This is a cautionary tale about Facebook, but the lesson doesn’t just relate to Facebook, it could apply to any website.

A British man is going to have to pay up $6700 (£5000) for broadcasting a pay-per-view fight on his Facebook page. He paid the initial $26.99 (£19.96) for the fight to watch at home with his friends. But one of those friends turned the camera of the man’s iPad toward the screen and streamed the fight live on Facebook to the world.  That stream ended up being watched by over 4,000 people. Of course, that’s 4,000 folks who didn’t pay $27 bucks for the fight. Effectively this guy and his friend stole $100,000 worth of revenue from Sky Box Office, the company offering the fight.

If you spend much time on Facebook, you’ll probably see people streaming live sporting events and also folks offering up movies that are still in the theater for free. Usually, these are not very good copies, but there they are. Guess what? When you watch one of these videos, you’re guilty of petty theft. And if you watch a whole bunch of them, the costs could start to stack up.

Back when I worked at a cable company, they would do sweeps to find people who had cable boxes that had been altered to receive premium channels for free or had hooked up to cable without paying.  Yeah, cable and satellite companies can track stuff like that. They’ve had the technology for decades. They’d then operate from the assumption that the person had been stealing from them for a year and hit them with a bill for a year of the services, a theft charge, and the option to legally sign up for cable.

(I’ve got to tell a favorite story from the late 1990s. I had to take a cab home from my job at a cable company. The driver who picked me up tells me he has a friend who works there as well and that his friend had stolen a bunch of cable boxes and altered them to be able to receive all of the pay channels. He and his friend were selling them and making thousands of dollars. Yep, he wanted to tell me he was stealing from my company.)

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Remember, it’s not that hard to track you on the Internet. So whether you’re watching pirated video on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, on a doctored or hacked device, or on one of those illegal services that offer you premium services for free, you can be found.

In this case, the company only went after the guy who did the streaming, but there’s nothing to stop them from going after anyone doing the watching. Companies lose billions to piracy and don’t be surprised if they start cracking down on the folks who are receiving those stolen goods.

By now you guys know I am a hard-liner on piracy. I have many friends who bust their behinds in the film and TV industry and I don’t cotton to people stealing their work, just like I don’t have much patience for the people who pirate my eBooks. (Grrrrr….)

I know lots of people and pages do live video. But it’s pretty easy to tell the legitimate stuff. They are usually instructional or silly videos or perhaps someone streaming from a red carpet. But if you see a live broadcast of a sporting event, Netflix show, or movie, it almost certainly shouldn’t be there. Facebook can be pretty vigilant about removing these videos, so don’t be surprised if they disappear in mid-stream.

Always be cautious of any sites that offer you pirated material. In addition to it being illegal, those sites and downloads are notoriously virus-ridden. Remember, there is no honor among thieves.  One tactic scammers will sometimes use is to find a status where people are talking about a movie and leave a comment that purports to be a link to watching the movie for free.

Three big reasons to say no to piracy:

  1. It’s wrong.
  2. They’ll catch you
  3. It can mess up your device.