It’s no secret that the future of entertainment is streaming, and the future is now. After the meteoric success of Netflix, virtually every content provider on the planet was eager to get in on the streaming game. For many, the arrival of streaming services meant finally ditching their cable companies and their astronomical bills. Unfortunately, would-be cord cutters found that Internet streaming could still be costly. With Amazon, Hulu, HBO, SlingTV and countless others all throwing their hats into the ring, subscription fees can add up quickly.
In addition to these paid options, there are a plethora of subscription-free websites that allow you to stream to your heart’s content. Of course, the legality of these websites is always a concern. The rise of streaming ultimately led to a rise in copyright infringement and piracy. However, this doesn’t mean that every free streaming site is breaking the law. To keep yourself out of hot water, you’ll want to know how to spot a potentially shady content provider.
How to Spot an Illegal Streaming Site
The law surrounding piracy is complex and can be hard to interpret. Whether or not just watching an illegal stream can land you in prison or have you facing a hefty fine is still up in the air; however, there are other inherent risks. Illegal streaming sites can try to infect your PC with malware, steal sensitive personal information or bog you down with intrusive ads. Have a look at some of indicators of a legit streaming service.
- There is an “About Us” or “Contact Us” section. Legit streaming sites are run by people who are transparent about who they are and want user feedback. Lacking these sections could indicate that the owners of the site are trying to remain anonymous.
- They tell you where the movies are coming from. Legal streaming sites will disclose how they obtain the rights to host the content they offer. Generally this is done via partnerships with movie studios.
- They make money through advertisements. Free sites need cash to keep the lights on. Ads that interrupt viewing (similar to when you’re watching a longer YouTube video) are common.
- There’s an app. Android and iOS apps go through a review process before hitting the market to make sure they don’t violate any policies. Simply put, an illegal streaming app would never make it to the public.
- There are newer films available. If a streaming site is offering a film that is still in theaters or hasn’t hit home video yet, there’s a good chance it’s illegal.
Legit Free Movie Streaming Sites
While the world of Internet streaming can be scary, there are many free services that are legitimate. While there are many streaming sites currently in operation, the following list highlights some good places to start.
Crackle is owned by Sony Pictures and offers a good selection of free movies and TV shows from Sony’s back catalog. New content crops up at regular intervals; however, titles are usually only available for a limited time. The site is ad-supported, meaning you’ll have periodic interruptions during your stream.
A subsidiary of Screen Media Films, PopcornFlix has a ton of free-to-watch independent films, so long as you don’t mind the occasional ad. In addition to feature-length films, PopcornFlix also boasts original content.
An ad-supported TV and movie streaming platform, TubiTV has the largest library of free TV shows and movies on the Web thanks to partnerships with Hollywood heavyweights like Paramount and MGM. In addition to the more than 40,000 titles currently available, TubiTV boasts new content uploaded every single week.
Classic Cinema Online
Featuring lots of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Classic Cinema Online is your one-stop shop. The site features embedded videos from other sites, mainly YouTube. As with a lot of “classic” video streaming sites, its library is mainly comprised of films that have fallen into the public domain.
Top Documentary Films
Have a hankering for real life? Top Documentary Films has you covered. Featuring a wide variety of subjects from conspiracy theories to climate change, Top Documentary Films will undoubtedly give you food for thought.
Viewster has an eclectic library of TV shows and movies to watch with no registration or fees. This ad-supported service features everything from anime to documentaries; however, the titles available change from country to country due to regional licensing agreements.
Do you agree with our list? Which streaming services did we miss that are worth a mention? What is your favorite free streaming service? Let us know in the comments!