HDS.to, Dpstream, Papystreaming… If you are a fan of illegal streaming, you probably know these names. What do you really risk by going to these sites? Nothing? In theory yes, in practice it is more complicated than that. We have studied the matter for you.
Illegal streaming is on the rise in France. We are even the European champions of this “sport” according to the latest MUSO report (published on 21 March 2018). In total, illegal downloading and streaming sites had 10.5 billion visits in 2017. These figures are not completely accurate since all the techniques could not be taken into account by MUSO, including VPNs (make believe you are in the United States for example while you are in France) very common among Internet users. According to the MUSO report, illegal streaming is becoming more and more popular. Yet in illegal streaming there is the word “illegal”. This does not seem to frighten Internet users. Are the risks really non-existent? Not quite.
Before getting to the heart of the matter, let’s recall what is grouped under the term “streaming”. In English, streaming is a term for a method of distributing audio and video content over the Internet. It is thus possible for Internet users to watch films and series or listen to music without having to download them.
There are two forms of streaming. Netflix, OCS or Amazon Prime Video are part of the legal video streaming offers. In order to have the right to broadcast content, these giants have signed agreements with the rights holders, in return for a few pennies. Other platforms, on the other hand, offer online content without permission and without paying copyright fees. These are the illegal streaming sites.
There is a huge subtlety between illegal sites and sites with illegal content. There are two categories of streaming sites:
- sites like Youtube or Dailymotion totally legal sites broadcasting legal and illegal contents. It is then up to each platform to clean up…
- sites such as HDS.to (now closed), Dpstream or Papystreaming that knowingly infringe copyright by offering only pirated films or series.
How to recognize illegal streaming sites? All it takes is a little common sense. Illegal sites follow established codes. Their address, their graphic charter, their ergonomics, the quantity of advertisements of all kinds are all revealing elements.
In 2018, saying “I didn’t know” is clearly evidence of bad faith. With the possible exception of Popcorn Time, which uses a Netflix-like interface and looks like a legal site. But you only have to look through its catalogue and the impressive quantity of (too) recent films to understand that it is an illegal platform.
As the lawyer Arnaud Dimeglio tells our colleagues at Techadvisor, “there is currently no clear solution for consulting illegal content online, or for reading it in streaming”. Simply put, the risk is almost non-existent, but the “almost” is of paramount importance. As our confreres in Rue89 remind us, some lawyers are more meticulous than others.
In theory, if the law wants to prosecute someone, it is the site that posted the video and the Internet user who put it online that are worried. The spectator is safe as he has not downloaded anything and therefore made no copies (in which case he would risk three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros). Always in theory.
Because in practice there is temporary storage of the video on the computer. If no file has been downloaded, the video is still stored temporarily on the machine: the famous buffer memory. The storage is temporary but it is real. Can the spectator be charged with forgery? No, not really. On the other hand, he can be charged with receiving stolen goods for counterfeiting.
According to article 321-1 of the Penal Code, receiving stolen goods is “the fact, with full knowledge of the facts, of benefiting, by any means, from the proceeds of a crime or offence”. Here the “knowingly” brings all the nuance. How do I know if a content has been pirated? We return to the previous part: saying “I didn’t know” is more a matter of bad faith than of ignorance.
Since the advent of illegal streaming, only one conviction has been recorded. And he’s extreme. An Internet user had been prosecuted for “possession of pornographic images or representations of minors”. The court had then considered that there had been no “detention” of the images but “automatic storage”. This is the only case law. The judgment delivered concluded that streaming could not be assimilated to downloading.
But recently, the government announced that the Hadopi law would take a close look at streaming. It remains to be seen what means will be used to track down illegal streamers, as identification and prosecution is very difficult, if not impossible.