Is Streaming a Film or Series 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 the most countries it’s perfectly legal to use a VPN while streaming. This protects your internet connection and your privacy. However, there are some things you need to take into account:

  1. In some countries VPNs are not legal.
  2. Illegal downloading is not allowed, even with a VPN.
  3. Some streaming services, such as Netflix, block VPN usage.

As long as you keep this in mind and follow the rules of your VPN and streaming service, you can stream as much as you like.

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 JusticeSome people wonder whether it’s legal to stream with a VPN. Popular streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus do their best to block VPN users. Why would they do this? Is it illegal to watch a movie with a VPN? Can you get in trouble if you do this? In this article, we will answer all your questions and explain how both governments and streaming services think about VPN usage.

First of all, let’s get rid of your biggest concern: in a lot of countries, the use of a VPN is completely legal. Even if you use online streaming services, it isn’t against the law to use a VPN.

A VPN protects your data traffic and identity data. Protecting this data is your right. After all, everyone has a right to privacy. That is why the use of a secure connection (such as with a VPN) is permitted.

In many cases, using a VPN is even recommended. Many companies work with VPNs so they can share their network securely with employees who work from home. Many (Western) governments also recommend using a VPN to secure your internet, for example. Watching series and movies is just a perk.

Nevertheless, there are a number of things to watch out for if you want to watch series or movies with a VPN:

  • There are parts of the world where VPN use is considered illegal. In countries such as China, Iraq, and Turkey it can be very difficult to use a VPN because this technology is restricted by the government.
  • Illegal activities remain illegal when using a VPN. A VPN hides your internet activities so you’re safer and have more online privacy. However, this doesn’t mean that those activities that are illegal, suddenly become legal.
  • Some streaming services combat the use of VPNs. Examples include Netflix and Disney Plus. Always carefully read the terms of use of a service before you use them in combination with a VPN.

These three points will be discussed in more detail below.

China with LockIn most countries, such as the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, VPNs are completely legal. However, the use of a VPN is illegal in some other places. If you decide to go online via a VPN in one of those countries, you could risk a fine or a much worse punishment.

VPNs can be banned completely or banned in certain situations. For example, authorities in Oman are allowed to use a VPN if they have a license, but private use by citizens is prohibited.

Countries that prohibit VPN use tend to have strict authoritarian governments, such as in North Korea and China. Because VPNs can be used to bypass government censorship and surveillance, actions are taken against VPN users. All in an attempt to keep the country’s citizens under control.

For an overview of countries where VPN use is prohibited, please refer to this article. Are you in one of these countries? Then you’re at risk when using a VPN. Everyone should be able to enjoy internet freedom, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case just yet. We, therefore, advise you to be very careful if you are considering using a VPN in one of these countries.

Illegal Activities Stay Illegal When Using a VPN

Laptop DownloadSome people think that the use of a VPN makes illegal activities legal, such as the illegal downloading of movies and series. This is not the case. Illegal means illegal, even with a VPN.

Although there are numerous legal ways to watch movies and series, downloading illegal torrents is still popular. Incidentally, not all torrents are illegal: as long as you use the files you download with permission from the copyright holder, there’s no problem.

Downloading unauthorized torrents of movies, series, music, games, and software is prohibited. European law states that downloading a file without permission of the person or company that owns the copyrights of that file, is illegal. Moreover, the illegal streaming of certain series and movies on platforms such as Popcorn Time, PrimeWire, and Kodi isn’t allowed either. Keep in mind that each country has its own specific laws, so always ensure you’re aware of those.

These rules also apply to anyone using a VPN. The VPN makes it more difficult for governments and others to track your online movements, but that doesn’t mean your online activities suddenly become legal. Always think carefully before you decide to download and watch a film or series. Nowadays it’s often easier to find your entertainment in a legal way, for example by using a streaming service such as Netflix or Disney Plus. This brings us to our third point: not all streaming services work with a VPN.

Some Streaming Services Are Against VPN Use

In many cases you can use a VPN to bypass the geo-blocks of streaming services. For example, Hulu and Sling TV only have broadcasting rights in the US. Because of this, you won’t have access if you’re abroad – meaning outside the US.

If you have a subscription to such a service, you can still use it with a VPN, even if you’re abroad. Simply choose an American VPN server and you’ll have access to all movies, series, and broadcasts that are available on the platform in the USA. This is all perfectly legal. Even so, it’s important to take the terms of use of such a service into account.

Netflix And Other Services Blocking VPNs

Although it’s legal to stream with a VPN, there are services that don’t appreciate the use of a VPN. Netflix is a well-known example. This global streaming service is constantly taking measures to prevent VPN usage. One of those measures is that Netflix can block access to its service if they notice you’re connected to a VPN.

This doesn’t mean VPN usage is illegal, but that Netflix tries to maintain the geographical barriers of its content. After all, for many movies and series they only have the rights for certain countries. As a result, some movies and series can only be seen on the American Netflix.

netflix error

You might see the error message above when trying to watch a movie or series on the platform with a VPN. In that case, Netflix has noticed you’re using a VPN or proxy and you won’t be able to watch movies or series.

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 makes it a lot harder for its viewers to watch all the movies and series on their platform. Other streaming platforms, such as Disney Plus, also work with VPN blockers.

Legally Watching Netflix With a VPN

The content available on Netflix differs per country. In the United States you have access to many more movies and series than, for example, Germany – and that difference runs into the thousands. Some VPN providers are actively bypassing Netflix VPN blockers by constantly using new IP addresses. This means there are still VPNs you can use to watch (American) Netflix.

Some services, such as Surfshark, are also committed to making other versions of Netflix available, such as the Dutch, German or Japanese versions. All you have to do is choose the right VPN server.

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Other VPN providers have taken different measures to get around VPN blocks. You might have to connect to a special streaming server, for example. Some providers also require the use of a dedicated IP address. The steps you need to take to access Netflix vary from provider to provider.

Our advice is to choose a VPN provider that works with Netflix. Once you’ve done that, you can figure out whether the provider has tips for viewing Netflix with their service. They often have an FAQ that answers these kinds of questions. If that doesn’t work, you can contact their customer service.

VPNs and Terms of Use

List with magnifying glassAs soon as you subscribe to a streaming service, such as Disney Plus, you agree to their terms of use. These terms of use may also include agreements on VPN usage. This is because some services prohibit the use of VPNs. They can therefore take measures if they notice you using a VPN.

Are you using a streaming service and would you like to watch their content via a VPN connection? Then always read the terms of use to make sure you aren’t violating any rules.

Final Thoughts

Watching movies and series with a VPN is completely legal. There are no laws in most countries that prohibit this. However, this isn’t the case everywhere. Be careful in countries where VPN use is illegal. Also, keep in mind that it’s forbidden to illegally download movies and series – no matter whether you use a VPN or not. If you do, you risk a fine (or worse). Finally, Netflix and other platforms do a lot to prevent VPN use on their sites. Sometimes they even prohibit the use of VPNs in their terms of use. Always make sure you use a VPN and streaming service with which you can and are allowed to stream.

Streaming with a VPN - Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about streaming with a VPN? Below we briefly answer the most common questions. Simply click on a question to read the answer.

Depending on your location, the answer is probably yes. In most countries streaming with a VPN is legal. However, there are some countries where VPN use is prohibited. So 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 (e.g. Hulu and BBC iPlayer) that would otherwise be unavailable at 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 series, 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 does use VPN blockers, so you can’t use every VPN with Netflix. If you want to watch the American Netflix from outside the US, you need the right VPN provider. We explain this and more in the step-by-step plan “Watching Netflix with a VPN“.

Cybersecurity analyst
David is a cyber security analyst and one of the founders of Interested in the "digital identity" phenomenon, with special attention to the right to privacy and protection of personal data.