What is copyright?

Copyright protects those who author or produce creative works, such as movies, TV shows, music, software, books or games. Video copyright owners often include television producers, movie studios, and sports leagues.

What is “piracy?”

Piracy is theft and includes the unauthorized copying, distribution, performance or other use of copyrighted materials. With regard to video content the term primarily relates to downloading, uploading, linking to, or otherwise providing access to unauthorized copies of movies, television shows or other copyrighted content including over the Internet, through IPTV, through an application, or via a set top box.

What is Streaming Piracy?

Streaming refers to a form of online content theft that allows users to view unauthorized copyrighted motion picture and television content on demand, without downloading the illegal file. Users generally visit illegal websites that either host the streamed content or provide links to content hosted on other websites. Both hosting unauthorized content and linking to unauthorized content hosted on other websites is illegal.

While there are many websites where consumers can legally view streamed content, there are many illegal streaming sites where operators will solicit users to provide payment to purchase “subscriptions” or “memberships” or otherwise pay for illegal content. These sites often feature advertisements for legitimate products or services alongside illegal streaming of unauthorized movie and television content. They may use trademarks and cover art of well-known studios and distribution companies or provide a plot summary of a movie or a list of the cast of characters. Website operators of such illegal sites purposely use these techniques to fool consumers into believing that their websites are legal; that’s how they make a profit. It’s called fraud and theft.

What are the consequences of engaging in copyright infringement?

Criminal copyright infringement is investigated by the FBI and may constitute a felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. Defendants who have previously been convicted of criminal copyright infringement may be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both. Civil remedies for copyright infringement include recovery of actual damages suffered and disgorgement of all profits made from the infringing activity. Statutory damages range from $750 to $30,000 per violation, up to $150,000 per violation if the infringement is found to have been willful.

How can I tell the difference between a legal website and a pirate site?

It is often difficult to differentiate between an authorized online source for international video content and an illegal or unauthorized source.

Here are some helpful tips to make the right choices:

  • Be Wary of Websites with No Contact Information. Most legitimate services provide a phone number to call or email address for customer service.
  • Ask about the ownership of your video provider. Does the website offer any indication of ownership or provide the location of the provider when asked?

What is Signal Theft?

Signal theft refers to the act of illegally misappropriating satellite signals without authorization. Those involved with signal theft often provide consumers with illegal cable decoders or satellite descramblers in order to provide unauthorized access to satellite broadcasts. Internationally, the problem becomes more acute when programs not otherwise legally available to a particular country at that time are pirated from satellites and then re-transmitted in that country either by cable or broadcast TV.

What harm is caused by piracy?

Piracy harms television and movie producers, creates unfair competition for legitimate companies, damages brands through distribution of substandard products, and often defrauds innocent customers who thought they were purchasing a legitimate or reliable service. By stealing video content and not paying copyright owners, sports leagues’ ability to pay athletes is diminished and the quality of television shows and movies is compromised.

What is IBCAP doing to protect intellectual property?

To be effective, we know that we have to achieve three things. First, we must increase consumer awareness of the existence of pirated websites and services and the dangers associated with purchasing products from such providers. Second, we must coordinate with government authorities, ISPs, hardware manufacturers and payment gateways to identify and interrupt illegal distribution of video content. Finally, we must take all legal action necessary to identify and prosecute those individuals who act or conspire to steal video content for their own profit.

What are the penalties for piracy?

Several federal and state statutes have been enacted and are regularly used to impose civil and criminal penalties on satellite pirates. Some of these statutes include the following:


Federal Laws


  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA )-17 U.S.C. § 1201. The DMCA is a federal law that allows for the civil and criminal prosecution for circumventing a device or security system that controls access to copyrighted works, and has been used many times to recover monetary damages and prosecute and jail criminals associated with satellite piracy. Violators of the DMCA face civil penalties up to $2,500 per violation, and criminal penalties of up to five years imprisonment and fines up to $500,000.
  • The Copyright Act-17 U.S.C. § 101 . The Copyright Act is a federal statute enacted in 1976 that allows the government and copyright holders to bring criminal and civil actions to enforce and protect their particular copyright. Civil damages range from $750 to $150,000 per work. Criminal penalties range from fines of $500,000 to $1,000,000 to imprisonment of up to 10 years.
  • Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)-18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. The RICO Act was passed in 1970 with the goal of eliminating the ill-effects of organized crime on the nation’s economy. Any person who operates or manages an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity may be in violation of the RICO Act. Any group may qualify as a RICO enterprise regardless of whether its members wear pinstripes, poster boards, fatigues or hoods. Those found guilty of violating this statute can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In addition, civil plaintiffs under RICO can recover three times the amount of damages they suffered as a result of the racketeering activity.
  • The Wiretap Act-18 U.S.C. § 2511. The Wiretap Act makes it unlawful for any person to intentionally intercept or attempt to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication. Violators of the Wiretap Act may be fined, imprisoned up to five years or both.
  • The Cable Communications Policy Act (CCPA)-47 U.S.C. § 553. The CCPA provides for civil and criminal penalties for intercepting, receiving, or assisting others in intercepting or receiving cable television programming without authorization. Violators of the CCPA face civil damages of up to $50,000 per violation, imprisonment of up to five years, and criminal fines up to $100,000.
  • The Federal Communications Act (FCA)-47 U.S.C. § 605. The FCA prohibits receiving or assisting others in receiving satellite television programming without authorization. Civil penalties range from $1,000 to $110,000 per violation. Criminal penalties range from a fine up to $100,000 to up to five years imprisonment.
  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)-18 U.S.C. § 1030. The CFAA prohibits unauthorized access to, damage to, or trafficking in passwords corresponding to computers used in interstate and foreign commerce. Criminal penalties under the CFAA range from modest fines and jail time to large fines and imprisonment for 20 years to life.
  • The Access Device Fraud Act (ADFA)-18 U.S.C. § 1029. The ADFA provides for criminal penalties of up to 10 or 15 years in prison for producing, using, possessing, or trafficking in unauthorized or counterfeit access devices to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value.


State Laws


  • California Penal Code § 593(d) prohibits the unauthorized reception of television programming by means of specifically forbidden conduct. Violators of this section face criminal fines up to $250,000, one year’s imprisonment, and having to pay $5,000 or three times the civil plaintiff’s damages, whichever is greater.
  • Texas Penal Code § 16.02 makes it unlawful to intentionally intercept, attempt to intercept, or facilitate the interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication without authorization. A violation of this section is a second degree felony and can result in up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
  • Florida Statute § 812.15 imposes civil and criminal penalties for intercepting or assisting others in intercepting cable and satellite television programming without authorization. These penalties include civil damages from $100 to $50,000 and up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
  • New York Penal Law § 250.05 makes intercepting or accessing television programming without authorization a class E felony and provides for jail time of up to four years.
  • Virginia Code § 18.2-187.1 criminalizes the acquisition of cable and satellite television programming by any means with the intent to avoid paying a subscription fee. A violation of this statute is either a Class 6 felony or Class 1 misdemeanor depending on the value of the service or programming acquired.