How are free movie viewing websites legal?

Or are they not legal?

I just found a “watch movies” website that apparently allows me to watch movies for free. How is this legal? or is it really not legal?

Please enlighten me on this issue.

How are watching movies on broadcast TV legal? The purveyor buys the right to show the movie, and sells ads.

Of course, there are pirated films out there too.

Mostly because the sites that advertise don’t actually host the movie files. As long as they have a take down procedure that the copyright holders can use to get the link off the site, they are pretty much in the clear. It’s the site that hosts it that is doing something illegal.

The sites that actually host the content generally use a similar dodge. Unlike the aggregator sites mentioned above, they generally have legitimate videos as well. This makes it easier for them to argue that they are not at fault if a bad user uploads an illegal copy of a movie. They provide similar take-down procedures, and generally ban the users that create the problems.

Of course, this doesn’t accomplish much of anything, since the users are usually smart enough to use a proxy (which gives them a fake IP address). So all they do is move on to another proxy, which gives them completely new Internet credentials. This makes them virtually untraceable. (The copyright holder could trace them down eventually, but it costs a lot of time and money–something hard to justify for a single bad video.) But, even if they weren’t, somebody else will probably reupload the video (in a slightly different format so it won’t get automatically flagged by the software.)

One extra thing that is common practice is use of out-of-country websites. This makes it even harder to police these sites for copyright violations, as the copyright laws are often very different in other countries. However, this isn’t a perfect dodge, as one website I frequent now actually restricts copyrighted material from being viewed in regions where it is still under copyright. I’m sure others may follow suit.

Basically, it boils down to the person who uploads the content is the only one that is doing something verifiably illegal