Is using Plex illegal?

Plex TV
(Image credit: Plex)

Plex is an outstanding media organization and streaming tool. Typically, you install the Plex server on the home computer where your movies, TV, photos, and music are stored, and you can then stream this content to devices running a Plex app. 

Using Plex is perfectly legal. However, some of the things that people use Plex for make their specific use of Plex illegal - so read on to make sure you don't fall foul on potentially dodgy ground.

Plex was designed to be used as a management and streaming tool for the media you own. Home videos, rips of Blu-rays, DVDs, and CDs, and other content that you’ve paid for are all fair game on Plex. There is also a wealth of free media online that’s copyright-free, which you can legally download and use with Plex. 

Plex has built-in live DVR functionality for watching and recording over-the-air broadcasts in your area using a digital and compatible tuner.

In fact, Plex has increasingly moved away from its roots as a “personal Netflix” and now includes a bunch of streaming content for free. News, web shows, and podcasts are all free and legal to stream on Plex. Also, a Movies & TV streaming service that includes over 20,000 free on-demand movies is now built into Plex. There’s Live TV too, where you can stream over 100 channels for free.

All these uses of Plex are legal.  

Plex TV on mobile

(Image credit: dennizn /

Illegal uses of Plex

Of course, Plex is also popular software for people who pirate copyrighted material. Anyone can download a TV series to their Plex server, for example, and it’ll be categorized, tagged, and readily streamable to any device. While the use of Plex isn’t itself illegal, Plex has made the illegal viewing of copyrighted content easier.

Also, Plex allows you to stream your content to as many people as you like. If someone illegally downloaded a movie and placed it on their Plex server, it would be available to all their Plex server users. This is arguably even more problematic, as you’re no longer simply consuming copyrighted content but actively facilitating the distribution of stolen content to others.

Some people have taken this to the extremes, installing Plex on powerful servers and serving enormous libraries of content to hundreds of people at a time, often charging a monthly fee to do so. In this case, people are profiting from the distribution of stolen copyrighted material, something that is transparently illegal.

Is Plex illegal?

Plex is completely legal to download and use. But as with most software tools, it can be used for illegal purposes, too. To ensure that you always remain within the law, you should only stream media that you have the rights to.

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Richard Sutherland

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.