Piracy Answers You Need to Know:

What is Piracy?

Piracy is unauthorized duplication of copyrighted content that is then sold to you at a considerably lower price than you would expect to pay or offered for free. Content “pirates” – yes, the name comes from the criminals who steal and loot at sea – offer tv shows, sports and movies without the permission of the owner of the content.

If it says it’s free or inexpensive, or the price of a device is too good to be true – don’t believe it.

Is piracy legal? NO!

Piracy is NOT legal. Content pirates are circumventing legal copy protection and distributing entertainment content without the authorization – permission – of the content owner. Those who upload these stolen copyrighted files are risking civil or criminal prosecution in the United States. Such lawsuits can put an extreme financial burden on defendants, whether they are successful or not.

Streaming authorized content is legal. P2P filesharing technology is legal. Jailbreaking an Amazon Fire Stick is legal. Installing apps like Kodi or Plex is legal.

But viewer beware: Accessing pirated content via apps on a jailbroken device or via streaming or filesharing devices is NOT legal. Owners and legal distributors of stolen content that has been pirated may be legally able to obtain a history of your download and upload activity from your Internet Service Provider in support of a copyright protection prosecution.

Additionally, pirate websites and apps are often full of malware which can put your equipment – and personal privacy – at great risk.

Is it safe to watch pirated content?

Downloading, streaming or torrenting stolen, unauthorized content can put your devices and your personal information at risk. When you pay for a web subscription, an app or content from a source that offers unauthorized tv shows, sports and movies, you are providing your financial information (a credit card or electronic payment account like PayPal) to a thief.

Malware introduced by websites and apps that offer unauthorized content can infect your computer and devices, causing damage that is expensive to repair or even destroying them.

Worse, many types of malware are designed to steal personal information from you and your family via your devices, allowing access to your passwords, which are the keys to your personal accounts, such as  banking and financial records, credentials such as social security numbers and driver’s license, school records, medical records – essentially, everything you work to keep private.

Sites, apps and services that offer pirated content often do not provide parental controls, causing a risk of viewing inappropriate content for households with children.

How do Pirates deliver content?

There are various ways that Pirates attempt to lure consumers into their lairs.

  • Subscription-based services, including apps and web-based services
  • Hardware-based devices
  • Illegal IPTV-based delivery

Subscription-based Services

Streaming sites and apps are frequent sources of pirated content. Not to be confused with authorized streaming sites like HBOGo.com or ESPN.com/watch, streaming sites like 123movies and Putlocker aggregate and offer unauthorized, stolen content.

In addition, peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing websites or apps, which serve legitimate purposes, may also be used by pirates to upload unauthorized, stolen content for viewing, including by unwitting viewers, like you. BitTorrent and uTorrent are examples of P2P filesharing tools.

Some subscription services can be used to stream pirated content directly to some Smart TV’s, bypassing the need for a device or a computer browser.

Hardware-based Devices

Pirated content may also be offered through a device, such as Amazon Fire Stick, that has been “jailbroken”, or altered by hacking so that additional software such as the Kodi or Plex apps can be installed. Kodi is an open source media player that serves as a central hub for playing video, audio and gaming applications, but it also offers add-on services like MythTV and MediaPortal, some of which enable access to pirated channels and stolen videos which are not available for free otherwise.

Content pirates also sell boxes that have been jailbroken and include services that enable access to pirated channels and stolen videos. These companies are often detected and shut down, which can leave you with a “brick” – a useless piece of hardware on which you spent hard-earned money.

Advertising-Supported Services

Ad-supported services offer content to you at free or low prices by including advertisements. These services may include unauthorized, stolen TV networks and/or programming. The viewers are attracted to the sites to watch the movies and the site’s operator wants to make money on viewers watching the ads on the website. The problem is, since the site operators have to go to second- and third-party sources for ads, those ads often lead to malware-infected sites.

What is Malware?

‘Malware’ is a combination of two words – MALicious and softWARE. Viruses, ransomware and spyware are examples of malware, and the name covers any software written with intent to damage devices or steal data.

How is malware related to piracy?

Pirates are thieves who steal content without permission. Some pirates make money by charging you for content they stole from content creators. Others make money by charging you for software or apps that serve the stolen content for “free”. Some also make money by using pirated content as an opportunity to infect your computer or other devices with malware. They may make money by distributing the malware, or they may use the malware directly to steal from you by violating your privacy.

What is Torrenting?

Torrenting is a method of sharing content, often unauthorized, including tv shows, sports, and movies. Unlike streaming which involves a single file provided to you from one server, a torrent breaks up one large file and splits it up into many smaller files, or “packets”.

Torrent software applications use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing to connect to many other computers, allowing a user to download these smaller pieces from all computers in the P2P network. BitTorrent and uTorrent are examples of torrent software.

When you use torrent software, the packets you download may then be automatically uploaded to other users in the torrent’s P2P network unless you act to prevent it. In this way, you may unknowingly become not just a “leecher” (receiver) of unauthorized, stolen content, but also a “seeder” (sender) of unauthorized, stolen, content.

Downloading unauthorized, stolen copyrighted material via torrenting is illegal, and it may not be obvious which content is legal to torrent and which is not. In addition, accessing unauthorized content via torrenting often exposes your computer or other devices to malware, creating privacy concerns.

How can I avoid pirated content?

The best way to avoid pirated content is common sense and the proper information. TV networks and shows, sports programs or movies offered for free or for considerably less than what you would expect to pay for them are likely to be unauthorized, stolen = pirated.

Sites and apps that enable access to pirated material often include a disclaimer that they “do not condone the illegal sharing of copyrighted material.” This is done to provide a warning that you are proceeding at your own risk if you choose to continue.

Some websites, especially torrenting sites, may suggest you obtain a Virtual Private Network (VPN) before using them. VPNs are recommended by pirate sources because they help users disguise their device and location identity to avoid detection. This is a red flag signaling that you are dealing with a source that may include pirated content.

Another red flag may come from your anti-virus software. For example, McAfee software will warn for certain sites that they “regularly scan sites for suspicious and malicious activity — and this one just isn’t safe.” The warning may also tell you what risks are ahead, such as Phishing, a type of online identity theft that uses email and fraudulent websites designed to steal your personal information.

To avoid pirated content, stick to well-known sites and apps from brands that create the content, like tv networks, and brands that are authorized to distribute the content, like cable, satellite or telco companies and over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Hulu or YouTube TV. When in doubt about a source, search the name online to look for information about its legitimacy and concerns users have registered regarding malware, privacy or other issues.

Bottom line: The risks of viewing unauthorized, stolen, pirated content

  • Downloading apps or services that enable access to unauthorized, stolen content are very likely to install malware in your home network or devices, putting you and your family’s personal information at risk to be stolen.
  • Devices that distribute unauthorized, stolen content are likely to become a “brick” when the illegal service is shut down.
  • Often there are no parental controls with the pirate services, apps or devices, putting your children at risk.
  • Torrenting sites can engage you and your computer in active sharing of pirated shows and movies, putting you at risk of not only viewing but also distributing pirated content.
  • Avoid pirating by using your head: Be wary of free or cut-rate content from brands with which you are not familiar; heed warnings from your anti-virus software and watch for disclaimers on unfamiliar content websites or devices, and; research options to learn whether they are legitimate and what risks others are noting about them.