Is Streaming or Watching Movies Online Illegal in Germany?

Sep 20, 2021Internet, Living in Germany

Do you like to watch movies on a Friday evening online for free? Well, you might want to reconsider your free time preferences after moving to Germany. Until 2017 online streaming in Germany wasn’t an issue, but now the situation has changed.

Streaming and torrenting movies on suspicious sites are illegal in Germany. You can receive a fine of amount between 150 EUR to 1,500 EUR. 

Many people watch movies online without paying for them. There are plenty of suspicious streaming sites, even in Germany. Yet, in Germany, streaming movies from unauthorized file-sharing sites or common torrenting sites (such as 123movies) are illegal. Users who get caught are at risk of paying between 150 EUR to 1,500 EUR in fines.

Streaming in Germany and laws

In 2017, the European Court of Justice implemented a new law, making the streaming of movies, TV series, or sporting events illegal in Germany. You can receive a warning or pay a fine if you get caught.

Until this year, viewing an illegal stream was a grey zone that wasn’t punished at all. Fines were only issued for downloading or uploading illegal files on the internet. 

Consequently, according to the European Court of Justice, streaming pirated (illegally copied) movies, series, or sports is illegal. Downloading or distribution of files is even more punishable.

Fines for violating the copyright laws are currently limited to 1,000 EUR for first-time offenders, plus the lawyer’s fees will cost you a further 150 EUR.

Particularly the illegal streaming of movies is prohibited, where you haven’t paid for access to the file or the owner of the site hasn’t. But sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether the website is legit or not. 

Yet if you watch some newly released movie online, it will be an illegal act in most cases.

Is streaming movies illegal in Germany?

For a long time, watching movie and series online were in a gray area in Germany. Streaming sites like kinox.to or movie4k.to weren’t considered illegal. 

The dealbreaker is the German copyright law. In April 2017, the European Court of Justice turned the gray area of streaming into a red alert zone. Now you can be sure that streaming on the internet is illegal in Germany. 

The distinction between streaming and downloads is particularly important. You are liable when illegally downloading copyrighted films, music, audiobooks, etc. Read more about downloading from the internet in Germany here. 

Nevertheless, the internet offers legal as well as illegal streaming options. Stick to known streaming providers. 

How to figure out if the streaming site is illegal 

Usually, suspicious tormenting sites are pretty easy to recognize, but some of them can look like absolute legit movie platforms. 

Therefore, you should pay extra attention to whether a site makes a dubious or illegal impression or not.

Here are some elements of illegal streaming sites:

  • brand-new movies and series
  • poor film quality, often filmed directly in the cinema
  • aggressive advertising 
  • pop up ads
  • the imprint is missing
  • contact possibilities are missing
  • the country code is strange (look at the domain)
  • movies and series are offered for free
  • no streaming app in the app store

Illegal streaming also can be recognized if money is charged for access to better quality. Or if you can only watch something from particular countries, hence, by using VPN.

When is streaming legal?

The German internet offers illegal as well as legal streaming options. There are plenty of legal streaming platforms. You can stream anything by subscribing to one of the official services like Netflix from 8 EUR per month. 

One can also enjoy one for the free trial period, which usually lasts several months. The quality of legal providers is much better than on illegal streaming platforms.

However, it’s never legal to watch movies that are currently playing in cinemas. You can see them exceptionally in cinemas.

Reputable streaming sites have acquired the rights of use for the media, so users don’t confront any copyright infringements.

Therefore, you will be 100% on the safe side when using reputable providers such as Netflix or Spotify for music. They all have appropriate licenses for where authors have been permitted to use their work. 

Reputable and well-known streaming providers working in Germany are:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime
  • Disney+
  • Sky

Torrenting movies with a VPN

When you browse the internet or torrent movies with a VPN, the remote server sees the VPN’s IP address, not yours. This means that copyright lawyers cannot see your IP address. Hence, they won’t send you a notice. 

Otherweise, lawyers, and other third parties can’t easily trace your illegal streaming. Therefore, using a VPN makes torrenting much safer. In Germany, check out NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

Moreover, VPNs come with several benefits:

  • You can watch movies and series that are only available in other countries
  • You can visit websites that are blocked in your country/Germany
  • VPN increase your online privacy by adding a layer of anonymity

However, VPNs are not risk-free. If your VPN connection drops, your torrent client might continue downloading copyrighted materials without it, exposing your IP address to the world. 

Using a VPN killswitch will prevent this issue. It will stop the internet connection if you are not connected to the VPN anymore.

When choosing a VPN, also look for a fast provider that allows torrenting and streaming without log IP addresses. We would advise avoiding free VPN services since they can compromise on safety, privacy or performance. 

NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are the main VPN providers in Germany. In fact, ExpressVPN is the world’s biggest VPN company. 

Here are the most essential points about all companies:

NordVPN

A world-renowned VPN provider with over 10 years of experience. 

  • 240+ servers in Germany
  • Get from 3,10 EUR per month
  •  full 30-day refund policy
  • Perfect for streaming and torrenting

ExpressVPN

The world’s biggest VPN company, founded in 2009.

  • High security
  • Blazing-fast speeds
  • Get for 5,69 EUR per month
  • Full 30-day refund policy
  • 5 devices
  • Get 3 months free with a one-year subscription 
  • Kill-switch for streaming  
  • Works with Netflix

Surfshark 

Surfshark is the third-largest VPN provider in the world.

  • Best budget option
  • Get for 2,2 EUR per month
  • Killswitch for streaming  
  • Unlimited number of devices
  • 30-day free trial and 30 days money-back guarantee

What does streaming mean?

Streaming is the opposite of classic downloading. Unlike downloading, streaming doesn’t permanently store the entire movie or series on the PC. 

The files are only cached temporarily in bits and pieces and processed directly. If the media player is closed, the data is also discarded from your computer.

Streaming is also different from file sharing, which is illegal due to the duplication and distribution of mostly copyrighted data.

The origin of the term “streaming” is the English word “stream”. Streaming refers to the process of data transmission. It makes it possible to playback the entire movie or music on the internet without downloading it completely.

Hence, the advantage of streaming is that the data doesn’t have to be completely downloaded and permanently stored on your computer. Instead, information is continuously transferred in the background.

Overall, there are two main types of streaming: video on demand (VoD) and live streaming.

Video on Demand (VoD)

The video-on-demand format has a great popularity for watching movies and series.

The best-known providers of video on demand are Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. This streaming format allows you to decide for yourself when, where, how, and what you want to watch.

You can pause, rewind and fast-forward at any time or end the stream and continue watching at the interrupted point at a later time. Most people are very familiar with on-demand streaming, thanks to these world-renowned providers.

Live stream

Live streaming is more or less self-explanatory and comparable to a classic live TV broadcast. The content is streamed in real-time. Hence, you can’t decide when to watch it. The provider or host sets the time. 

However, depending on the streaming platform, it’s also possible to pause, stop, and rewind the broadcast. The live format is mainly used for sporting events and gaming content.

Consequences of illegal streaming in Germany

While streaming illegally in Germany, you are infringing the copyrights of the owner. Meaning when using services of illegal torrenting sites, you are committing the criminal offense.

Rightsholders or law firms can trace users via their IP addresses, which are usually stored by illegal streaming platforms for a short period of time.

Therefore, there is always the risk of a warning letter from the lawyer or a claim for damages from the owner.

And fines for illegal streaming are high. Therefore, using illegal streaming sites is dangerous due to the risk of virus attacks and can easily cost several hundred EUR. 

You can expect the following expenses for illegal streaming in Germany:

  • Warning fees up to 150 EUR per procedure
  • Damage claims between 5 and 10 EUR per stream
  • Attorney’s fees

Yet, downloading a movie or a song from not legit source on the internet will come at the higher price. Usually, the fee for such an act is around 1,000 EUR per movie. 

Read our full in-depth article about downloading files from the internet in Germany, so you don’t have to pay these fees in the future. 

However, you might get lucky. The IP data is only stored for few days when you are streaming the film, making it difficult to track and investigate by the lawyer. 

In addition, the providers of the illegal platforms operate anonymously from abroad, which makes it even more harder to get to the actual user.

Yet, despite the difficulty of tracking, you might receive a letter from a lawyer due to copyright infringements after streaming a video.

If you receive a claim for damages, we recommend consulting a lawyer specializing in internet law.

Fines for streaming in Germany

If you were caught streaming a movie from the illegal source, you can receive a warning letter sent by a lawyer. The fine is up to 150 EUR per case. 

Why is VPN important?

Want to stream your favorite series or movies? Using VPN can help you to avoid getting in trouble. VPN is an abbreviation for Virtual Private Network.

A VPN provider helps to protect the data on the internet. Your all data is encrypted, your IP address is no longer traceable, and thus third parties like lawyers can no longer use your data.

Moreover, Google, Facebook, or government authorities cannot see your activity on the web.

Furthermore, thanks to private browsing via VPN, you could visit semi-legal streaming websites to watch series and movies without the risk of being caught.

Via the VPN, you then surf the network of some particular country and watch movies available there without being detected. You can purchase a monthly, three-month, six-month, or annual membership with the VPN provider. 

The longer the length of the membership, the cheaper the price is.

Alternatives to streaming

There are many alternatives to illegal streaming on the internet. In most cases, you will have to pay a monthly price for the subscription unless you are watching YouTube. 

The price of a subscription ranges between 6 EUR to 16 EUR per month. The best-known providers for movies and series are:

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Disney+
  • Apple TV+
  • Joyn (Maxdome)
  • Sky

Music

If you want to listen to music legally, there are some options too. I have been using Spotify for the last four years for just 5 EUR per month, and absolutely happy with this app. 

The biggest music providers are:

  • Spotify
  • Apple Music
  • Deezer
  • Amazon Music Unlimited
  • YouTube Music
  • Tidal
  • Audible

Where is streaming allowed?

Nevertheless, free semi-illegal streaming is allowed in some areas in Germany. And no surprise, you can legally stream porn on the German internet without any hesitation. 

However, downloads of videos will be still punished with fines. 

If you need a trustworthy internet provider, check out our article about the best internet provider in Germany.

Recommended products and services in Germany:

This post contains affiliate links. The affiliate link means I may earn an advertising/referral fee if you make a purchase through my link, without extra cost to you. It helps to keep this blog afloat. Thanks for your support. 

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