Is Streaming Pirated Movies Illegal?

movie streamingThe temptation is enormous. It is right there, in front of you, just waiting. You know it’s wrong but you want to do it anyway. It all just seems so easy, and nobody’s looking. You just want to…click play and stream the darn movie.

This was the overriding feeling back in the day when the only alternative to downloading was buying actual DVDs. We of course knew it wasn’t exactly legal but used to justify it by the fact that it was so much easier and… well free-er. No need to go out and buy or rent and get mad at people who would always take the exact movie that you wanted, and never seemed to get around to returning it, whereas downloading was just instant. Right here, right now, without even moving an inch.

Then, there came Netflix, and there came streaming. All the justifications went out the window. It too was instant, it too was quick and easy. Moreover, it was perfectly legal. What it wasn’t though is free. It goes without saying that many jumped at the opportunity to fill this gap and then we got Popcorn Time, Megashare, and other sites that streamed pirated movies. Those sites, particularly Popcorn Time, may feel like free Netflix but there’s a huge legality issue hovering above it.

Pirating movies is, as we all know, frowned upon by the law and multinational corporations that earn billions of dollars making them. Therefore, it seems logical that streaming pirated movies should also be illegal. If you’ve been doing that at home however, and waiting for FBI to come knocking at your door – worry not, at least for now.

In an interview with Telegraph, UK Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said that

When it comes to catching those involved in piracy, it is not our strategy to prosecute the end user [people streaming films at home]. Our interest lies in identifying, disrupting and if necessary prosecuting the individuals who defraud the creative industries by knowingly stealing content – and who then make that content available through illegitimate means for their own financial benefit or kudos.”

According to them the worst thing that could happen to you as a viewer is that you will be exposed to “‘pop ups’, viruses, malware, spyware, identity theft and illicit material. Now, with free anti-viruses readily available I can almost hear you say, “I can live with that!” because, to be honest, that’s kinda what crossed my mind too. However, a more worrying consequence of pirating is not for the end user but the industry itself. FACT claims:

The jobs, livelihoods and skills of the many individuals employed are threatened. People must understand that if they do not pay to watch the films, TV and sport content they love, then they won’t be there to watch in the future.”

In other words, since streaming is still a legal grey area, they are using the so called, “We can’t do anything to stop you but please don’t do it” tactic. To illustrate how efficient this strategy is the poll bellow the mentioned article on Telegraph.co.uk says that almost 58% percent of the readers think that“the risk [of streaming the movies] is worth the reward.

Even though a report from the London School of Economics unequivocally claims that file sharing is actually helping, rather than hurting the entertainment industry, there is an aggressive campaign to stop this practice. According to current European laws it is not yet completely clear if streaming is illegal, but this may, and in all probability, will change soon.

What do you call that when you earn more than enough but you still want more? (Thinks) Right! Greed! So is that what’s going on here? Obviously we won’t be the judge of that.

Paramount, the famous Hollywood production company, has come out with an interesting strategy to address this problem. They’ve launched their own YouTube channel where they are legally streaming some of their older and less popular movies. The thinking behind this is that people looking for entertainment can legally watch free movies, and that would stop them from frequenting those “horrible” and “dirty” illegal streaming sites. The problem, however, are the movies that are available on this channel. No one would ever bother to pirate them, mostly because no one would ever bother to watch them!

This leaves us in a very peculiar situation. Should we take advantage of the “grey area” before it becomes less grey? Should we or should we not stream pirated movies at home? Let us know your thought in the comments below.

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