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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download BBC on-demand programmes via the iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a TV licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Saturday 30 July 2011

TV Licensing Internet Detection

Viewing this month's visit stats I noticed that one of the top queries on Google is "can TV Licensing tell if you're watching programmes online?"

The short answer is not unless one of their employees physically catches you in the act.

TV Licensing is widely despised for the way it deals with non-licence holders, however legitimate their licence-free status might be. The only way they could possibly "detect" people watching TV on the internet is if the internet service providers (ISPs) provided them with information about the browsing habits of their customers.

Understandably the ISPs refuse to divulge that information, because doing so would be both illegal and immoral. It would also make terrible business sense, because who would want to deal with an ISP that gossipped about the private business of its customers?

The BBC has previously disclosed to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee that it has secured the conviction of unlicensed online viewers, but has also admitted it doesn't have any special strategies for detecting such viewers. It therefore follows that, in common with all other TV Licensing prosecutions, evidence has been obtained directly from the viewer, either by way of an incriminating statement or the direct observation of an offence being committed.

Remember that a TV licence is only required for properties where equipment is "installed or used" for "receiving or recording a television programme at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is received by members of the public". It is perfectly legal to watch non-live on-demand programmes without a TV licence, apart from those on the BBC iPlayer (see note at foot of post).

Remember these key points when dealing with TV Licensing:
  • You are not legally obliged to respond to any of their intimidatory and deceitful mailings and we recommend you don't. If you tell them anything they could potentially use it against you later on.
  • You do not need to say anything to them and we strongly recommend you don't. Simply close the door or put down the telephone on their employees. Do not be fooled into thinking these people have more legal rights than they actually do, however much they pretend otherwise.
  • Visiting TV Licensing employees should always identify themselves when asked to. Unless they are executing a search warrant they should always leave when requested
  • TV Licensing employees have no legal right to enter your property without invitation, unless they have a search warrant. Search warrants are difficult to obtain if TV Licensing follow the correct legal procedures, so they will never have one on a first visit.
Should you be correctly licensed and wish to enjoy watching TV online then we can recommend TV Catchup. Again, this service provides no information whatsoever to TV Licensing.

Happy online viewing!

Edit (5/9/16): This is an archive post. From 1st September 2016 new legislation means that a TV licence is now needed to receive on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer. A TV licence is not needed to view any other on-demand service. More information in this article.


33_hertz said...

You have a way with words my friend. Well written and informative, as always.
Bless you!!

Anonymous said...

I don't see the problem. I've not had a tv licence for years, because I don't watch tv. I used to own one for DVD watching, but monitors are bigger now so meh! When I informed them I didn't use a tv, they sent a guy round to check (this is fine with me, because I'm NOT lying). He took a look, said fine no problems and they sent a letter saying I was exempt. I recently moved into a new home. When the letter arrived from them I just rang and told them. No problem. They just asked if I would let them know if things changed.

I've NEVER had a problem with them.

Admin said...

Lucky you.

You must be slightly more tolerant than the majority of my genuine non-TV-using readers, who strongly object to having to prove a negative.

It's a fundamental breach of civil liberties, being coerced into dealing with an organisation you have no business with because you fear their hollow legal threats and half-truths.

If you don't use a TV then the BBC and TV Licensing has no business with you. You shouldn't offer them the steam from your piss - let alone invite them into your home.

Anonymous said...

@Computers are hard - you ARE remarkably tolerant, I would strongly object to having someone come into my house to prove something I am NOT doing. Could shop owners also send in their operatives to check I am NOT stealing anything? Also, you called them on their 0845 number, so you basically paid money not to watch TV.

Anonymous said...

Was TVCatchup not recently subject to an injunction because of their method of dissemination?

Admin said...

There is currently a case going on in the European Courts about whether or not TV Catchup breaches copyright, because it temporarily stores some of the programmes streamed to viewers.

Anonymous said...

Just wait until this draft communications bill is rubber stamped [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19968068]. I bet those greedy BBC bullies are poised to raise their champagne glasses in celebration of this new source of data they can abuse and threaten us with.

Unknown said...

This is an interesting article - have a read if you have time.


Does anyone have any up to date knowledge about what this is referring to? It's dated Jun 2006

In short it refers to Article 82 of the EU Competition Article which aims to prevent the restriction of markets to the detriment of consumers.

You are being told you cannot take a service from providers other than the BBC without first buying from the BBC, that is a restriction of markets to your detriment.

It does go into detail about responding to court summons and challenging the legality of that summons and also requesting the case being brought is re-tried in a Crown Court as the Magistrate doesn't have the power to refer it to the European Court.

Scary stuff as we all know the justice system is a complex minefield and if the TV Licence was that easy to avoid everyone would do it - then you could wave bye bye to Aunty Beeb!

Riaz said...

Is it really true that a TV licence is required to watch ALL livestreamed video on the internet including:

1. Footage from a webcam used to observe wildlife.

2. A one-off live video coverage of an event lasting an hour on the website of the organisation holding the event.

3. A foreign internet TV channel that does not broadcast on terrestrial, satellite, or cable anywhere in the world.

If a TV licence is legally required then it is a law that is almost unenforceable in practice because TVL will have difficulty proving that they are livestreamed.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this article.

some weeks ago i let them know i dont watch tv in my flat because really i dont have one. but i got one as a birthday gift, still i dont have budget for paying the licence. what can i do because i dont want them to use my earlier declaration against me.

Admin said...

Thanks for your comment.

If you plan on watching live broadcast TV programmes then you should be correctly licensed to do so.

In those circumstances our advice would always be to get a licence.

Anonymous said...

I can't seem to find anything current about internet streaming,I've read almost as much as I can find about it, but I'm still confused,

I have a smart TV it has it's own operating system, web browser, Netflix, Amazon video,now tv, 4od, iplayer, itv player, 5 on demand, and loads more internet streaming apps, freeview tuner.

I have not got an antenna connected to the set, I view everything via wifi broadband, how ever with the recent advent of Teresa Mays new snoopers law, they can ask for up to a years browsing history from our ISP's apparently. not necessarily TVL but with history of councils accessing this type of technology for dustbin infractions, I wouldn't put it past TVL from trying something similar.

I go out of my way not to watch any live streaming of channels via any of the online players, but they all have the choice to watch some live content.

In a hypothetical situation of a search warrant been issued because mr snoop saw what he says was a television set showing a live image through a window, they arrive test the machine no signal to receive live broadcasts, but switch to the internet, access iplayer and select a live channel how would I defend myself against this?

Is being connected to the internet going to need a Television licence?

Me cynical? I have been dealing with government, local government, and council tax collectors all my life they only ever want your money,they are seldom there for the benefit of the community, it's mostly self interest, and the BBC is one of the best at doing just that.

Admin said...

In the hypothetical situation you describe, you would make it quite clear to all present that you never, ever watch "live" broadcast TV programmes via the web and make sure all present (TVL and plod) recorded that fact. You would also make it quite clear, for the benefit of the police's notes, that it was the TVL goon that navigated to a "live" broadcast TV channel and not you. You would also, if you're sensible, have a camera to record the whole (hypothetical) search warrant execution and make sure you recorded the goon's actions.

Don't be overly concerned about the prospect of a search warrant. You might like to read this post for more info: http://tv-licensing.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/tv-licensing-search-warrants-prevention.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, and yes I've seen that particular youtube item(TVL reps Phillip Carvil and his partner Alfred Gjergji) and at the time of watching it, I did think they're are not going without a fight, although I have to say having a coaxial aerial cable to hand wasn't exactly the brightest of ideas. I wish the occupier well, but can't help feeling he is going to get shafted, pay a solicitor looks good at this point.

Having learnt from other peoples experiences, I have no aerial or satellite receiver, the only way I can receive live broadcasts is if they get up to their past old tricks of inserting stainless steel pens, keys or fingers into the aerial socket, currently I'm working on a heavy duty condom idea, to fit over the socket.

Shady Pete said...

"if they get up to their past old tricks of inserting stainless steel pens, keys or fingers into the aerial socket"................ which doesn't work with contemporary digital transmissions. The proverbial "finger in the aerial" won't work even in the transmitter's primary service area.

Anonymous said...

There are 31 million cars on the road in the UK. Every single vehicle is capable of exceeding the speed limit, which is an offense under UK law. Unless the driver of said vehicle is caught in the act of speeding he/she cannot be convicted of this offense, even though they are operating a vehicle that is capable of exceeding theses limits.

Therefore, the fact that a TV, computer, tablet etc. is capable of receiving live broadcasts and is connected to an antenna, broadband or other reception method, how can anyone be convicted of such an offense, unless there is irrefutable and clear evidence that the offense has actually been committed, e.g. someone has actually witnessed you watching a live broadcast?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be devils advocate but do any of you work for free? Do you expect to be paid at the end of the month? The people who clean, cook food, fix faulty toilets, put plugs on wires answer the phone at the BBC all expect a wage (it's not just the odd overpaid executives and stars).... If you don't watch or listen to any BBC content then I am with you 100%. I hope BBC will become a subscription service one day and I will pay. Do any of you willingly pay a SKY Sports subscription and why? To pay paid crap footballers millions of £ and who can't win anything international. I am now going to watch the brilliant Olympics being provided by the BBC. I love a great deal of BBC content and love NO ADVERTS (my one issue, biased, government mouthpiece reporting on the news)

Admin said...

All the hours we put into this blog are for free.
If anyone wants to watch TV programmes then they should buy a TV licence - that has been our stance from the outset (we first started blogging 9 years ago).
If anyone chooses not to watch TV programmes, then they should not be harassed by the BBC.

Terminator said...

I believe you're correct, Admin, up until I ditched BT as my service provider I had a TV license then I ditched them in August but they only paid me 3 months back so I kept watching TV for 3 months although even though they make you pay your first years license over 6 months when paying by direct debit. I have a very large collection of DVD's and loads of other stuff I can watch, besides a lot of channels are not BBC but provide BBC content, but you can watch later on their catch up player.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how even if they had access to everything from your ISP it would prove anything about what's been going on. According to their website :

Do I need a licence to watch TV away from home?
Your home TV Licence will usually cover you to watch live TV on any channel and BBC programmes on iPlayer on any device away from home.
However, if you’re away from home and plug one of these devices into the mains and use it to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel or device, or to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer, you need to be covered by a separate TV Licence at that address (unless you’re in a vehicle or vessel like a train, car or boat). It’s the law.

My ISP records could show I have been using iPlayer, the goon could even look at the browsing history on my laptop and cross reference it and see that yes, my laptop was indeed used to watch Countryfile a few days earlier at this address. I can simply argue, can I not, that my licensed friend came round that day and watched countryfile, ensuring that he first disconnected my laptop from the mains to stay nice and legal. (Note the use of the term "any device" on their website, doesn't say it has to be your own device).

I supppose if you're using a mains-only device and allow them to look and they have detailed information from your ISP, then they might have you there, but unless they are going to cross reference information about when something has come via your ISP, simply finding that you have been using iPlayer or any live TV service on your device does not prove that took place at your property, and having information from your ISP does not on its own prove that the data was not streamed legally by somebody with their own TV license.

If they ever turn up with a warrant I'll explain all this to them ( on camera obviously ) as I refuse them access to my laptop on the basis that they cannot gather any evidence of any value on there.

Admin said...

You are absolutely right in what you are saying Anon. That is a pretty cast iron defence to use. Sadly most people don't realise the finer points of the legislation.

Alina Korokko said...

I am wondering about one thing, namely whether the camera that is attached can connect to the dating portals with live cameras and transmit the image there? Have any of you dealt with this?

- What is the image quality, is it cut or the transmission is smooth?
- Is the camera detected by their scripts?

Please have someone speak with experience.

If this is not the right place for such questions, I am sorry.

Admin said...

I'm afraid I don't understand your question Alina, but thanks for dropping by anyway.

Anonymous said...

I think she has had a scam call from somebody who has told her they have hacked her webcam and the such. The dating scam