Could watching a movie land you in jail?

How do you watch a movie? Video tape, DVD, Blu Ray ... or do you stream them?

Over the last couple of decades technology has changed so much, you no longer need a tape or disc to watch your favorite movie or listen to your favorite song.

The internet has also made it easier to get your hands on digital media.

So, are you doing everything legally?

KHQA spoke to a Media Law professor and an IT professional to show you the legal ins and outs of digital streaming and what happens if you're caught.

It's at the beginning of every copyrighted DVD, but have you ever read it?

"You should read it," Dr. Roger Sadler, a Media Law professor at Western Illinois University said.

That's because it shows you your rights under the U.S. Constitution when it comes to copying someone else's work. DVDs and Blu-Rays are licensed for private home viewings only. You are not allowed to make a copy of it ... technically.

"It is illegal, there's no technically about it," IT professional Chris Stegner said.

But if you do make a digital copy of a movie you bought, it's not likely the feds will come knocking down your door.

"If you're copying a DVD for your own use, for backup, for your use at home, that's fine," Sadler said.

The real problem comes when you distribute it, or worse sell it because that's taking money away from the makers of the movies or music you're handing out. Laws are cloudy about digital distribution because technology has made it so easy to share music and movies over the internet. However, lawmakers are constantly at work on the matter, and courts around the country are taking it seriously. Courts have shut down some file sharing sites like However, movie and music companies aren't too quick to take you to court.

"It's hard to crack down versus how easy do they want you to be able to use the device your way versus how is that going to affect their licensing agreements with all the big record companies and movie makers," Stegner said.

If you are caught, you could face a fine of up to a quarter of a million dollars and some jail time. Typically, those companies go after websites and people who are trading thousands of songs and movies. If you're making your own collection into digital files, the likelihood of going to prison is pretty low.

"Somebody would have to come to your house, look at your computer to tell that you had done that. Not only that, but they would have to prove that you did that with a disc you didn't have the rights to do that with," Stegner said.

If you're wondering why two multi-billion dollar industries would care if you're copying a 20 dollar DVD, keep this in mind.

"If people are getting all of these things for free, whether it's music or movies, the people who make these products don't have an incentive to make more products because, well, they have to make a living," Sadler said.

Dr. Roger Sadler, a Media Law professor at Western Illinois University reminds you these companies do have ways to track online media trading.

He says some of his students have gotten warnings from both the university and music companies that they are downloading too many copyrighted songs and they need to stop.

We should also mention, if you pay to download your music and movies from sites like iTunes or Amazon, you are fine.

How do you feel about piracy laws? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page here.