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Is Plex Legal?

Even if you use a lot of different streaming services, you might not know much about Plex- or whether Plex is legal. If you’re not sure and you want to avoid any trouble, read on to find out if Plex is legal and why the answer is slightly complicated.

Is Plex Legal?

What is Plex?

Plex started as freeware in 2008 and has grown since into a multi-platform streaming service. It might remind you of the P2P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing and torrenting sites of the Y2K era. After all, many of its features are similar. Not only can you search for and watch free movies and TV shows on pretty much any device, but you can also store files on its server and have unlimited access to your very own media library.

However, if you don’t need a personal media collection, you can simply use Plex to watch movies and TV shows just like on Netflix or Hulu- or free services like Pluto or Freevee. As a matter of fact, you can watch Plex for free with ads. If you want more features, you can go ad-free and pay for a subscription. The Plex subscription gives you more mobile app features, DVR-recording, and higher-quality playback, among other perks.

The App

Plex has a streaming app for your phone, tablet, smart TV, or your gaming console depending on your system. Plex can stream on Alexa devices, AppleTV, and more. You can find out which smart TVs support Plex on the Plex website, as well as how to get Plex on most other platforms and operating systems.

The Server

If you’d rather own your movies and TV shows than rent them, you can use Plex as a media server for your own collection of movies and TV shows.

If you need help getting started, this Rapidseedbox article shows you how to set up your Plex media server. Additionally, the Plex support site has more information about media management and how to set up Plex on various formats depending on your platform of choice. 

Streaming Laws and Legal Gray (and Not-So-Gray) Areas

You must have legal ownership or viewership of any media file you put on your Plex server. If you’ve noticed that you can’t stream videos purchased through iTunes or Amazon and are wondering why, this is because of Digital Rights Management. In the early 2000s, Apple created their own DRM policy called FairPlay as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA protects online copyrighted content from piracy or other infringement. In 2005, Apple removed DRM from iTunes after reaching a legal agreement with record labels, but it’s still in place for larger media files (like movies and TV shows).

So how is Plex legal then? Thankfully, they have legal agreements in place with their content providers. These agreements not only give you a wide selection of media to stream, but a lot of their content is free, thanks to paid advertising. 

TL;DR: Plex is Legal

Plex is legal in ideal use cases because they have agreements with their content providers and advertisers. “Ideal use” basically means, “watching a movie in your living room that you’ve paid for and legally downloaded.”

(Unless You’re Using It Illegally)

But wait- here’s the catch! Even though Plex is legal, the content you upload to their media server might not be. It might have been ripped from a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, which is considered “misuse” of the media (it’s in that user agreement you scrolled through so quickly). That’s why it’s important to know where your shared files are coming from. If you got them from a friend of a friend who got them from a torrent site, you could get into trouble.

For another example, let’s say you’re using Plex at home in your living room (which means you have personal “streaming rights”) to watch a show, but you want to stream the show to hundreds of YouTube subscribers. What would happen then?

“If Plex is legal and it’s legal to stream and share media files, then what’s the problem? Can’t I stream to whoever I want?” you might be thinking.

Not exactly. There’s a 2020 law that prohibits large-scale streaming. It’s illegal to stream to hundreds of people (or to charge them a subscription fee on top of it!). If you get caught, your Plex account might get suspended, or even banned for life. You might even face legal action like a fine or a court summons. Yikes…so, maybe it’s not such a good idea to start a DIY streaming service.

Use Plex Responsibly and You’ll Be Okay

If you’re unsure about Plex and you just want a basic streaming service, there are many other options. We understand that everyone has their own preferences for media viewing, sharing, and streaming. However, if you educate yourself as a user and use Plex according to their guidelines, you’ll have nothing to worry about and you can enjoy watching all your favorite movies and shows.

Disclaimer: This material has been developed strictly for informational purposes. It does not constitute endorsement of any activities (including illegal activities), products or services. You are solely responsible for complying with the applicable laws, including intellectual property laws, when using our services or relying on any information herein. We do not accept any liability for damage arising from the use of our services or information contained herein in any manner whatsoever, except where explicitly required by law.

About Adrian Wengenroth

Avatar for Adrian Wengenroth

Adrian Wengenroth is a writer, musician, and visual artist living in Chicago with his two cats Levi and Frankie. He has a diverse background in tech, the recording industry, education, and film and television.
Adrian is passionate about the constant evolution and growth of the entertainment industry. He loves trying out new tech and is also an advocate for preserving Internet history. He can often be found browsing the Internet archives for cool and obscure media. As a former Genius, he’s a big Apple fan and still helps his dad set up his new Apple devices. When he’s not writing or creating music and art, he might be skateboarding, surfing, paddleboarding, or contorting himself into various vinyasa yoga poses.