If Movie Streaming Sites Are Illegal, Why Are They Still Online?  

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If Movie Streaming Sites Are Illegal, Why Are They Still Online?  

If Movie Streaming Sites Are Illegal, Why Are They Still Online?

Most of us have seen free movie streaming sites like Movie2k, Vex Movies, FMovies, Ranierland, and literally hundreds more. Many of us also realize that these sites are essentially illegal, distributing unlicensed media for free streaming on the web. Yet, if they are actually illegal, why are they still online? 

Many people go ahead with watching these sites because they partially assume that if it’s online, it must be okay. After all, with plenty of news stories covering websites being taken offline (For example, Pirate Bay), wouldn’t these sites be targeted as well if they were illegal? 

Unfortunately, the truth is a little bit hazier than that. Movie streaming sites are very often illegal, are very often risky because you might risk viruses or malware, and might result in legal repercussions.  

Are Online Streaming Sites Legal?

Most are not. Any site that distributes content without a license, unless that content is copyright free, is infringing on that copyright. You are, by extension, infringing on copyright when you stream. However, under current copyright laws, you are not expressly liable for the legality of sites you are streaming from, but that could change.  

Psuedo-Streaming – Many streaming websites speed up the streaming process to offer higher quality video by downloading portions of the video to your computer. If the site does this and the content is illegal, you are pirating the content. You can, therefore, be held liable for whether or not the content is legal, similarly to if you were using a torrent site.  

However, not all streaming sites are ‘illegal’. Many attempt to get around copyright and infringement law, protecting them and their owners using a simple trick. The site acts as a directory, finding and linking to movies and media on other websites. When you search on their server, the website brings it up and you can view it. Because they aren’t hosting the content, only linking to it, they aren’t actually doing anything wrong. In combination with a short notice not to stream or view illegal content, and that they aren’t responsible for results that may or may not be copyrighted, the website gets around most laws. They aren’t doing anything wrong, merely facilitating it, which may or may not be on purpose.  

Why Aren’t They Shut Down?

If legal entities in different countries have the power to shut down websites that are obviously breaking the law, why don’t they? This is actually more complicated than you might think. For example, on one hand, it isn’t always clear cut as to which sites are actually breaking the law. Some appear to be, but because they aren’t hosting files and they aren’t advertising copyright infringement and in fact, advertise against it – they can’t actually be prosecuted. In other cases, legal entities have difficulty discovering who actually owns the website.  

Internet privacy regulations mean that websites can be licensed through any number of circumstances, including through companies which work to protect the privacy of the user. By paying a company to license a website, the real owner might not even have to attach their own credit card information to the site, meaning that any investigation will have to go through the company – and their obligation to protect the privacy of their customer. This is even more complicated considering that many illegal streaming websites are hosted internationally in sites like Iceland, Serbia, or in Asia – where copyright laws are different.  

So, a site that offers free movie streaming can be online and still be very much illegal. Legal entities, including the FBI, simply don’t have the resources to go after all of them, and with no clear cut boundaries on what is legal and what isn’t, it’s often difficult to act to take the site down. And, once a site is down, the site owners only have to move the site to another country, pick another domain, and it’s back online.  

Most importantly, it is still illegal for you to use free streaming sites that link to pirated content.

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About The Author
Deanie

Gardenia Boyle, aka “Deanie,” is a freelance writer from Seattle. When she’s not busy working on a variety of writing projects, she enjoys volunteering at the Humane Society or hiking. If it’s raining though, which it does a lot of in WA, you’ll probably find her with a controller in her hand playing one of her favorite games, WoW or Final Fantasy.

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