adult hands holding mobile phone over laptop keyboard

In recent years the popularity of video streaming has surged due to its convenience and programming availability. As Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and more create new, original content, you want to know where to watch those programs as well as tried and true shows and movies from NBC, ABC, Sony, and other studios. With so many websites streaming, TV series, online movies, and live sports it can be difficult to know which are legitimate and which provide illegal content that puts you both on the wrong side of the law and at risk for malware.

There’s rarely a single sign that a website provides unlicensed and unauthorized content but there are always clues if you know what to look for.

1. The Site Encourages Use of a VPN

There are legitimate security reasons to use a VPN. It provides online privacy and encrypts your Internet connection. It also provides anonymity, hiding your IP address and making your online actions nearly untraceable. Legitimate streaming sites like the Roku Channel, Tubi, and more do not suggest that you mask your IP address and conceal your behavior. They have no reason to do so because there is nothing to hide.

2. The Site Offers the Latest Movies and TV Shows for Free

It used to be that legitimately free films and TV shows were almost always either old (in the public domain) or were not hits. Some free and legal sites now offer blockbusters and popular TV shows not too long after they’re released in theaters or on paid streaming services. However, iIf a free or unusually cheap online streaming site offers the newest Avengers, or Star Wars movies right when they come out , for free or for an unexpectedly low cost, beware.

3. No Available Streaming Apps in Mobile App Stores

Trusted streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO, have mobile apps available through Apple (ios users), Google or other reputable app stores. If they provide mobile apps at all, pirated streaming sites offer them through obscure, third party stores that you likely haven’t heard of.

4. The Site Presents a Disclaimer Denying Responsibility if it Provides Copyrighted or Illegal Content

Legitimate sites do not require such a disclaimer because all of their content is licensed and works within the parameters of copyright laws.

5. Sketchy Advertising and Pop-Ups

Sites that legally offer free content make money by showing ads that play periodically throughout the streaming content, like commercials. Ads on illegal sites are typically random surveys, hard to close pop-ups, and other annoying “click me” ads. And there are usually a lot of them. High-quality and safe online streaming sites are rarely ad-free, but they do provide safe to watch commercials and will have a quality user interface.

6. Bad Web Design

Illegal streaming services don’t worry about professional website design. They don’t put a premium on appearance, functionality or user experience the way legitimate sites do. Roku and other streaming devices are high-definition and built for a simple, user-friendly streaming experience. Legitimate sites that provide live TV and live streaming have a high-quality design.

Smart Online Streaming

If you want to watch your favorite movies and TV in a safe way, streaming from a reputable site is the best solution. If you want to watch live TV, Hulu offers a package with a TV subscription. If you are looking to watch movies, Netflix has a ton of options to choose from.
There is not a best free movie streaming site because each site offers something different. However, the best free movie sites that are adhering to copyright laws are:

None of these signs in themselves mean a website necessarily provides illegal content. But a website with one or more obvious signs is one you want to avoid.

  • Pluto TV
  • Popcornflix
  • Crackle
  • Kanopy
  • Amazon freevee(formerly IMDb TV)

StreamSafely offers a variety of tips and tactics for avoiding pirated websites and maintaining a great streaming experience for all your favorite and trending content.
Learn more about where to watch your favorite content and keep the streamers in your home viewing safely.

Previous articleThe Drive-by Download: Internet Booby Trap
Next articleStreaming Devices: The Hacker’s Bullseye