Is Putlocker Legal to Use?

Is Putlocker legal to use? Will I get arrested if I use it to store files or stream movies? This question arrived in the TechJunkie mailbox this week. As there should be an extra question of ‘Is Putlocker safe to use?’ added to the original, I thought I would answer.

Putlocker is a website with links to movies, TV shows and music that you can stream online. It doesn’t host these files but links to places that do host them. The original Putlocker began in 2011 in the UK but was taken down by authorities for allowing access to illegal content. Since then, as these sites often do, it jumped from domain to domain staying one step ahead of the law.

Putlocker has been accessed by various URLs, with some being more legitimate than others. There have been fakes and copycat sites that link to pirate content and malware, hence the ‘is Putlocker safe to use’ addition to the original question.

Is Putlocker legal?

Rather than being a straight no answer to the legality of Putlocker, it is a bit more nuanced than that. In some countries such as the US, UK and Europe, Putlocker is illegal because it enables access to copyrighted content. Even though it does not host that content and merely links to it, the purpose of the site is to enable that access. Therefore it is regarded as illegal.

It also allows users to stream media through the site which is also illegal.

Where things become legally nuanced is the user’s position in all this. Where Putlocker is clearly illegal, the user is in a gray area. Technically, watching copyrighted content illegally is just that, illegal. However, the current law has failed to keep pace with change and the difference between watching an illegal stream and making that stream available are very different things in the eyes of the law.

Having said that, watching illegal streams in the clear, i.e. without a VPN or other obfuscation is not a good idea. As I said, it’s a gray area and one rife with risk.

Is Putlocker safe?

The question of the safety of Putlocker comes from a different angle. On one hand, you can almost guarantee that ISPs and rightsholders monitor Putlocker and traffic that arrives to it. So it is not safe to use in the clear. On the other hand, there have been a few fake sites and copycats of Putlocker that have redirected users to malware-infested landing pages or fakes. This also should be regarded as unsafe.

Even on the legit Putlocker as it stands, the ads are aggressive to say the least. The website is populated with popups and splash screens and while there is no hard evidence that these contain malware or malicious code, it doesn’t take a genius to consider there is a possibility that they might.

Should you use Putlocker?

Rather than framing this question in terms of legality or morality, let us frame it in terms of malware, viruses and security. So, should you use Putlocker? I have to say the answer is no. In my opinion, you should not use Putlocker. Here’s why.

Real or fake? – The Putlocker URL has changed so much that it is impossible to know whether the current batch of live sites are real, copycats or worse. This is a real risk to security and not somewhere I would be comfortable visiting.

Infected streams – While there is no current way to infect a user who just streams content, those streams can contain links to malware or infected websites. For less savvy users, this is an attack vector too far. To be fair, any stream from anywhere can include links to malware but chances are significantly increased when those streams are illegal.

Forced redirects – Forced redirects are when a hidden code is embedded within a website that redirects you somewhere else without you being able to stop it. The Pirate Bay is rife with this and is most annoying. For example, you select a link to a stream or search but are instead taken to a completely different website. These are common on torrent websites and those featuring illegal streams. The sites you land on could contain malware or anything and you have already landed on it.

Better alternatives – There are many better alternatives to Putlocker so I would suggest using the most reliable of those. It is better to acquire your media by legal means where at all possible but there are much better alternatives than Putlocker to access streams.

If you do decide to use Putlocker, be savvy about it. Always use a VPN, never click on included links or click on anything when redirected. Use a clean browser and perform a full antivirus scan and malware scan after every use. While streams cannot yet infect computers, you don’t know what you’re downloading alongside the stream so you need to be careful.

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