Although it may appear you are not physically stealing something, downloading movies from the Internet comes with a heavy price tag if you're caught. Offenders are charged with copyright infringement and can face monetary penalties and even jail time.
People who are caught downloading movies from the Internet could face up to a year in jail, as well as $100,000 in fines. It is important to note these are the penalties for a misdemeanor penalty.
If you are convicted with a felony for downloading movies, the penalty is more severe than a misdemeanor. According to Cybercrime.gov, first-time felons could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A felony is determined by four elements: the movie was copyrighted, you acted willfully, you reproduced or distributed the film and you made the film available yourself for others to download. If all of these elements are met, it's a felony. Otherwise, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor.
Read More: How to Turn Someone in for Downloading Illegal Movies
If you are caught downloading movies more than once, penalties are harsher for repeat offenders. While the fine remains the same, repeat offenders can face up to 10 years in prison.
David Harris is a writer living in Portland, Ore. He currently is the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Spectrum Culture. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.