It is no secret that the way we consume television today is much different than the way we consumed television 10 or 20 years ago. More and more people are “cutting the cord” in search of cheaper alternatives and there is a whole host of companies online selling IPTV Subscription type services.
In this article we are going to take a closer look at what exactly IPTV is, and answer the question, are IPTV subscriptions legal.
What is IPTV?
IPTV stands for Internet Protocol TV, which is a competing way to deliver television to consumers versus more terrestrial methods such as OTA, cable or satellite. IPTV can embody many things and there are certainly legitimate IPTV services available on the market today.
For example, Sling TV, Hulu, FuboTV, Philo and similar type IPTV streaming services provide television broadcasts leveraging Internet Protocols and they are perfectly legal as an alternative to traditional cable and satellite subscriptions.
Of course we do like to add OTA Antenna signals into this mix! And it should be noted that these IPTV services are a great complement to any serious cord cutters suite of entertainment.
By far the best way to merge IPTV services with FREE over-the-air antenna services is by combining the following:
- HDTV Antenna – check out our buying guide for the best outdoor antennas.
- Network Tuner Box – we recommend an HDHomeRun network tuner.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick – these firestick devices are great for streaming.
But it’s not these IPTV streaming services I intend to focus on here, rather, we are going to take a closer look at the “black-market” IPTV Subscriptions services that are running rampant on the Internet right now.
These subscription based services are finding their way into North American markets (USA and Canada) offering extensive television packages at incredibly low or discounted prices.
IPTV Subscription Pirates
Make no mistake, the IPTV subscriptions that are offering hugely discounted prices for thousands of HD and premium channels ARE NOT legitimate. This is a growing black market that remains elusive to authorities and is growing in popularity with American and Canadian consumers.
In fact, a recent study has shown that 6.5% of North American households have subscribed to or accessed pirated IPTV content. Those are pretty staggering numbers when you think of it.
For arguments sake, let’s estimate 400 million citizens in the US and Canada, 6.5% of which equals 26 million. That’s almost the entire population of Canada alone! And the numbers are even larger globally.
What Exactly are IPTV Services Selling?
A quick Google search will quickly show you the plethora of IPTV subscription services available. I did a quick search and here is an example of what they’re offering.
1 Year Subscription for $132 gets you 500+ channels.
And on another website, I read the following:
“Why pay more when you get it all for less!!!!” says a competitor, offering an even better deal — more than 3,000 channels for just $15 a month.
Seems too good to be true right? Well that’s because it is! And it is definitely NOT legal. What these IPTV pirates are doing is setting up off-shore servers (even on-shore in some cases) gathering TV signals, and then re-streaming the digital feeds to you via an Android TV box or your PC.
In all cases these services are illegal and users should beware.
While these sites are clearly illegal, they do seem to offer quite a comprehensive channel line-up that includes all the major networks and premium channels.
Oh, and I should let you know that I will be making a point to clear out my browser cache and delete all cookies after writing this article.
Admittedly, it is very tempting to sign up for these services, most offering a free one-week trial. I have to admit I was tempted to try one myself…strictly for research purposes of course! These sites make it very easy to do so and accept all major credit cards, Paypal and cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
In fact, one site I visited was offering a 5% discount off their yearly package if you paid with Bitcoin…any idea why? Of course, because it’s untraceable!
Make no mistake, if you offer over your email, credit card and any other personal information you are essentially handing over your information to black-market pirates. I don’t know about you but that would make me very nervous to say the least.
What About Kodi?
If you’ve not heard of Kodi, it is an open-source platform that allows you to gather all your digital content in one, easy to use. During the Windows Media Center days it was probably its largest competitor and is similar in function to PLEX if you’re familiar with that.
Unfortunately, Kodi’s name has been badly tarnished because of the illegal activities that have plagued it for years now. Don’t get me wrong, Kodi is a great piece of software and I do use it still from time to time.
However, because of it’s “open” nature, pirates have used it as a platform to stream illegal content such as IPTV, Camera rips, Movies, Video and other.
Make no mistake if you are using Kodi for these types of illegal activities you are engaging in a criminal activity and should be taking steps to protect yourself that we will discuss shortly.
How To Stop IPTV Pirates?
These IPTV Pirates are always on the run from the law and from what I’ve read law enforcement agencies are taking action on many fronts.
The difficulty, as I eluded to before, is that most of these black-market IPTV subscription services are operating abroad in countries that don’t have the same types of Internet and Copyright laws that we do.
This makes it very difficult for US law enforcement agencies to shut them down, although there are cases where this has happened, and it is definitely becoming more common and is by far the most direct approach.
One “loop-hole” some of these companies are leveraging is basically this: if they are not storing the content and redistributing or selling it, then technically, they aren’t doing anything illegal.
Many of these companies are merely server houses that provide links to where the content is being streamed from and are being updated regularly. As you can imagine this can be very difficult to track, and when they shut one down 10 more pop up.
Another tactic is to work with the payment companies that are being used to subscribe to these pirated IPTV sites. By working with credit card companies and legitimate online banks such as PayPal, law enforcement agencies can have an impact.
Netflix recently cracked down on users who were using “VPN services” and other “DNS Unblocking services” to unlock content geographically inaccessible from their country of origin.
For example, Canadian content laws or some of the most stringent and “Unblocking service providers” were tapping into the Canadian market that allowed Canada and other countries with similar geolocation-restrictions to watch American content from abroad.
From what I’ve read, Paypal apparently stopped permitting two of these “Unblocking services” (which shall remain nameless) from using its online payment service.
On a side-note, there are still VPN providers who can get you around the goe-location problem. I’ve been a long time user of VPNs for both personal and business reasons so I highly recommend them.
In my opinion though, the best way to get rid of these illegal services is for the legal companies to offer competitive television packages that are priced to put them out of business.
If the big cable and satellite companies would “truly offer” what we all wanted at a fair price then these sites simply wouldn’t exist. Well, saying that, my site probably wouldn’t exist either!
What If You Still Want To Try An IPTV Service
It should be pretty clear that I am in no way endorsing the use of these black-market IPTV services. I think you would be much better served to buy a good outdoor HDTV antenna.
If the temptation is too strong for you to resist, then I should provide you with some helpful tips to ensure your anonymity.
#1 – Use a VPN Service
If you are engaging in any illegal streaming activity, whether it be Kodi or some other IPTV streaming service, it is highly recommended that you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as PureVPN to protect your location and anonymity.
A VPN is a virtual private network that essentially masks your IP address from the end-point IP address you are connecting to by using encryption techniques.
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Your location becomes anonymous by connecting to a remote VPN server or service provider, who maintains no records of your activity – you should verify this!
The VPN server serves up the content from the end-point connection to your PC, laptop or media box, effectively becoming a “middle man” between you and the streaming service.
VPN providers, like some of the IPTV pirates, leverage “loop-holes” in the law by not storing any of the information to which you are streaming, and merely provide a secure and private connection to you.
There are many VPN service providers out there, many of which serve very legitimate business needs. I’ve used all three of these VPN services over the years and all are very good and do not maintain any activity logs.
If you’re interested in reading more about VPNs, how they work, and whether or not there is any risk to using them. Check out my other articles that talk about VPNs, IPTV and how to install and get these services up and runnning:
- Are VPNs Safe? Everything You Need To Know
- What Is IPTV? Everything Cord Cutters Need To Know
- How To Setup VPN On Android TV Box
#2 – Pay With Bitcoin or a Prepaid Credit Card
If at all possible pay with a crypto-currency such as Bitcoin. If the seller does not accept Bitcoins, then I would recommend you purchase a prepaid credit card from Vanilla Mastercard or Entropay.
Never give your personal information to these websites, you are essentially giving it to criminals! You will need to spoof all payment and personal information.
You can use Paypal, however, I do recommend you create a separate account just for these types of purposes using bogus credentials and information. Even though Paypal is secure, I wouldn’t chance opening up a payment stream to these illegal companies even with Paypal.
#3 – Use A Fake Email To Register
Again, you don’t want to use anything that could be linked back to you personally. I am not aware of any lawsuits targeting individuals for subscribing to IPTV Subscription services, but that’s not to say that it won’t happen.
The big cable companies and satellite companies are losing huge dollars to “cord cutters” like you and me. While their focus is on the “big fish” currently, there is no guarantee that if you’re careless they won’t come after you!
It should be clear that I am intentionally trying to scare you off this path, but if you must continue, use a fake email address with these sites. There are many adhoc email sites out there such as Mailinator or GuerillaMail.
I should warn you though, many of these emails are black-listed by some of these black-market IPTV sites. If this is the case and they are making it too difficult for you to subscribe by wanting you to put in legitimate emails and information…run!
#4 – Be Extra Cautious
I think this is the underlying theme throughout all of these suggestions. If you want to be a little extra cautious or are perhaps a little paranoid you could also do the following:
- You may want to opt to purchase your Bitcoins at a local distributor of crypto-currencies using cash.
- Use Localbitcoins.com to obtain Bitcoins. Again, use a fake email address and a service like TextMe if they want phone verification.
- Use a fake email, name, and register a fake Paypal account and purchase a prepaid Visa card. Make sure your VPN is on when doing this.
Well I hope I’ve said enough to deter you from using these black-market type IPTV subscription sites. At the very least, I hope I’ve answered the original question, are IPTV subscriptions legal?
I guess the short answer to that is it depends. If I haven’t been successful in deterring you from illegal IPTV sites, and believe me I don’t judge anyone.
Hopefully I’ve made you sufficiently aware of the risks and benefits of using IPTV services.