What Happens When you Pirate Media?
What Happens When you Pirate Media?
Most of us are aware that pirating media is wrong, both morally and legally, because it is equivalent to stealing. However, under the idea that once purchased, content can be shared freely, millions have uploaded TV and movies to the Internet, making them available through P2P networks and movie streaming.
While it’s quite clear that users who upload this content can be prosecuted heavily, with fines in excess of $200,000 per pirated media, what happens if you simply view this content? Is illegal streaming actually illegal? Are there repercussions?
While the answer is a little bit more complex than we’d like, we will walk you through what is likely to happen if you’re caught streaming movies illegally.
The 6 Strikes Law
If you’ve streamed content illegally or used a P2P network like bittorrent in the past, you may have received one or more letters from your service provider. This letter probably ready something like “We noticed your Internet has been used for pirating content, this may or may not be you, here’s how you can avoid future offenses”.
If you repeatedly used pirated content, the letters would get more and more strict, alerting you to the fact that you were stealing content and asking you to acknowledge your receipt of the letters. By the fifth strike, your ISP was allowed to follow through with mitigating measures like limiting your bandwidth.
However, you likely won’t be seeing any more of these letters. Most ISP collectively withdrew from the agreement at the four year deadline to renew, simply because it wasn’t effective enough. Repeat offenders, (I.e. hardcore bittorrent users) simply were not swayed by the letters, and the ISPs determined that so long as hardcore users were abusing the system, going after low-level downloaders simply was not effective.
In addition, most ISP don’t have the resources to completely track what you are using and downloading. This is especially pertinent with the addition of streaming websites, which can be difficult to determine if they are legal or not. So, most ISP cannot actually see if you are doing something illegal without invading your privacy.
What Now? What Happens If You Torrent Media?
Sometimes that depends on the content you torrent. For example, if you torrent some pornography, the media creators will deliberately take you specifically to court for individual theft if they catch you stealing.
In other cases, almost nothing will happen. Nearly all piracy prevention is aimed at stopping users from uploading content. But, considering that many pirate websites and services are located in countries outside of the United States jurisdiction, this has largely been unsuccessful in the past. For example, the over 10 year battle to take Pirate Bay down.
In some cases, an individual provider or media creator or publisher may choose to take you to court. However, they do have to catch you first.
In Europe, this is often another story entirely, as any ISP that suspects you of piracy can alert the police to your potential infringement in countries like the UK or the Netherlands. Then, the police can choose to check your computer for pirated content, which if found, will result in a fine.
The USA may elect to adopt similar measures in the future, but for now, there is no real policy preventing or ensuring the punishment of pirates.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should start pirating content. You could still face repercussions, your ISP could still take measures to limit your bandwidth, and you could still be liable for a lawsuit or legal action. This holds true with illegal streaming services and with pirating content.
In addition, if you like something, paying for it allows the company that created that media to invest into creating new things. While most large media publishers are far from nearing bankruptcy, many have actually been close to it within the last decade. Supporting the media you love by purchasing it ensures that the publisher can continue to create more media. This is especially true of bands and artists, who often rely on a specific number of sales in order to be kept on their record labels for new albums and singles.
If budget is a concern, there are plenty of low-cost streaming solutions that pay artists and publishers, and these solutions (Like Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.) typically cost around $100-$150 per year for unlimited streaming.