So you just want to relax and stream the latest episode of The Walking Dead on Project Free TV, but a fear nags you: Is there a chance I could be fined for this? When it’s up and running, Project Free TV is one of the most popular platforms for streaming illegal content, but many users have no idea whether they could be penalized for watching videos on the site.

It is illegal to upload unlicensed content, but what Project Free TV is doing is actually basically legal. In short, that’s because it’s a search engine, not a video hosting site. Project Free TV doesn’t upload any content; it just shows you where illegal content is.

Most importantly, for your purposes, it is legal to stream illegal content, as long as you’re watching it in private. It would be against the law to show the content in a public setting or use it to make money. Downloading is illegal under any circumstances.

Project Free TV only points users to streaming links, not download links. That means that everything you’re doing on the site is perfectly legal, and you don’t have to worry about fines.

But if you happen to be a wiz who’s figured out how to download Project Free TV’s content anyway through some computer science magic, or if you download illegal content elsewhere (for example, on torrent sites), you should be concerned about fines. Hopefully you don’t live in Britain, where you can spend ten years in jail for illegal downloading. Offenders in the U.S. are generally given fines rather than prison time.

Project Free TV Fines
Screenshot of Project Free TV from April 3, 2017; "The Walking Dead," like every series, only has stream links.

It’s better than jail, but these fines can be expensive.

Since the late 2000s, copyright holders have increasingly opted to use copyright trolls to pursue offenders on their behalf rather than directly sue them. Copyright trolls track down offenders using IP addresses and threaten them with settlement letters. It’s not extremely likely that this will happen to you, but you really shouldn’t take the risk. Stick to streaming if you don’t want to get hit with a hefty fine.

Photos via Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Monica Hunter-Hart is a journalist based in New York City. She's originally from Massachusetts, and has written for Paste Magazine, San Francisco Classical Voice, and more.