Free-to-Air Collective

How to know if a streaming website is sketchy?

With the growth of the entertainment and creative industry, online piracy also grew. A lot has been invested in film and television production in general and major Hollywood studios can bring in $250 million in profits from a single film, while for instance, CBS’s mega hit “Big Bang Theory” sees advertising revenue per half an hour at $2.75 million. Media and Entertainment industry, at $717 billion, is one of the more successful in the world.

Nowadays, there are more than 480 online services worldwide, and they are all available for consumers to watch TV programs legally on demand. Unfortunately, pirates saw a great opportunity to expand as well. Stats on unlicensed streaming are hard to pin down, but estimates range from 53% of millennials accessing illegal streams in one month to 78.5 billion visits to piracy sites in 2015. 

In order to efficiently combat piracy, HBO, HULU,Amazon and 27 more content creation companies formed an independent organization in 2017-  Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. There were also an estimated 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide across both desktops and mobile devices in 2016. 

Numerous efforts to stop piracy did not yield the expected results, so the alliance joined forces with Charter Communications, Inc. in 2019. The entertainment coalition was created in order to provide opportunities to share best practices and information on what facilitates unauthorized access, including improper password sharing and inadequate encryption. 

Many people stream illegally, some because of the financial aspect and some are simply unaware of consequences. Illegal streaming brings with it security and legal consequences. The possibility of infecting devices with various viruses and paying fines should be an incentive and a reason to take this activity extremely seriously. 

Here are some ways how to determine if your streaming website is legal:

Company information

Illegal streaming services often do not have any information about the company – address, phone number, legal jurisdiction. If no information is available on the home page, make sure to check Terms of Service and Legal Notice if available.  Here’s an example of how it is supposed to look like. Left is a home page of potentially illegal IPTV service while on the right is a properly registered company. 

Contact Form

No self-respecting company would prefer to be contacted via WhatsApp or similar services. If you see a website with no other contact information than a private phone number, the chances are that such service is operating illegally. Services are not obliged to leave their phone number, but the lack of it almost always points to something sketchy going on. 

Preloaded Boxes

IPTV boxes, such as KODI are, often open-source, media players allowing you to stream content to any device in your home. As such, IPTV boxes are not illegal. However, once it is modified and altered to access subscription channels, it becomes illegal. Such fully-loaded devices are illegal to buy and sell, and by doing so, you are committing copyright infringement yourself. Therefore, any website selling devices loaded with third-party add-ons is unlawful and should be reported to authorities. 

As if that wasn’t enough, KODI boxes and similar devices leave you vulnerable to a cyber-attack, malware, or spyware

Poor design and popups

If a website looks like it was designed by an amateur, you might want to start questioning its legality. While there is no law against ugly design, every company that cares about its reputation, brand, and success, will dedicate at least some time to professional look. 

Embedding from third-party websites and hosting

Some of the streaming sites use content from different video playback servers and embed it on their site, creating the illusion that the video is owned by them. For example, take a video from Youtube on Facebook on your profile. Everyone who goes to your profile will see the video there even though it is basically on Youtube. 

Streaming sites do this with a huge number of video servers. However, the fact is that in two cases the owners of the streaming sites were sued for the content on the site, both times the charges were rejected because embedding is not technically illegal:

But, this still doesn’t mean it is legal or recommendable, but just to know that not everything in this industry is black and white.

Please keep in mind that none of these steps cannot fully guarantee that the site is legal or illegal. Click here to check our database of illegal streaming platforms or here to report it to authorities. 

In case Stichting Brein v Wullems (t/a Filmspeler), European Court of Justice ruled that “the sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on the internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen could constitute an infringement of copyright” (C:2017:300). This is the direct indicator that illegal streaming is susceptible to legal consequences and that we all should take it seriously.

Here’s how you can act smart and protect yourself and your devices:

Dos:

– Always be aware of all the risks IPTV brings

– Be sure that your payments are done safely and securely

– Always use OFFICIAL subscriptions

– Use official platforms to download software content

– Be sure to check if there’s a registered company behind the services you use

– Look for a possible scam indicators, like spelling or grammar mistakes

Don’ts:

– Illegal providers often use terms like: free, discount, best in domain names. This is most likely to be the indicator of the illegal provider.

– NEVER share your personal data with potentially illegal streaming platforms

– Do not re-stream, you can face legal consequences

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