The advice from legal experts is that any service offering free streaming, or downloading, or to watch movies online for free, is probably illegal. Although streaming movies via the internet doesn’t directly break any laws in the UK, it does go against international copyright laws.
Still, it should be noted that no one has ever been prosecuted in the UK for watching free movies online. Normally, the only people who get prosecuted are those who provide the illegal online streaming services. Read on to find out what you can do to safely watch movies online for free in the UK.
Watching movies for free online from questionable sources can be dangerous and expose you to cybersecurity risks. Crimestoppers UK reported that, in 2019, a total of 926,836 people had money stolen from them due to illegal streaming.
Legal streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix or Apple TV Plus and satellite/cable TV operators now offer more modestly priced, and some free, streaming of movies. As a result, it makes sense to stop and think before exposing yourself to illegal sites. You don’t need to go to the underworld of illegal websites to watch movies online. There are lots of cheap, or even free, legal alternatives.
Can you be fined for streaming movies?
Nobody has ever been prosecuted for downloading or streaming movies illegally in the UK – yet. This is probably because the illegal streaming and downloading of movies by end-users is simply too widespread for film copyright owners and organisations representing them to track. Nevertheless, theoretically, you can be prosecuted for illegally streaming or downloading movies online.
What is more likely to happen is that the people who provide illegal online movie streaming services will be prosecuted. In 2017, the UK government passed the Digital Economy Act, which introduced tougher sentences for online copyright infringement. The maximum penalty for streaming online is now 10 years in prison! The tougher sentences apply to everyone, but are far more likely to be used to target people who provide illegal streaming and downloading services.
Be warned, though, threats of prosecution have been made to users of illegal streaming and downloading sites. In 2020, Norfolk and Suffolk police issued a warning to the subscribers to a service called GE Hosting that they could face prosecution for their activity. On top of threats of prosecution, internet service providers sometimes withdraw internet services from customers who frequently use illegal sites for streaming and downloading movies. This is because internet service providers in the UK and the EU are usually required to sign up to schemes which require them to block users of illegal websites.
The UK Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) represents the interests of copyright owners, along with cinema owners and legal streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix. In recent years, they have focussed on trying to shut down illegal streaming and download websites. Where possible, they have prosecuted illegal operators and distributors. They have not done this so much to recover lost revenue, but as a deterrent to others considering starting or already operating illegal websites or streaming services where people can illegally watch movies online.
FACT aim to support the media industry and they told the Telegraph:
“The jobs, livelihoods and skills of the many individuals employed are threatened. People must understand that if they do not pay to watch the films, TV and sport content they love, then they won’t be there to watch in the future.”
The focus of the UK authorities on the illegal distribution of movies via streaming or download services has resulted in some successful prosecutions. In 2012, a man operating an illegal site called Surfthechannel.com was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy to defraud. He was sentenced to four years’ in prison with an order to repay more than £71,000 to copyright owners or face a further 21 months in jail. More recently, in 2019, three men were jailed for a total of 17 years for providing fraudulent streaming to public venues to watch premiership football games.
How to Watch Movies Online for Free
You may have heard of free movie sites like Lookmovie.io or Putlocker that offer all the newest movies for free in HD. Sounds enticing, right? Wrong. These websites are illegal (which is why they will also keep changing as authorities work to remove them), and although you are unlikely to be prosecuted or fined, you may be exposing yourself to online risks.
While some sites, for a period, may appear to make money through annoying pop-up adverts, their big income is provided by illegal activity. Ultimately, when accessing illegal websites, you are leaving yourself open to being hacked or having malware installed. Because of this, it is probably not a good idea to watch movies online for free.
Personal information including log-in details to email and social media sites, personal online banking or credit card information is worth big money. In the underworld of online crime, your information could be on the market!
Do you really want to risk having your personal information sold on to criminals? They may want to rob or defraud you! Do you want your computer to be part of an illegal network of bots aimed at spying on sensitive commercial or government websites? Can you afford to have your PC, tablet or smartphone overrun with viruses or malware? These may corrupt all your files and make your equipment unusable! This may sound far-fetched, but it is the reality of internet crime in the 21st century.
Any connection to criminal activity can put you, and your equipment at risk. In the UK and many EU countries, the major internet service providers (ISPs) have been required by the authorities to sign up to schemes designed to identify and prevent illegal activity on the web. Along with security services such as GCHQ, commercial organisations such as ISPs can quickly detect if you are using illegal streaming or download services. Individuals known to be using illegal services will initially be contacted by their ISP with a written warning to desist from the illegal behaviour. If they do not comply, the ISP can then withdraw internet services and optionally also report offences to the authorities. This can all happen just for wanting to watch movies online for free!
Even worse than possible sanctions from the courts or ISPs, is the simple danger of connecting to illegal websites in the first instance. It’s rather like dealing with counterfeit suppliers of tobacco, alcohol or perfumes. Do you really know what you are getting from the criminal you are dealing with? If you are “lucky” you may get genuine products which have been stolen. However, you could be consuming counterfeit goods which are dangerous or poisonous.
As the authorities have cracked down on illegal operations using the law, the pirate download sites and illegal streaming sites have increasingly been forced into areas of the web where criminal activity is even more rife. As with illegal hacking operations, illegal streaming and download sites now often operate out of countries such as Russia or China.
Generally, these websites are beyond the reach of the UK authorities. Despite the fact that changes have been made to the internet, it is still the “wild-west” with dangerous criminal gangs and outlaw organisations roaming free. Many believe that people operating illegal movie downloading and streaming websites work closely with criminal gangs. These gangs don’t just work online as well, some are real outlaws who deal in drug running or illegal weapon smuggling. These people are not interested in customer service in the traditional sense. Do you really want to deal with such people?
Are Lunchflix and Lookmovie legal?
A lot of people ask whether Lunchflix and Lookmovie are legal. These are both sites where you can stream a huge number of films for free. Unfortunately, both of these sites are illegal and you should avoid them. Not only will you be breaking the law, but a lot of users have received viruses and malware from these sites.
Precautions When Using Illegal Movie Streaming Sites
If you’re not going to listen to us, and decide to use websites like these anyway, we strongly recommend you follow the following steps:
- Install an Adblocker, like this Adblocker for Chrome. After all, these websites stay alive by selling ad placements, amongst other things. And the only companies buying ads on illegal sites are indecent ones …that are probably also illegal.
- Always have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer or even your mobile device (yes, mobiles can be hacked as well!)
- NEVER download anything from any free movie streaming websites! If a site prompts you to download anything which you need to use the site, then find the software off-platform and download it yourself. Their software is probably malware.
Believe it or not, getting hacked can lead to anything from your computer completely crashing forever or to identity theft. Both of these are very expensive problems. Better to be safe than sorry! You don’t want to be needing to dip into your savings or borrowing a payday loan from Cashfloat to replace your computer just because you weren’t cautious.
5 ways to watch free movies online safely and legally
If you still want to watch movies online for free, we recommend you do so in one of the following SAFE ways:
- BBC iPlayer –To watch BBC iPlayer, all you need to do is register on their site, and Voila! As long as you’re covered by a TV license, it is a legal and safe way to watch online. A lot of the movies they have are quite good, particularly around Christmas time.
- Youtube or Dailymotion – We should start by mentioning that, while Youtube and Dailymotion are both legal sites, full movies uploaded onto these sites may be illegal. However, watching a full movie on Youtube or Dailymotion is a LOT safer than watching it on a dodgy pop-up site. You might be used to thinking these sites are just for clips, but you’d be surprised how many movies are available on them for free! Just search ‘full movie’ in the search bar and take your pick.
- Amazon Prime Video – Amazon prime video is stuffed with good movies, and they offer a free 30 day trial. There are also free trials available for lots of other online movie streaming services.
- Film4 – Channel 4 have added Film4 to their All4 online streaming service, with around 30 free movies available at any one time.
- My5 TV – My5 TV also have lots of free movies to stream or download. This is a good place to go for something whacky, like Megasharks vs Crocosaurus
The best and cheapest ways to pay to watch movies online:
If you want to stay away from illegal movie services run by people with questionable morals and support all the hard work movie makers put into creating entertainment for you instead, the best possible way to watch movies relaxingly online is to… pay for it. Here are a few ways us here at Cashfloat found for you to safely and legally watch movies online (not for free).
- Netflix!! Even though Netflix costs, it is relatively cheap at £5.99 to £13.99 a month and you can watch unlimited movies and TV. Also, their cancel anytime policy means that you can literally cancel and not get charged if, for example, you know you won’t be watching for a while. Although the newest movies are not normally available, Netflix has really upped their game recently and have started releasing their very own exclusive quality content! And if you’re into watching series, Netflix has a huge variety (especially for older series that are perfect for binge-watching).
- Starting from £2.49, you can rent movies on the Microsoft or Google stores. I mean, who watches any movie more than once anyway?! And if you really like the movie, there’s an option to buy it instead of rent it, but of course, for a higher price. Always download the SD version and not the HD to save money, unless you’re viewing on a really huge screen.
- If you’ve tried the Amazon Prime video trial and you like it, why don’t you take out a full membership? It costs only £7.99 a month and is full of good films and TV.
- Apple TV plus is another cheap option for watching movies online. They offer a free trial as well, so you can decide whether you like it before you subscribe.
- Disney Plus is a great streaming service for families with young children. Subscriptions start at £5.99 per month and they’ve got a huge collection of movies to stream for children.
- The Findanyfilm search engine is really good. It helps you to locate good places to watch movies legally online. Again, make sure to click the RENT option, and not the BUY option, so you pay £2.49 instead of £9.99.
Staying safe online while watching movies
Cyber crime is nothing new. If for instance, you were to receive an email or see an advert about low interest loans from a new lender you’d never heard about, you wouldn’t immediately give them all of your details.
Cashfloat is a secure lender; we are fully authorised by the FCA, our website is secure (you can tell by the little padlock in the URL bar), and we make all our loan terms and conditions clear before you apply for a low interest short term loan. Just as a sensible user would make sure to check all of these features, you should also check any website before entering your sensitive details.
Piracy. It’s a Crime.
We know that services like Netflix are not free, and we try to help our readers to save money, but we cannot recommend any of the popular free movie streaming sites as they are illegal and sometimes dangerous. Feel free to check out the other free options we explored in this article.
Know someone who would benefit from knowing all this useful information? Share this with them! Who knows? You might even save them some money!
Now that you know all the safest ways to watch movies free online, you can learn how to watch TV series free online, here.