What Is IPTV? Is IPTV Legal?By Jeremy Evans / February 5, 2019 / Tags: Cut Cable
What is IPTV, and is it legal? Can you get in trouble for watching IPTV? Learn more about IPTV, when may be illegal, and how to protect yourself if you watch it.
As more and more people cancel cable and turn to TV alternatives, IPTV is rapidly rising in popularity. But is IPTV legal? Can watching IPTV get you in trouble?
What Is IPTV?
IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television. In its broadest definition, IPTV is just another way of describing TV that’s streamed over the internet, versus through cables or satellites. That includes everything from the live stream on HBO’s website, to videos on YouTube.
Within that broad definition is the IPTV that most cord-cutters and TV fans are interested in — IPTV services that give subscribers access to hundreds, or even thousands, of popular TV channels for a very cheap monthly fee. There are now dozens of IPTV providers offering users a TV experience that looks and feels very much like traditional cable or satellite at a tiny fraction of the cost.
We won’t name any names, but one of the most popular IPTV providers offers over 3,000 TV channels from all over the world — including all the best US network and cable channels. Subscribers pay a few dollars a month to watch virtually any channel out there, live or on-demand. Users can watch IPTV on a variety of devices, but the most popular way to stream IPTV is with a special IPTV box. IPTV boxes remove a lot of the hassle of set-up, and stream content directly onto your nice big living room TV set. Many IPTV users also stream content on Kodi.
The user experience with IPTV isn’t as slick as with a cable subscription — but it’s extremely close. Certainly close enough to be well worth the vast price difference. In fact, it’s the user-friendly interface, good enough to make people feel like they’re watching cable TV, that has made IPTV so popular. What’s more, the experience is far more reliable and convenient than using free platforms like torrenting or Kodi — prompting frustrated users to shell out a few bucks in exchange for a better service.
IPTV channels include live TV, live sports, and movies. Many streams are available in HD, 4K, and even 3D. Channels are presented in a familiar EPG (Electronic Program Guide) format, which makes it fast and easy to switch channels.
Is IPTV Legal?
As stated, the term IPTV is very broad. There are lots of completely legal IPTV streams, like the live streams on TV network websites. There are also many legitimate IPTV services, such as USTVNow or streaming services like Sling TV or fuboTV.
But a growing number of IPTV providers selling access to content they don’t have the rights to reproduce. In fact, nearly all of the most popular IPTV services are operating illegally. Any IPTV provider offering popular channels at cheap prices is likely violating copyright laws. Instead of striking agreements with channels to provide content to subscribers, IPTV services pipe in illegal streams from third-party hosts. The practice is certainly not legal under DMCA laws, especially when it comes to offering content to the public for a profit.
Is IPTV illegal to use, though? As a subscriber, are you at risk of copyright infringement and legal penalties? Well, the issue is murky, much like the debate over whether Kodi is legal. First, different countries have different laws regarding the consumption of illegal TV streams. In the US and Europe, the legal climate for users has yet to be tested. As a whole, IPTV is still flying largely under the piracy radar (though that will certainly change as more people start to use it). That, combined with grey-area streaming laws, means users are highly unlikely to be prosecuted, for now at least. As we’ve seen with Kodi, once user-ship reaches a critical mass copyright watchdogs and media companies start to take notice and begin actions to crack down.
If you’re concerned about the legality issues surrounding IPTV, the safest thing is to stay away from illegal IPTV services. Of course, the huge volume of popular channels and low, low price make that option rather unappealing for a growing segment of the population. Another option is to use a VPN with IPTV, which will hide your identity and encrypt your connection, letting you stream IPTV anonymously.