Is watching TV for free on the Internet legal?
Yes and no. Depending on how you're watching TV on the Internet will determine if it's legal or not. Often (but not always), the easiest method of determining if the content is legal or not, is if the content you're viewing contains advertisements or a sponsor. The producers of the content will often not allow their content to be released freely unless it comes with some advertisements to help compensate them for the money they've put into creating the show. Downloading or viewing illegal content can be a security risk since many of the sites hosting the content are supported by malware.
Where are places on the Internet that I can watch TV for free and legally?
- Hulu - The number one location for finding full and legal TV shows, trailers, and some movies for US visitors. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC, Fox, and many more.
- Joost - A great collection of content from a wide arrange of sources and includes some of the old cartoon classics such as GI Joe, Transformers, Popeye, He-Man, Fat Albert, and much more.
- Emol - Another great collection of free public domain movies, videos, music videos, and TV shows.
- A&E - The A&E TV site features such popular shows as Dog the Bounty Hunter, Intervention, Obsessed, The Cleaner, The First 48 and many more.
- ABC - The ABC page has many of its popular shows such as Dancing with the stars, Desperate Housewives, Extreme Makeover, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Scrubs, and many more online that can be viewed freely.
- Blip.tv - A great site to find the latest and most popular independent shows.
- CBS - The CBS page has full shows from such shows as 60 Minutes, CSI, The Amazing Race, and more.
- Comedy Central - The Comedy Central site features shows such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, and more.
- Discovery Channel - The Discovery Channel page features such shows as Man vs. Wild, The Coloney, Verminators and more.
- Fox - The Fox Broadcasting site features such popular shows as 24, American Idol, Cops, Family Guy, Hell's Kitchen, The Simpsons, and much more.
- FX - The FX page features such shows as 30 Days, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Rescue Me, and more.
- History Channel - Expedition Africa Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Stars, and more.
- Lifetime - The Lifetime network features such shows as Army Wives, How I met your Mother, How to look good naked, and more.
- MTV - The MTV page features such shows as America's Best Dance Crew, The Hills, Punk'd, and more.
- NBC - The NBC page has many of its popular shows such as America's got talent, ER, Heroes, law and order, the office, Saturday night live, and many more as well as many of their old classic shows.
- SpikeTV - The Spike TV's page features such shows as Jesse James is a Dead Man, Manswers, Pros vs. Joes, TNA iMPACT, and more.
- TBS - The TBS page features shows such as 10 Items or less, Family Guy, My Boys, Seinfeld, and more.
- TheCW - The CW also features many of it's shows such as 90210, America's Top Model, GossipGirl, Melrose Place, and more.
- TheWB - The WB site has a collection of their new and old shows online such as Angel, Babylon 5, Buffy, Smallville, Firefly, Friends, Gillmore Girls, The Lake, and many more.
- TLC - The TLC page features such shows as Cake Boss, Flip That House, Miami Ink, Say Yes to the Dress, and more.
- TNT - The TNT site features popular shows online such as Bones, ER, Law and Order, Saving Grace, The Closer, and many more.
- USA - The USA network features such shows as Burn Notice, Monk, Psych, Royal Pains, and more.
- VH1 - The VH1 site features shows such as Brooke Knows Best, Sober House, T.O show, and more.
Popular illegal methods of watching TV shows
- Bittorrents - Downloading a TV show through a bittorrent is almost always going to be illegal. These shows have been put up and are being shared by people who do not have the rights to the copyright.
- TV streaming sites - Many TV sites have been setup to link to other places on the Internet that stream or allow you to download full TV shows from external sources. These sites will often have disclaimers citing they're not responsible for the content that's linked on the site, and will have links to report broken links. While the link sites themselves are not illegal, the content that's being linked to is often considered illegal. We also highly recommend avoiding these sites since many of them or the pages they're linking to are riddled with intrusive advertisement, spyware, and other malware.
Other non-free solution
- Netflix - Netflix does require a small membership fee, however, they have one of the largest selections of TV shows that can either be rented with no late fees or with many streamed to your computer or TV.
- Amazon Prime - Amazon Prime is a yearly fee service from Amazon.com that allows you to have free two day shipping on all purchases and access to their online streaming service that has thousands of TV shows and movies.
Hardware devices that support Internet TV programs
In addition to all of the above suggestions hardware devices such as the Roku, Tivo, PS3, Wii, and XBOX also support the ability to watch many online programs as well as support Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime programs. Right now two of the most popular devices that support the most programs are the Roku and the XBox.