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Cord cutters, you could be fined by the FCC if you’re doing this

In today’s video ecosystem, users have a plethora of choices for streaming devices. Between Hulu, Roku, Apple TV and game consoles, every system has its share of benefits and drawbacks. This makes picking a set-top box a matter of personal taste, with everyone having different opinions on what they need or don’t need.

Some people, though, truly want it all: unlimited movies, a wider selection of titles and a slimmer price tag can be found on certain streaming devices if you know where to look. Here’s the catch: most of these gadgets are bootlegs. And, thanks to a recent FCC advisory, using them for streaming might land you in hot water.

The new enforcement advisory was issued to warn customers about the risks of using unauthorized streaming devices. Not only are the devices unapproved by the FCC, but using one makes you liable for potential copyright violations.

What third-party streaming devices are affected by the FCC advisory?

According to the new FCC notice, bootleg devices that aren’t approved by the federal government run the risk of incurring serious fines — some as high as $100,000 or more. These penalties don’t only apply to users, either. Anyone importing, selling or making said devices run the risk of clashing with FCC regulations.

In order to find out if your streaming box is affected, simply look for the FCC’s logo printed somewhere on the device. It’s usually hidden away on the underside near the serial number, but may be somewhere else depending on the device you own.

You’ll also want to verify that the FCCID number is next to the logo. Some bootleggers are getting really skilled at copying the logo, but rarely do their devices feature both the logo and ID number.

Why is the FCC cracking down on bootleg devices?

The reason for the FCC’s harsh stance is based on the illegality of unauthorized radio frequency equipment. All devices with a wireless antenna make use of radio frequencies.

Cell phones, routers, streaming boxes and video game consoles all use internal radios to transmit and receive data. These devices receive FCC approval for complying with standards that keep users safe from harmful radiation. A bootleg device might not be subject to the same safety standards.

On top of this is the classic internet issue of intellectual property. IP holders fight tooth-and-nail for the protection of their characters and stories, and with third-party streaming devices, the services that pay these creators aren’t getting paid either. This leads to financial losses for every party involved — except, of course, the bootlegger.

The overall number of bootleg users is still very low. Most consumers prefer the complete experiences offered by devices like the Apple TV or PS4. If content availability is an issue for you, it’s best to stick with multiple subscription services at this point. An extra $10 a month is way cheaper than a $100,000 fine, after all.

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