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Online Free TV Is (Technically) Legal In Canada

Anyone mildly savvy to the ways of the internet and copyright laws knows that downloading copyrighted content is a big no-no. A big problem in recent years, Canada’s Copyright Act made certain that the downloading of copyrighted content of any kind without permission is outright illegal.

Such laws that prohibit downloading, however, don’t technically apply to streaming television programs, effectively making free TV completely legal in Canada.

Unlike downloading, streaming “falls a little bit into that grey area” comments legal expert Michael Geist. The reason being that, unlike downloading, which involves creating a digital copy of a movie or television show, streaming is inherently “transient,” with no re-watchable copy made.

With that, anyone reprimanded for streaming a television show could simply say they weren’t making making a permanent copy, as streaming is really just a temporary reproduction, and thus be exempt from any Canadian copyright laws.

For a majority of popular streaming services, the most popular example being Netflix, this isn’t really useful information. Such streaming services have already struck deals with the owner’s of the content they stream, so there isn’t any copyright infringement going on in the slightest. You can Netflix all you like (which is a lot for many) and never have to worry about an allegation of copyright infringement notice.

But for folks who stream movies and shows from file-sharing websites, or use devices like The Free TV Box which effectively allows you to watch almost anything as long as a stream-able file exists online, this is essential information to know, no legal research needed.

As Geist notes, the majority of individuals who do stream content are using paid-for subscriptions, and so for the time being its unlikely the Canadian government will crack down on users who stream. But, should amount of individuals who utilize free file-sharing websites (which would be deemed illegal if they were operating out of Canada) grow, it’s likely the practice will fall firmly out of the legal grey area.

Michael D'Alimonte

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