If you need your TV fix but can’t pay for a subscription to services like Netflix and HBO GO, Project Free TV must seem like a gift from on high. It’s a search engine that shares illegal video streams and actually manages to avoid liability, even though it’s facilitating copyright infringement. So how does Project Free TV find all that content and enable you to have miraculously free entertainment experiences?

According to its website, Project Free TV uses a “complex system of automatic indexers, robotic scripts and user submissions.” That description is just vague enough to prevent the site from getting into real trouble.

Much of its content is indeed found by users. Anyone can submit a link by creating a user account; it’s free and only requires an email address, username, and password.

The algorithm that Project Free TV alludes to in the above description, however, is ambiguous. The creators don’t specify exactly what their “indexing” entails — only that “if a video exists on the web we will at some point find it and index it.” They make their method sound like a “catch all” system so they can claim the inclusion of illegal content is accidental. But without specific information about the algorithm, we have no way of knowing whether or not that’s true.

In other words, Project Free TV wants to leave us in the dark.

Where does Project Free TV get its content?
A screenshot of Project Free TV, taken April 10, 2017.

They do give examples of potential sources for their videos, including Veoh.com, Megavideo.com, Youtube.com, and Google Video. They note that, “All youtube/veoh/megavideo/googlevideo users signed a contract with the sites when they set up their accounts which forces them not to upload illegal content.” Of course, these sites are less dubious than other sites from which Project Free TV regularly sources content, like vidto.me or streamin.to.

Project Free TV has managed to concoct explanations for its content that are vague enough to be legal, if not believable. “We do not upload any videos nor do we know who and where videos are coming from,” they write. Because of that claim of ignorance, there’s only so much we, then, can learn.

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.