With the current trend towards cord cutting, “IPTV” has become an increasingly common buzzword. People want to watch live channels on their televisions and IPTV provides a solution.
But what is IPTV? And, more importantly, is IPTV legal? As ever with legal questions, the answer is somewhat nuanced. Let’s take a closer look at the issues involved.
What Is IPTV?
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a catch-all term for any television that’s broadcast over the web rather than via more traditional means.
There are actually many different forms of IPTV. These include:
- Online-only TV providers like Sling TV, DirecTV, and PlayStation Vue.
- TV networks’ apps such as BBC iPlayer and FOX Now which offer both live TV and on-demand videos.
- Online-only TV channels such as Cheddar TV.
- Websites that offer free live TV.
- Plugins for apps like Kodi, Plex, and Emby.
- Third-party subscription IPTV services.
Finally, even though they are not broadcasting live, on-demand video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video also fall under the IPTV umbrella.
Is IPTV Legal?
And so, to the main question: Is IPTV legal? The answer: It depends.
Let’s work through some of the different types of IPTV that we looked at in the previous section to determine whether or not they’re legal.
Firstly, the online-only TV providers. Naturally, they are entirely legal. All of the channels are fully licensed from their respective source.
Indeed, there’s a surprising amount of overlap between the different services and existing telecoms companies. Hulu is part-owned by Disney, AT&T, and Comcast. AT&T also owns DirecTV, and Dish owns Sling TV.
TV networks’ own apps and online-only TV channels are also both entirely legal (though you should be aware that circumventing the apps’ geo-blocking efforts is often against the terms and conditions and could result in a ban).
In the final three categories—websites, plugins, and third-party subscription services—things start to become less clear.
Some websites offer legal IPTV streams for free. Two common examples are USTVNow in the United States and TVPlayer in the U.K.
Both offer some live TV channels for free with the option to increase the number available for a monthly fee.
However, there are plenty of websites that offer live TV streams without owning the requisite rights. Lots of sports fans who are desperate to see their team in action will be familiar with them.
These are on the wrong side of the law. The developers of such sites can—and have been—hauled up in courts across the U.S. and Europe. Often, the judges have handed down custodial sentences.
Other Legal Questions
In conclusion, there are some legal IPTV, others are not. You should be on alert so you can identify illegal services and stay on the right side of the law. In the Arab world there is no content monitoring so far. Even if you watch channels legally or movies or download torrents, there is no censorship of you, But in European countries and America, if a user tries to download a movie and watch a live broadcast, he can quickly fall into trouble with his Internet service provider, or worse with the copyright holder.