazon Prime and occasionally will pay to rent a movie. And let’s not forget about the fun of watching a movie in the theater once in a while.
And, one reader pointed out that if you just wait a little while, you’ll probably be able to borrow the movie that you want to watch for free from your local library.
So, I personally am satisfied with the content that I can legally, without having to resort to illegal streaming.
What are your thoughts on this? Please comment below! – Brian