Is Streaming with a VPN Legal?

Is Streaming a FIlm or Series Legal With VPN Featured
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Summary: Is Streaming With a VPN Allowed?

In short: yes. In most countries, including the United States and other western nations, it’s perfectly legal to use a VPN while streaming. This protects your internet connection and privacy. It also lets you access content that would otherwise be geographically restricted. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Using VPNs is illegal in some countries, such as China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the UAE.
  • Different VPN providers may have different rules and policies about streaming.
  • Illegal downloading is not allowed, even with a VPN.
  • Most major streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc. block VPN usage as part of their terms of service.

As long as you follow the rules of your VPN and streaming service, it’s perfectly legal to stream using VPN.

A good example of a VPN that allows streaming is Surfshark:

Want to know more about VPN blocking, secure streaming, and what is and isn’t allowed with a VPN? Read our full article below.

Lady JusticeA VPN, or Virtual Private Network, protects your online identity and anonymizes your browsing activity. It can also help you access geo-restricted content. But is streaming with a VPN legal? Popular streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus do their best to block VPN users. Why do they do this? Can you get in trouble if you’re caught streaming with a VPN? This article will answer all your questions about using a VPN to stream movies and shows legally.

Streaming with a VPN: The Basics

First of all, let’s address your biggest concern: in most countries, including the United States and other western nations, VPN usage is legal. Whether it’s for streaming content or simply to protect your identity, you are well within your rights to use a VPN.

In many cases, companies or government even recommend using a VPN to secure your connection. However, when streaming movies or series with a VPN, here are a few things to consider:

  • VPN use is illegal in some parts of the world. In countries such as China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Belarus, and Turkey, VPN usage is banned or highly restricted by the government.
  • Illegal activities remain illegal when using a VPN. All online activities that are against the law when not using a VPN remain illegal when using a VPN. This includes downloading copyrighted content, buying or selling contraband, and so on. A VPN hides your internet activities, so you’re safer and have more online privacy, but it never legalizes unlawful activities.
  • Most streaming services combat the use of VPNs. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, and other streaming services try to prevent streaming with a VPN. Make sure to read their terms of use for complete information.

Let’s have a closer look at all these aspects below.

Some countries ban the use of VPNs in general. This includes China, North Korea, Russia, Belarus, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Uganda, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela, to mention a few. Using a VPN to stream content in any of these places, you could face serious penalties such as fines or prosecution. Check out this article for complete details about countries where VPN use is illegal.

Usually, countries that prohibit VPNs tend to have strict authoritarian governments that want to prevent citizens from bypassing censorship and surveillance. Therefore, we advise you to be very careful if you’re considering using a VPN in one of these countries, because you could face serious repercussions.

Laptop DownloadIt’s crucial to know that illegal activities remain illegal even if you use a VPN. This includes downloading unauthorized torrents of movies, series, music, games, and software. Although this is popular across the world, it is prohibited in most countries.  According to European law, it’s illegal to download a file without permission from the person or company that owns the copyrights of the material.

Moreover, it’s also illegal to stream most series and movies on free platforms such as Popcorn Time, PrimeWire, and Kodi. Keep in mind that each country has its own specific laws, so always ensure you’re aware of those.

Even when using a VPN, you are subject to fines and legislation for unlawful downloads. Although a VPN makes it more difficult for governments and others to track your online movements, it does not exempt your actions from the law. Therefore, always think carefully before you decide to download and watch a film or series. In most case, you can find your entertainment in a legal way by using a streaming service such as Netflix or Disney Plus. However, bear in mind that these don’t always work with a VPN.

In many cases, VPNs can bypass the geo-blocks put up by streaming services. For example, Hulu and Peacock only work in the US. But if you subscribe, you can use a VPN to watch them almost anywhere in the world. Simply choose an American VPN server, and you’ll have access to all movies, series, and broadcasts available on the platform in the USA. This is perfectly legal, but it might breach the terms of use of the streaming service.

As soon as you subscribe to a streaming service such as Netflix, you agree to its terms of use. These terms of use often prohibit the use of VPN services to access content that’s restricted by geography. If you’re detected using a VPN, you may get blocked by the streaming service.

Why do streaming services like Netflix block VPNs?

Although it’s legal to stream with a VPN, many streaming services actively oppose it to maintain the geographical barriers of their content. This is because, for certain movies and shows, a streaming service might only have broadcasting rights within certain countries. That’s why the American version of Netflix offers more shows and movies than, for instance, German Netflix.

Streaming services use technology that can detect when you’re using a VPN or proxy. When this happens, you might see an error message as shown below:

streaming netflix with a vpn error

If you turn off your VPN, you’ll instantly have access again, but only to the content of the country where you’re currently located. This way, Netflix and other services make it difficult for viewers to access geo-blocked movies and shows. However, the right VPN service can help you bypass this and stream geo-blocked content, as explained below.

How to watch Netflix with a VPN

Some VPN providers can actively bypass VPN blocks on Netflix and other streaming platforms by constantly using new IP addresses. This can help you access geo-blocked shows and movies.

A good example is Surfshark. With this provider, all you have to do is choose a VPN server from the country where the content is available, and head over to the streaming service to watch it. Of course, you need a subscription to the streaming service, too.

Want to give Surfshark a try? Click the button in the banner below. Then take a look at this step-by-step guide to find out how to watch Netflix via a VPN.

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Other VPN providers take different approaches to bypass VPN blocks. For instance, you might have to connect to a special streaming server or use a dedicated IP address. As a result, the steps you need to take to access Netflix vary depending on the VPN provider you choose.

Our advice is to do your research and choose a VPN that works with American Netflix or whichever streaming service you want to access. You can check the VPN provider’s website for details. They often have an FAQ that answers these kinds of questions. You can also contact their customer service for more information.

What Happens if You’re Caught Streaming with a VPN?

As long as you are in a country where the use of VPNs is legal, you won’t be penalized for streaming geo-blocked content. The worst that can happen is that the streaming service you’re using will block you until you turn off the VPN.

However, if you’re in a region where VPN usage is regulated or banned, you might face more severe consequences, like a fine (or worse). Therefore, it’s important to always be careful and read up about the local laws of the country you’re in.

Also, bear in mind that illegal activities remain illegal when using a VPN. This includes downloading copyrighted content, distributing pirated content, and so on.

Watch Movies and Series with a VPN Legally

It’s legal to stream movies and series with a VPN in most countries, including the United States and other western nations. You can use VPN services to access geographically restricted shows and movies too. But keep in mind that many streaming services can detect this and might block your access until you turn off the VPN.

Moreover, VPN usage is banned in some countries, so make yourself aware of the local laws wherever you are to avoid fines and other legal consequences. Also, keep in mind that it’s forbidden to illegally download movies and series, whether you use a VPN or not. Do you have any further questions about streaming with a VPN? Check out our FAQ below.

Streaming with a VPN - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about streaming with a VPN. Simply click on a question to read the answer. Can’t find your question? Leave us a comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Depending on your location, the answer is probably yes. In most countries, including the United States and other western nations, streaming with a VPN is legal. However, there are some countries such as China, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey where VPN use is prohibited. This means you won’t be allowed to use a VPN to stream, nor for any other purpose. Be careful when using a VPN abroad and look up information about the use of VPNs in your country specifically.

With a VPN you can gain access to movies, series, and streaming services (such as Hulu and BBC iPlayer) that would otherwise be unavailable in your location. However, if you want to use a paid streaming service, such as Netflix, you still need a subscription, even if you already have a VPN. A VPN gives you more possibilities for streaming, but it doesn’t make paid services free of charge.

A VPN allows you to surf and download anonymously. However, this doesn’t mean that the illegal downloading of movies and shows, for example, is suddenly permitted. The VPN makes it more difficult for others to track what you’re doing online, but you still risk a hefty download fine if you download illegally.

In most countries, it’s legal to watch movies and series with a VPN. However, Netflix and other streaming services use VPN blockers, so they cannot be accessed with most VPNs. Therefore, If you want to watch American Netflix from outside the US, you need the right VPN provider, such as Surfshark.

There are two aspects to consider here. Firstly, if you’re in a country that doesn’t permit VPNs, such as China or Iraq, you can face fines and other legal proceedings. Secondly, if you’re in a country where VPNs are perfectly legal, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, you can still get in trouble for engaging in illegal activities such as piracy or downloading copyrighted material. Any activity that is illegal remains illegal even when using a VPN. Using a VPN for legal streaming is, however, perfectly acceptable in these regions.

Author
Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cybersecurity analyst and one of the founders of VPNoverview.com. Since 2014 he has been gaining international experience working with governments, NGOs, and the private sector as a cybersecurity and VPN expert and advisor.
Author
Tech journalist
Mehak has been writing for over a decade and is passionate about helping people have safer, healthier relationships with all things tech. She has a master’s degree in communication and is especially interested in the impact of technology and the internet on global communities.