The Legal Ramifications for Recording Netflix – Are There Any?


In a bid to end digital piracy, the Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 recently made illegal streaming a felony in the US. But do the same rules apply for screen recording? The short answer is no. For the long answer, read on. 


With online infringements of copyrighted video and music on the rise, it’s essential to know what is allowed and what isn’t allowed under US law. An original piece of work is automatically copyrighted when “fixed in any tangible meaning of the expression.” The term “tangible” may have made more sense back when VHS and DVDs were a thing, but what about a ‘pirate’ website that is easy to access for free and looks legal? 


Under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the legal definition of “tangible” has evolved to protect digital copies of work from copyright infringement and unauthorized use online. This covers everything from E-books, art, games, and software to music and movies. 

The legal penalties for copyright infringement are between $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. While that is the case, since the rise and decline of file-sharing platforms like Napster and Limewire, the question of liability is still heavily disputed. 

While both software companies lost their legal battles against the record industry for indirectly contributing to illegal file sharing, whether the user can escape responsibility for downloading content for free is still up for debate. With hundreds of thousands of music fans downloading audio copies from these websites back in the early 2000s, the lure of free music turned ordinary folk into pirates and thieves seemingly overnight. 


Fortunately, over the past decade, the mass emergence of subscription-based streaming services like Netflix and Hulu has seen a significant decline in online piracy. TV shows and movies are supplied to these sites through a licensing agreement that protects the owner’s copyrights. Unsurprisingly, the nature of these licensing agreements means that not complying with the legal restrictions may result in severe penalties. 

There are some exceptions to the rules. Section 107 of the Copyright Act permits recording and viewing copyrighted films and TV shows for personal and non-commercial reasons. You can capture video files as long as you’re not distributing and selling them in the public domain.

One useful tip would be to find a video recorder tool that is DMCA-approved. Just lookout for a DMCA-protected badge on the website or contact the company directly to confirm that the software complies with all its legal requirements. Although there is no way to fully eradicate online piracy, avoiding illegal websites and counterfeit software will help make the internet a safer and fairer place not just for us but for the Tech Fools of the future.