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In the UK there is an explicit exception to copyright for the purpose of time shifting:

Details of the exceptions to copyright that allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner.

Time-shifting

A recording of a broadcast can be made in domestic premises for private and domestic use to enable it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time.

While many streaming services allow one to watch any content at any time, some for example Pluto TV do not, and presumably base their business model on people not doing so, perhaps so people do not time shift past the adverts. However it is pretty trivially easy to record the provided video, I tested it with the instruction here and the process is pretty analogous to the old days when one would do this with a tape based video recorder which I assume was the use case that prompted the exception. There are no terms of service that one explicitly agrees to to get to the video feed.

Is it legal to record Star Trek Discovery from Pluto TV at friday 9pm (the only place/time it is available in Europe AIUI) and watch it on saturday, then delete the recording?

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  • What do you mean by 'legal' exactly? Nov 27, 2021 at 22:04
  • @MichaelHarvey I am not sure I know enough about law to say exactly, but I guess "Is recording said program, watching it a day or so later, then deleting the copy covered by the time-shifting exception to copyright such that the exclusive rights set out in Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 are not breached". Is that any better? Should it be added to the question? Any alternative meaning would also probably help.
    – Dave
    Nov 28, 2021 at 9:06
  • 1
    Have you got any text by Pluto TV saying you must not timeshift, or are you supposing that because they don't 'allow' it (in the sense of providing the means to timeshift by a link, etc) that they must forbid it? That link you gave me took me to an annoying homepage that kept un-muting my speakers. I can't see any text setting out policy. I can't see why, if you are technically able to save the stream as a file for personal viewing, you have breached any copyright laws. I recall that youtube-dl was threatened with takedown which was withdrawn. Also there is get_iplayer for BBC programming. Nov 28, 2021 at 22:46
  • I don't think a web tv provider can make up their own additions to copyright law, or override all or part of it. In any case the 'illegality' would be civil, not criminal, and (at least in the UK) the most you could get would be a letter from your ISP saying you shouldn't do it. How are they (Pluto TV) going to know? You can make ffmpeg spoof a user agent string and pretend to be a browser, e.g. Firefox. Nov 28, 2021 at 22:55
  • @MichaelHarvey I think you have the content of an answer in those comments.
    – Dave
    Nov 30, 2021 at 17:28

1 Answer 1

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The relevant law is Section 70 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 c. 48 which states:

The making in domestic premises for private and domestic use of a recording of a broadcast solely for the purpose of enabling it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time does not infringe any copyright in the broadcast or in any work included in it.

Assuming the following are met, it would not be an offence:

  1. You are making the recording at home
  2. You are making it purely for private and domestic use (i.e. you and your family)
  3. You are making it so you can view/listen to it at a more convenient time

On the facts given in your question, it would be lawful to record Star Trek: Discovery on Pluto TV on Friday night, watch it on Saturday, and then delete the recording.

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  • Good find! But I don't see anything in the statute requiring the recording to be deleted (even after watching it).
    – feetwet
    Dec 9, 2021 at 19:15
  • That is correct @feetwet :) There is no requirement to delete the recording, I was just echoing what Dave wanted to do.
    – Matthew
    Dec 9, 2021 at 19:45
  • This is a helpful answer, but I (NAL) wonder whether it could be clearer how important the "terms of service" aspect is. §70 prevents Pluto making a copyright claim, but couldn't they still claim breach of contract if an enforceable contract forbids time-shifting? In this particular case, their website begins showing video without displaying any terms & conditions, so perhaps their their terms don't apply. But might it be helpful to warn readers that with the situation may be different with other services?
    – Matthew
    Oct 23, 2023 at 20:56

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