Q: Is it illegal to watch movies online? Without downloading anything.
A: Watching itself does not constitute copyright infringement. Using a reference to a colleague who previous used this example, you are not infringing copyright by watching a band perform cover songs on stage.
However, copyright infringement in the United States is a strict liability offense. Meaning, that a user is liable when they illegally copy works, even if they're not aware that this is wrong, or that the work is protected by copyright.
Watching a film online, via download or streaming, would constitute infringement because your computer is making copies of the copyrighted material. Via streaming, (if this is indeed the method of viewing), you computer is copying the video files (albeit temporarily in "cache") for purposes of near-simultaneous viewing. However, on 5 June 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that streaming illegal content online is legal in Europe, and the most recent US case law refers to either file-sharers (who download) or the host sites (for contributory or secondary infringement).
So, this not to say that streaming movies online is legal. It just hasn't yet been decided and most of the effort is directed towards the hosting sites and not individual users. There is still much debate, so to be safe, you should probably stick with mainstream sites like Netflix and Hulu who have license agreements and procedures in place to secure their right to store and distribute the copyrighted content.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this answer is not a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with myself or the Law Office of Mark B. Saku PLLC. This answer should not be relied on since each situation is fact specific, and a lawyer should always be sought out directly when a legal question arises.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.