Moving to Germany and wondering what is the best way to stream your favorite videos? You should be careful when streaming or torrenting in Germany. Something fine to do in your home country may not be okay in Germany. Germany takes copyright laws very seriously. If done incorrectly, you can receive big fines (>1000 Euros) and have legal consequences. In this article, we will talk about some streaming platforms that are safe and legal for you to use in Germany.
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Is streaming illegal in Germany?
Streaming itself is not illegal in Germany. But streaming pirated content in Germany is illegal. For example, stay away from sites like Popcorn Time and 123movies. Instead, streaming with sites like YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime video is safe.
I personally do not know anyone who gets a fine because of streaming in Germany. From what I heard, it is hard to trace people who stream. That’s why copyright lawyers focus on monitoring people who upload content. And people who download torrents are easy targets for copyright lawyers.
However, I know of a story that thousands of German people received warning letters from law firms in 2013. They were asked to pay fines because they have watched some copyrighted porn on the website RedTube. In the end, it was found to be a scam. The law firm was sued and went bankrupt.
Streaming pirated content in Germany is illegal, no matter if you can get caught or not. At this time, there is not really a way for law firms to track people who stream. But there is always a risk. The best is to respect copyright and do not stream any pirated content.
It is important to stick with legal streaming websites in Germany. Do not use any unknown streaming sites. It is because you may not know what the sites are doing in the background. For example, Popcorn Time is using BitTorrent to stream movies. So, using Popcorn Time in Germany is no different from torrenting.
What is torrenting?
Torrenting is a filesharing technology that involves uploading and downloading files via the BitTorrent network. What a BitTorrent protocol does is to divide a file into smaller parts. When you share files via torrenting, you will download these small parts concurrently until the whole file is downloaded.
During your download, you are also uploading these parts for other people to download. Because of this technology, you are always uploading at the same time while you are downloading.
Instead of downloading from a central server, torrenting allows you to download files from many other users’ devices on the network at once. That’s why the download speed is much faster.
I used to look for files very often via torrenting when I lived in Hong Kong. It was fast and easy. And it was a very popular way to share files.
Is torrenting legal in Germany?
Torrenting itself is legal in Germany. However, it is illegal to share copyrighted material through torrenting. It means that it is illegal if you download copyrighted movies, games, TV shows, software, or music by torrenting. It is because you are actually sharing these materials with other people during your download.
How do other people know that you are downloading torrents?
When you are downloading torrents, your IP address is visible to all the other torrent peers. There are even ways to track the IP addresses without sharing the same file. So, it is very easy for people (especially copyright lawyers) to track torrent downloads.
Getting fines from copyright lawyers
When I first moved to Germany, my roommate told me to never download content via torrenting. He has done that and got a fine for a thousand euros! That was the first time I heard something like that. In fact, I learned later on that many people in Germany have received letters for these fines.
Germany has very strict laws governing copyright infringement. As mentioned before, when you download via torrenting, your IP addresses will be visible to everyone. It makes it very easy for law firms to collect the IP addresses of people who download famous movies.
Once the law firms have your IP address, they will act on behalf of the music/ movie companies and ask your internet service provider to give them your real address. This is how they find you, send you a warning letter (Abmahnung), and request you to pay a fine (can be more than 1000€ !).
These letters usually sound very threatening and require your urgent action to transfer money. If you don’t pay, they will threaten to sue you.
What should you do if you receive warning letters from copyright lawyers?
The first thing is to stay calm. It is scary to receive these letters. But don’t sign anything or reply to them on your own. Signing the letter can imply that you admit the guilt.
The best is to consult a lawyer. I know people who reduced their fines significantly after using a lawyer. However, don’t forget that you will have to pay for your lawyer too. In general, it is always good to have law protection insurance in Germany.
You can use the online service by Yourxpert to get a free online initial assessment from a lawyer. Simply write your question below. The initial assessment or recommendation is free of charge. If you decide to take further actions, you will get a non-binding offer with the price and you can decide if you want to take the offer.
The fact is that many law firms keep sending out a lot of these warning letters without much verification. I heard that some law firms may not even have the rights to these pirated contents. The warning letters are very threatening, demanding recipients to either pay the fine or they will be sued (for even more money). Most people will just pay the fine to avoid any legal issue.
Almost no cases actually go to court. It will cost the law firms a lot of time and resources to follow up on each letter and really sue the recipients. It is easier for them to collect new IP addresses and send the next bunch of warning letters again. Most recipients will pay anyway. There is almost no drawback for law firms to send out as many warning letters as possible.
Even so, I cannot guarantee that the law firms won’t really sue you. In this case, consulting a lawyer is the best thing to do.
What if someone uses your internet to download pirated content?
This happens actually quite often. You receive a warning letter. But you have not done anything wrong. It was your flatmates, your visitors, or just some strangers who managed to use your Wi-Fi if it was insecure.
Unfortunately, the warning letter will be sent to the one whose name is on the internet contract. It is because the law firms get your address by tracking your IP address.
Before 2017, you would be responsible if someone pirated movies on your internet connection. The updated law now states that you are not liable if you did not cause or facilitate these illegal actions. However, it would still be a lot of trouble for you to prove that.
That is why German people are very careful about their Wi-Fi and passwords. You won’t want to get into these legal troubles because someone hacks your Wi-Fi.
How to avoid getting warning letters from copyright lawyers?
Do not view pirated content on the internet, neither streaming nor torrenting. If you want to enjoy movies or shows in Germany, do it with legal streaming sites. Make sure your Wi-Fi is secure and is not easy to be hacked.
Besides, it is always good to use a VPN service when surfing the internet. A VPN can hide your real IP address, making your web browsing history private. Neither the government nor your internet service provider can check what you are doing. By using a VPN, you don’t have to worry anymore when using BitTorrent or streaming in Germany. It also protects you from hackers and malware. You may even save some money when doing online shopping. It is because some online shops may charge you more when they know that you live in a wealthy country. For more details, check out this post: VPN in Germany
Streaming in Germany – 11 ways to do it legally
Living in a small town in Germany without a cinema, I watch movies at home very often. Especially this year, thanks to Corona, watching movies at home becomes one of the best things to do during quarantine. Below is a list of 12 legal ways to stream in Germany.
I am an Amazon Prime member and I am super happy with it. I subscribed to Amazon Prime at the beginning because I order a lot on Amazon. Being a Prime member, I save a lot on shipping costs, and the products also get sent to me faster.
Later on, I discovered the advantage of Amazon Prime Video. Amazon has a range of films and TV shows that you may not find on Netflix. They also create original content and you can watch them on different devices.
Besides, Amazon Prime also offers additional benefits like
- Prime Music
- Prime reading (borrow books/ magazine and read them on your devices)
- Unlimited photo storage in Amazon Drive
- Prime gaming
For a few Euros a month, I cannot think of a reason not to join Amazon Prime. The shipping cost I save when ordering in Amazon two times a month has already offset the Prime membership fees.
2. Magenta TV
Magenta TV belongs to Deutsche Telekom. It offers different TV channels, movies, series, sports, and more. You can also purchase a package together with a Netflix subscription. By doing so, you can watch all the Netflix video offers on top. I personally have Magenta TV with Netflix (and the Telekom internet) and I like them.
You can use Magenta TV either with or without a Telekom contract. If you want, you can have a package with Magenta TV, telephone, and also internet. Otherwise, you can also just pay for the Magenta TV app and watch TV/ videos on your devices.
There are some cool features that come with Magenta TV. For example, you can record TV shows. There is a 7-day replay in case you miss a show. For a running live TV show, you can even restart the show and watch from the beginning. Basically, you can be flexible and just watch your favorite show at a time convenient to you.
Sky provides a wide range of television channels via satellite and cable television. You can watch different movies, live football matches, documentaries, TV series, and so on with a Sky subscription.
When you have a TV subscription, you can also download the Sky Go app without extra costs. This app allows you to watch Sky TV on your phone, tablet, or laptop. You can either stream or download the videos. Then, you watch them wherever you want. Sky is a good option, especially if you love watching live sport.
Joyn is a streaming provider in Germany. It includes live TV, sports, different shows and series, as well as Joyn Originals and exclusive content. You can stream directly online, or use its streaming app to watch on your devices. The good thing about Joyn is that it is free. Yes, it is free. If you want even more exclusive content (movies, Originals, etc.), you can subscribe to Joyn PLUS+ and it will cost a few Euros per month. If you are not sure yet which streaming services to use in Germany, it is definitely worth it to check out Joyn for its free content.
5. Disney+ (Disney Plus)
Disney Plus became available in Germany at the beginning of 2020. You can watch movies and TV series from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic on the platform. Disney Plus also creates original content. You can stream on multiple devices at the same time. Or you can also download your favorite video and watch it offline.
Similar to Joyn, TVNow is another streaming service in Germany with series, shows, movies, TV, sports, etc. You can watch via its App or on the website. Without a subscription, you can watch some series and shows for free. But they are very limited. With a premium package, you can watch without advertisement and also in the original language.
Netflix is a streaming service that offers different movies, documentaries, TV shows, and more on internet-connected devices. You pay a fixed monthly fee and you can watch as much as you want, without commercials.
I am a Netflix subscriber myself and I really enjoy watching with Netflix.
8. Apple TV+
Apple TV+ is a streaming service featuring Apple Originals, series, dramas, documentaries, and more. You can watch Apple TV+ on the Apple TV app or online. It is especially good for Apple users. If you purchase an Apple device, you can get 1 year of Apple TV+ free of charge.
FilmOn is an internet-based TV provider. With a subscription, you can watch local TV worldwide on your computer. It has hundreds of TV channels, and also movies. FilmOn can be a good option for you if you love to watch English TV in Germany. It has both live TV and streaming services TV. Besides, it also allows its users to create their own videos and live channels.
You can actually find some full-length movies on Youtube. Of course, they are not the latest movies. But it is free to watch. There are also all kinds of videos on Youtube: funny videos, documentaries, TV shows, educational videos, etc. The thing is that the advertisement can get really annoying. When I was a student, I was very poor and I watched a lot on Youtube. Now, I have a job and I would rather spend a few Euros a month on a paid service with more movies and no advertisement.
You may also notice sometimes that you cannot watch a Youtube video. There is a message stating that the content is not available in Germany. It is annoying and you can get around it by using a VPN. I talk more details about it here: VPN in Germany – Comparison of the 5 best VPNs in 2021
11. Streaming free TV channels in Germany
In case you are interested in watching German TV, it is good to know that you can watch some TV channels easily for free. All you need to have is an internet connection and your device. For example, you can watch channels like ZDF and Das Erste online for free. They are funded by the Rundfunkbeitrag. This is the license fee for public service broadcasting that every household in Germany has to pay.
Watching German TV is a great way to learn German. Both channels let you stream different German movies and TV programs. Actually, my German improved significantly since I started watching movies in German.
Which streaming service should you choose?
The answer depends on what you are looking for. For me personally, I have Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Magenta TV at home and I can highly recommend them. If you are struggling with which platform to choose, below are some of the factors to consider.
Additional services on top of streaming
Some of the above streaming platforms also offer other services on top of streaming in Germany. For example, Amazon Prime also offers music, delivery advantages, books, etc. On the other hand, Telekom offers packages with internet, Magenta TV, phone, etc. They can be a good option for you if you are interested in these other services.
Do you want to watch TV channels?
Do you only want to watch movies and series? Or are you interested in watching TV shows and the news? If you don’t care about TV and only want to watch movies, you can choose platforms like Amazon Prime Video or Netflix. They are great for movie lovers but they do not have TV channels or live shows. You will need to choose another provider like Magenta TV if you want many different TV channels.
What is your budget?
Youtube will be the free option. But it is full of advertisements. You can also check out the free content from Joyn. Or if you like German TV, you can also watch some free German TV channels online.
If you can spare a few Euros per month, you can afford a paid subscription in Germany from most of the streaming platforms mentioned in this article.
Do you want more international or local content?
Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and so on have a lot of international content, like Hollywood movies and series. I love them also because there are a lot of audio and subtitle options. For example, I can choose to watch an English movie in German (to learn German) and with German/ English subtitles.
If you like more German content, you can choose a platform with TV channels like Magenta TV. If you like the TV channels from your home country, you can check out FilmOn as it allows you to watch local TV worldwide.
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Please note that downloading or streaming pirated content is illegal in Germany, even if you use a VPN service. We do not condone any violation of copyright law or restrictions. Please respect the authors and comply with copyright laws accordingly.
Besides, we are not qualified to give you any legal advice according to German law. Our blog accepts no liability in any case. If you have got a warning letter with fines, please consult with your lawyer for the next steps.
Have you ever got into trouble because of torrenting in Germany? What streaming sites do you use in Germany and which one do you like most? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!