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
It is very interesting post..
You confuse bittorrent with streaming. They are different techniques. If you download something with bittorrent, then you make your own copy and while downloading it, you share chunks of the data with others. If you watch it with a streaming service, then the streaming service shares it with you and while it can be saved with certain applications, normally your video player just stores a few secs / mins temporarily and deletes it after you are done watching that part. So you won’t end up with your own copy of the film you watch with streaming, and you won’t share it with others. As far as I understand you cannot be sued for that, because only sharing copyrighted material is the violation of law. But I am not an expert of law in the USA.
Without downloading and running an executable it is unlikely (but not completely impossible) to get a virus. Ofc. if you don’t know what you are doing, then anything can happen.
Your privacy is already lost with facebook and google around.
Copyright infringement is not theft, it is a different crime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_infringement#%22Theft%22 Downloading copyright protected material with bittorrent is copyright infringement, watching something with video streaming is not a crime, while sharing something with video streaming is copyright infringement. So for example buying a film on DVD and steaming it to your friends is a crime too, but using an illegal movie streaming site and watching movies from there is not a crime as far as I understand the law. Nobody cares what you find unethical unless you manage to change the law, which I guess won’t happen any time soon.
Yes, I was talking about both bittorrent (for those who are using those services) and streaming, but I didn’t make the distinction to keep things simple for readers. But, I’ll try to clarify. Thanks for pointing that out!
Hmmm. Are you on any company board or receiving any monetary value by any media company for writing your opinion on this subject?
Nope. I make websites for a living, and this site is a hobby. I do have affiliate links on some of my pages when I find a product or service that I like and want to recommend.
Do you ever wonder why these movies stars, producers, and directors make such a huge amount of money and if they really deserve it? What do they do with it to benefit the world? Look at how they live compared to everyone else.
The movie and music industry tried going after consumers years ago and it brought them a lot of bad publicity.
If you are using side loaded apps you have to install a VPN, there would be no way for the app owners or anyone else to find you. Also buy a streaming device like a fire stick, don’t use your computer. That’s all you need to do. People shouldn’t fear.
I tried the Roku and hated it! It is really slow. Loading up channels flipping through the channels. I was really disappointed. Then I was over at my cousin’s house and she bought the fire stick. Man what a difference! and even though she doesn’t have very fast internet connection she was getting a great picture with no stuttering. I don’t think the Roku can compare. I personally have the Chromecast oh, and would really like more menus, but it fits my needs.
The old Roku models are super slow, but the modern ones are plenty fast. My speed comparison here:
But, I love Amazon Fire Stick as well!
i stream online cable on my computer with out a VPN because i know to my self streaming is not illegal its like YouTube. There is all kinds of copyright infringement on there you watch everyday before they take it down. So if the site is not legal. THEY should take it down and I’ll be not guilty of anything. They can try to take me to court and i know ill win. However if you download movies from pirate sites then yes that could be stealing but why steal a movies that is not as great of Quality as if you buy it. But if you go to Walmart and take a movie….yes your stealing.
Hi. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on Still Broke TV. My friends use it but I’m afraid it’s too good to be true. Your thoughts would be most helpful. Michael Gooch
Yeah, anything that is too good to be true is almost certainly not legit. Will you get arrested for using it? No, but you could lose your payment or have privacy issues. There are lots of free services though, like Pluto TV, one of my favorites: