One of the greatest benefits to the advent and growth of the internet has been the increasingly easy access to entertainment via streaming services. While there are plenty of streaming sites available that offer both paid and free programming, many streaming sources of movies, television shows, games, books, and music aren’t legal, and they aren’t 100% safe for consumers, either.
While it’s almost always true that paid streaming sites are legal (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV+, etc.), it can be tricky to know which free streaming sites are legal and which ones are not. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequented illegal streaming sites on the internet, so you can be sure to steer clear of them and keep yourself and your family safe in the process.
But first, let’s answer some basic questions about online streaming.
Common Questions About Online Streaming
Common Questions About Online Streaming
Yes and no. Watching your favorite movies, documentaries, and anime films online or listening to your favorite musician can be 100% legal or illegal—it just depends on what site you’re streaming from. If the website you’re using to watch the latest movies or live stream of your favorite sports doesn’t have the legal authority to stream that content, then the site is violating copyright laws, and the streaming website is illegal. However, if the site does have the legal authority to provide copyrighted content via online streaming, then the website is legal.
Is Using an Illegal Streaming Site Really Unsafe?
Yes. Illegal content, regardless of how it’s accessed (e.g. unauthorized site, streaming box, app, etc.), exposes the user to a host of potential hazards, including malware, fraud risk, malicious pop-ups, hacking, and potential legal trouble.
Which Free Streaming Site is the Best?
There are a number of 100% free streaming websites available, many of which provide high-quality content that ranges from public domain movies to free TV shows from years past. It’s hard to say what the best free streaming site is, because it depends on what sort of online content you’re looking for, but some of the top free streaming services, include Tubi, Pluto TV, Roku Channel, NBC’s Peacock, Popcornflix, and IMDb TV. Most free streaming sites pay for their programming with ads, so the streaming experience is more like traditional TV. To watch your favorite online movies or TV series ad-free on a legal website will almost certainly require a subscription or fee.
How Do Illegal Streaming Sites Work?
Illegal streaming platforms can work in a variety of different ways. Some of them allow for illegal downloads or allow video streaming of television shows and movies directly from the site in violation of copyright laws. Some facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing between users that allows users to illegally bypass copyright holders’ claims to the content and their ability to monetize views or streams. Another common way illegal streaming sites work is to function as a search engine, so visitors to the site can search for content and find it on other servers to either stream or download. Usually, streamers of illegal content are required to watch ads to get to the illegal content, and the ad revenue goes to the site owners and advertisers. Oftentimes, the streaming quality is lower than with a legal streaming service.
Now that we’ve answered some questions about streaming sites, here are some of the most frequented illegal streaming sites.
uTorrent is a free file sharing software program used to download very large files. It is part of BitTorrent’s portfolio. While using uTorrent (and torrenting in general) is legal, any torrenting of unauthorized copyrighted material via uTorrent is illegal. Because internet service providers (ISPs) and copyright trolls routinely monitor peer-to-peer file sharing sites like uTorrent, any copyrighted material that is shared could result in litigation.
Also, while uTorrent is not a virus in and of itself, it has been a distribution source for malware, cryptomining software, and invasive advertisement, so it can have negative effects on users’ computers and other devices.
Roja Directa (also known as Rojadirecta) has long been one of the most frequented sports streaming sites on the internet, but it has been embroiled in legal battles for years regarding links to live sports events provided on its platform that were not authorized. Streamers looking for live sports content have plenty of other options, including traditional television outlets and streaming services like fuboTV, Sling TV, ESPN+, and others.
123Movies is a cost-free movie and television viewing site based in Vietnam, where it’s also technically legal. However, as a file sharing platform, 123Movies is notorious for being a distribution site for viruses and malware.
The site is illegal in the United States and other countries, because the content being shared via their site is not licensed to be viewed there.
Vumoo functions as a search engine for illegal and pirated content. Many users access the files they receive from Vumoo via a virtual private network (VPN), which routes the user’s internet activity through an encrypted connection that keeps others from seeing their online behavior. While a VPN may offer Vumoo users some protection from litigation, even the best VPN can’t protect against viruses and malware, which can affect Vumoo users.
MediaBox HD is a website and an iOS and Android app that allow users access to a vast collection of TV series and online movies made available via torrenting or other direct sources, even legal sources like Netflix. The catch? Mediabox HD doesn’t always own the rights or have authorization to the content it provides for streaming or downloading. While considered safer than some other illegal streaming sites, MediaBox HD can still violate copyright law.
Some IPTV Services
IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, is television content that is delivered over IP networks as opposed to television content that is delivered over cable, satellite, or radio waves. Using IPTV is perfectly legal when watching free-to-air (FTA) content or paid subscription services like HBO or Apple TV. However, when IPTV is used to stream illegal content, it is still an illegal and unsafe act.
The Pirate Bay
A peer-to-peer file sharing site that uses the BitTorrent protocol, The Pirate Bay (TPB) is an index of online content. It has been shut down many times and has faced plenty of legal trouble since its inception in 2003. In fact, the founders have all served jail time for copyright infringement.
Today, The Pirate Bay is still in operation on the dark web.
Mobdro is one of many internet apps seeking to take advantage of free streaming content, while looking the other way when it comes to legality. While Mobdro itself is not illegal—It enables users to crawl for free streams on the internet and then capture and categorize them for later viewing—any time a user watches copyrighted content they haven’t paid to access via the app, that action is illegal. For now, Mobdro seems to be operating in a legal gray area—especially since their disclaimer specifically aims to place all responsibility for content on the user. For users who access copyrighted material on their streaming devices, however, the gray area is much more black and white, i.e. clearly illegal.
Chitram TV is an IPTV that specializes in TV streaming, specifically, it illegally streams Indian TV channels and TV content outside of India. In December, 2021, Chitram TV was ordered to pay $31 million to DISH Network for piracy and copyright infringement.
Area 51 is an IPTV app that makes illegal content available to users. The app has faced legal trouble from the Netflix-, Disney-, and Hollywood-driven MPAA and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a global anti-piracy group. In addition to the illegality of some of Area 51’s offerings, users have been exposed to hacks, malware, and other online threats.
A once-heavily trafficked and free torrent site, Streamango was shut down (along with Openload) in 2019 due to piracy and copyright infringement. A lawsuit brought against Streamango by the MPA, ACE, and other international companies resulted in the termination of the site, as well as a sizable settlement.
Kodi is a highly versatile app that can turn just about any connected device into a streaming hub. While it has many impressive features—it can support just about any audio or video file format, and once installed, users can use it to access any files stored on a device from another device—and it’s not in and of itself illegal, there are many Kodi addons that allow users to engage in illegal streaming. While Kodi is legal, using it to watch unauthorized and copyrighted content can land users in legal turmoil.
Putlocker originally started back in 2011 in the UK, but throughout numerous seizures and suspensions, its domain has changed repeatedly, and it’s unclear, at this point, who runs the site. How does Putlocker work? Putlocker is both a streaming site for movies and TV shows and an online index. At least one Putlocker user has been convicted of violating federal copyright law.
Flixtor, like many illegal streaming platforms, does not own the rights to distribute the movies, documentaries, and television shows on its site. Because of this, it has been shut down many times, and its future is in doubt. Not only might Flixtor site operators face legal scrutiny, but so might anyone who streams content from Flixtor—especially since ISPs now routinely track illegal streaming site use among their customers.
- One of the largest piracy sites in the U.S. before it was shut down, the creator of iStreamitAll was recently handed a 57-month prison sentence and $1 million fine for the following:
- money laundering
- conspiracy to commit copyright infringement
- criminal copyright infringement by distributing a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution
- misdemeanor criminal copyright infringement by public performance
- misdemeanor copyright infringement
Free and illegal streaming site Moviesjoy offers pirated streaming content for free to users, who watch ads in exchange for content. In addition to being illegal to view, the content on Moviesjoy isn’t always secure. Ads on Moviesjoy often come from low-budget ad networks that promote bad information and misleading content to viewers.
While this list is incomplete, and many of the sites listed here may come and go due to legal pressures in the future, the truth about illegal streaming sites remains the same. While it might seem appealing to watch movies and TV shows for free, the risks—legal trouble, malware, hacks, poor quality, viruses, etc.—are high. With so many good, free, and paid, legal alternatives available, there’s really no reason to run the risks required to view copyright protected material over the internet.
Check out our Legal Streaming Sources page for information on where you can watch free, legal content that won’t put you, your devices, or your legal future in jeopardy.
Streaming movies online can be either illegal or legal, depending on the site you use. By watching movies from an unlicensed website, you are engaging in illegal streaming, which will result in prosecution if caught. A video stream from a site or company with a copyright license to broadcast a movie or a certain movie is legal.
Yes. 123movies is illegal in the United States. 123movies does not acquire copyright licenses for the content available on their websites. Even though they do not host this illegally acquired content on their site, it is still illegal to access it and could result in prosecution.
Yes, the Pirate Bay is still working, but as an illegal torrenting site, it is not safe to use. Users are sometimes victims of malware, hacking, bloatware, and legal trouble. To access copyrighted material legally and safely, use a safe and legal streaming site.
No. Illegal streaming sites can compromise users’ security and safety in a variety of ways, including identity theft, bloatware, malware, invasive ads, viruses, phishing scams, and more. There’s also always the potential for legal prosecution when using an illegal streaming site.
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