Rules, regulations and tips for streaming in Germany


Updated on Nov 13 • 3 minute read

Some streaming sites offer various films and movies for free, even from Germany. But what do German laws have to say about this? And what about your subscription to Netflix or DisneyPlus? How can you still access all those series you were following in your country of origin? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, so let’s tune in.

Free film streaming in Germany

Is streaming illegal in Germany?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: are free streaming sites like 123movies illegal in Germany? Unfortunately it’s not. Both streaming and what’s known as torrenting are illegal, punishable with fines or even heavier punishments, if you’re considered a distributor.

I’m sure we’ve all done it, download a show here or watch a free stream there, instead of waiting for the often pretty long delays between new episodes for Game of Thrones or the next hit series that you really can’t miss out on! How else will you bond with your colleagues who’ve already seen it? However, unless you have no other choice, it’s a better idea to use paid services instead.

Why can’t I watch everything from Germany?

First of all, the reason that you couldn’t watch your new show, is that streaming services like Netflix have different licenses for pretty much every show. That means series A can be offered worldwide, but Netflix might only have the license for series B in the US. But don't worry, your new German home won't mean the end of your streaming adventures.

Watching the newest movies and series in Germany

So, how do you watch the newest episodes instead, then? By using a VPN to access your native catalogue! Don't worry, you don't need to be an IT expert If you’re paying for your netflix account, but logging in from Germany, it will show you the German catalogue of films and series by default. Using a VPN, you can pretend that you are logging in from a different place than you are actually at, allowing you to access your preferred catalogue, such as the one in the US. Netflix doesn’t like this, but it’s not illegal, so there’s little they can do about it. Hell, it’s better than downloading possibly dodgy files or visiting just any malware filled free streaming sites on the internet.

What to look for in a VPN

So, if you’re looking to make use of a VPN to virtually change your location, you have a few options. There are a number of free VPN services available, including some very easy browser plugins and there are plenty of online reviews available for each service. That said, I can’t recommend it. Because these VPNs are free, they need a different way of making money. And that means you are the product. A VPN is a sort of tunnel for your internet traffic, it means they can see everything you do, and they can sell this information to third parties. Additionally, they are also able to serve their own ads and limit the speed of your connection. This all makes for a bad streaming experience and a pretty hefty privacy invasion.

Instead, look for a good deal on a premium VPN service. Personally, I would recommend NordVPN, as they are affordable, there are no data caps and NordVPN (according to their website) does not keep logs of what you’re doing. It even has a functionality to stop invasive ads and malware, neat! Additionally, Facebook and Google’s extensive tracking services don’t work very well whenever you’re using a VPN. So, whether you’re spoofing your location to trick Netflix, or you’re still trying your luck with a service like Popcorn Time or 123Movies (Remember, it’s still illegal! But hey, I’m not your dad), a solid VPN is a good way to keep yourself safe and your data secure online.

Legally watch German movies online

But what about free content? There are also plenty of websites that offer legal, free content online for you to watch. This is also a good way to watch some movies in German, to help you get used to the new language in your new home country. It's a great way to quickly improve your German, so when it's time for your German naturalisation test, you're well prepared! Where can you find them? Well, here’s a couple great sources that are free, if you not the ads they sometimes serve you:

- YouTube: Yep, There are plenty of great, full length German movies with english subtitles available for you! Here’s a great playlist with German movies. - Das Erste: A German TV channel that allows you to stream a collection of German movies as well as watch some of its TV programs as they’re broadcast as well. - ZDF: Another German television channel, ZDF offers a wonderful collection of free German movies. You can stream them with subtitles, or watch the Germans' quirky habit of watching German dubbed versions of films with a different spoken language. One last thing: remember that even if you don't watch German TV, you're still contributing to it through your mandatory GEZ payments!

So, there you have it! Now you know how to get to your favourite shows and films without having to resort to shady, illegal streaming sites. Instead, save the money you’d otherwise spend on fines on a decent premium VPN for access across the world and better online privacy!

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