Hey Lifehacker, What's the legal status of viewing movies and TV shows that link to either streaming versions of torrents or content that wasn't uploaded by the creator? Will I be busted for doing that? Thanks, Islands In The Stream
TV picture from Shutterstock
Technically I suspect that you are, but I've got to couch that around the general caveat that I'm about as much of a lawyer as Lionel Hutz is.
Strictly speaking, however, the providers of those kinds of services don't specifically have rights to the content that they're offering up, and in most cases the full on legal weight is brought to bear on the providing services rather than the end users per se. That's where the heavy legal stick is brought to bear, but it's not an exclusive arrangement in actual law. Technically speaking because the stream has to be assembled into some form to be viewable, it could (and I suspect probably would, if it came to it) count as an infringing copy as the law is written, and you're not allowed to make an infringing copy.
The recent Dallas Buyers Club LLC decision is an interesting insight into this kind of issue. While the case wasn't involved with streaming sites per se, the judge in that case did take a fairly dim general view around small scale infringements in relation to portions of a torrent file, so it wouldn't take much of a stretch for a judge to view viewing an illicit stream in the same way, especially if it were obvious that the stream was an infringing copy. Equally, while they've talked down from the kinds of "speculative invoicing" that was a big part of their strategy overseas, it's clear that Dallas Buyers Club LLC is still broadly interested in getting recompense from identified pirates, and that's still to be resolved in terms of absolute payments. It's not a huge leap to see the DBC case as a precedent if a film's LLC or production house decided to chase a specific streaming site and its users.
Getting into more specific law, The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 is looking to block access to sites that offer infringing copies of content. Bypass that, and there'd be another specific part of law you might be breaking. Again, this in legal theory, rather than hard world example, because in Australia to date the pirates that have been specifically busted have tended to be originators of infringing copies.
On a practical note, while it's not a hard and fast absolute, there's also a certain amount of revenue raising from some streaming sites that revolves around malware, dodgy "video viewing" plugins and the like, and that could be an entirely different world of hurt to walk into. So whatever the legal status, it may not be a wise choice.
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