Can I tell if a website is legal or illegal?

It can be confusing identifying a legal website over an illegal one when accessing music, film and TV over the internet.

It isn’t easy, and as ‘pirate’ sites get more sophisticated at mimicking legal services, there’s no one way to tell. However, this section addresses some common sources of confusion.

Top tip

If the website is listed on one of these sites you can be sure that the content you are accessing is legal:

FAQs:

  • If the site is well designed and looks professional does this mean it is a legal site? Open or Close

    This is not a reliable way of knowing whether or not a site is legal. Many sites are very well designed and this should not be relied upon as a means of identifying a legal site.

  • If the site is charging money for music, film or TV programmes does this mean that it is a legal site? Open or Close

    It’s a common misconception that if you have to pay for content, then it’s a legal site. However, that’s not always the case. A number of websites do sell digital music tracks or TV shows very cheaply, but this does not mean that they are legal. If the price looks too good to be true it probably is. Another thing to look out for is if the prices are listed in a foreign currency.

  • If the website carries adverts from household names I recognise, does this mean that it is a legal site? Open or Close

    This cannot be relied on as a means of identifying if a site is legal or not. What appear to be genuine adverts may not be so. Also, occasionally genuine brands may be misled into advertising on illegal sites.

  • If the website appears in search listings, does this mean that it is a legal site? Open or Close

    While search engines are making a conscious effort to help with the fight against piracy by downgrading illegal sites in their searches, many illegal sites still appear high in search rankings. This means that you cannot rely on a website appearing via a trusted search engine as a sign that it is a legitimate site.

  • If the site is verified with security software or if my browser checker says it’s a trustworthy site, does this mean that it is a legal site? Open or Close

    While this is a good indicator as to whether or not a site can be trusted not to serve you unsuitable content such as malware, viruses and pornography, it doesn’t necessarily mean that if you access content from the site that it is the real deal. Filtering tools that can block offensive content on websites are not effective on peer-to-peer file-sharing sites, leaving young people at risk of exposure to unsuitable or harmful content.

  • If I’m getting lots of pop-ups appearing on my device when accessing the website, does this mean that it is an illegal site? Open or Close

    This is often a tell-tale sign for illegal file-sharing or streaming sites – particularly if the content of the ads is related to gambling, loans and pornography.