QUESTION:

Can streaming cable TV and movies be illegal?

ANSWER:

Yes, copyright infringement.

SOURCES:

FCC letter to Amazon and eBay

Facebook Marketplace rules

Casaba- Asian Pacific video industry trade association

UK Intellectual Property Office: "Guidance Illicit Streaming Devices"

Kodi- "The Piracy Box Sellers and Youtube Promoters Are Killing Kodi"

PROCESS:

The majority of young adults in the U.S. prefer online streaming to cable, according to Pew Research.

Not everyone is streaming responsibly.

A verify viewer told us he wanted to cut the cord for good, and purchase an streaming device that claimed he could watch his favorite cable TV shows and movies for less. Before cutting ties, he asked our Verify team whether streaming devices, like the one he saw advertised, are illegal.

"Streaming" just means you're viewing a video file from the web that hasn't completely downloaded onto your device's hard drive--think of subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu or hardware like Amazon Fire stick or Roku.

Those are fine because they only show content they have rights to.

But beware of Illicit Streaming Devices, those are streaming boxes that contain software, which let you pirate videos and cable television. That infringes on all kinds of copyright laws.

A streaming device called Kodi uses open-source software, just like Google does. While Kodi is legal, it's really easy to install plugins that aren't. Kodi says those plugins are poorly made, illegal, and giving them a bad name.

"We are tired of being told by companies that they don’t want to work with us, because we are selling pirate boxes... we are tired of a thousand different salesmen and Youtubers making money off ruining our name," Kodi wrote in a blog. "It’s gotten bad enough that core Kodi developers have threatened to quit in protest."

In the United Kingdom and Asia, illicit streaming has become a large-scale, pervasive problem.

"The creative industries in the UK is a very important sector. It provides employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1 billion to our economy," the U.K Intellectual Property Office wrote in November. "Using illicit streaming devices is illegal. If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy. Instead, it provides funds for the organized criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.

Casaba, a television trade association based in Hong Kong, all condemned the rise of illicit streaming devices.

"Streaming servers illegally distribute copyright protected digital content (e.g. pirated movies,
sports, music and software shared without rights-holder authorization or proper licensing)," they wrote in April 2017. "Devices for receiving such streamed content are being supplied commercially preloaded with the applications that enable the user to plug and play immediately. The networks violate a
range of copyright and other laws; law enforcement actions are underway in many jurisdictions around the world."

In May, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Amazon and eBay to stop selling streaming boxes with illegal software pre-installed. Facebook Marketplace recently banned them.

So yes, streaming devices can be hijacked with illegal software. If the product description of the box says its's 'fully-loaded,' 'chipped' and offers unlimited movies and sports, it's likely stealing.

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