When Your Au Pair Streams Movies – Illegally

by cv harquail on December 1, 2015

Deciding whether or not to pay for the online media (movies, TV shows, music) that you consume seems to be a generational thing.  

Young people do it, we “olds” do not.

Taylor-Swift-in-bed-with-Apple-MacBook-Pro-laptopSure — once upon a time I used Napster (dating myself). Until we got a reminder from the University where I worked that using Napster violated the Honor Code.

Since then, the only time I’ve intentionally avoided paying for media I was consuming was when I was desperate to watch Outlander while recuperating from my broken shoulder.  I was so drugged up that first week — I don’t even remember much beyond Jamie’s brogue, so shame on me.

With a spouse who works in digital media and family members in the entertainment business, we have rules now about streaming pirated media. Our kids are not allowed to do it.

They have the passwords to our family’s Netflix and other accounts, and they have small budgets they can use to buy ‘pay per view’ movies every now and then.

Even with their relatively easy access to paid-for media, I’m pretty sure that they sneak-watch movies and episodes that they haven’t paid for, because– as they say — that’s what “everyone else does”.

Have you ever laid down a Paid Media Only guideline for your Au Pair or your kids?  I don’t think I’d even have thought of it, until we got this email, below, from MomToJack.

We’re in our fourth year of having an au pair.  We just experienced something that has not happened with au pairs 1-3 and I’ve never heard of it the issue from other families or here on aupairmom.com!  (I really thought I had seen or heard it all.)

Just today I received an email from our Internet Provider that our address had been involved in violating copy right laws and we need to cease and desist such illegal activity.   

I was in total shock as we don’t even jay walk!!  The email went on to describe viewing of Grey’s Anatomy.  I haven’t watched Gray’s in years, my husband doesn’t watch it nor does my son.  Then I looked at the date of the violation, it was yesterday when we were both at work until 6:30 and my son didn’t get home until 7 and there was no tv watching. 

So the violation described was (1) a mistake, (2) someone stealing access to our wi-fi, or (2) our au pair.   

When I asked our au pair if she had done something with Grey’s Anatomy she said she had watched it.  When I asked her if she had watched it on demand from our cable company she said no, I asked her if she used ABC.com she said no – then I asked her how she watched it and she said over the internet. 

Turns out she went to a site recommended to her by a friend. That turned out to be the problem.  

I explained to her why what she had done was a violation of the copy right laws (nobody had paid for the content)  and that she must not do it again.  I also explained that she has access to tons of on demand, Netflixs and Amazon Prime.  

I do believe that this was an innocent mistake and that it won’t happen again.  But, I was curious as to what if anything they teach au pairs about copy right laws in training school. Does anyone know?

Also, I wanted to share with this great group of host parents one more thing to discuss with your au pairs. I’ll be adding something to our hand book for next year.

Our LCC, who has been at this for several years, said she’d never heard of this issue before with an Au Pair. She didn’t know whether this was “covered at training school.”  


Does your family have an (explicit or implicit) Paid Media Only policy?  

Have you ever discussed this with your Au Pairs?

Au Pairs:

How do you feel about using Paid Only sources, using sites to sneak around paywalls, or otherwise “pirating”?  

 How would you respond if your Host Parent told you not to pirate media, or told you not to care about whether you pay or not? 




Mimi December 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm

We have a blurb in our HH called “Computer & Internet” where we talk about this because there have been frequent issues in our neighborhood due to the presence of a large local student population at a local university. Years ago I had a student employee who was caught up in a LimeWire sting and fined $9000. She had never used the program, only downloaded it, not realizing that she had created a portal for file sharing that would put her in jeopardy of fines and jail time. I’ve also had a student worker expelled for using P2P sharing. We talk about the risk the APs are putting us in by illegal on-line activity, but our latest AP didn’t seem to be aware of the risk, indicating to me that CCAP didn’t include this in training.

TexasHM December 1, 2015 at 6:48 pm

We had exactly the same thing happen (same email from ISP – AP had watched a movie) and AP was shocked when we explained you have to pay for content here. Since then it’s in our handbook and we discuss it on arrival and no, they don’t discuss it at orientation just like they can’t possibly cover the million differences between each culture and here.

Some of our APs knew and would never imagine using private D sites and two were shocked because in their home countries everyone uses those types of sites. It’s now one of our AP lore example stories to the new AP. :)

AlwaysHopeful HM December 1, 2015 at 7:04 pm

It’s in our handbook because I am a freak about getting into legal trouble for someone else’s conduct. No au pairs have been shocked by it (all accepted that it was illegal here), but current AP was surprised that I took the law seriously on that point.

HRHM December 1, 2015 at 7:04 pm

We have a section in the HHHB. We both have security clearances and are pretty anal about all online activity.

I think it’s a big surprise to most APs as international copyright laws are basically ignored in every country except the US from what I can see (based on both APs and travel/deployments)

Meg December 1, 2015 at 9:27 pm

I feel old and out of touch. I didn’t even know that such sites existed.

hOstCDmom December 1, 2015 at 9:47 pm

I am one of the people who sends such letters and the like ….and re other digital content too– software and music. We’ve had a full page section on this in our HHHB since we started hosting in 2005. No illegal downloads of any kind or AP loses all internet access. ( which I’m sure would lead to rematch.) my Wifi, my rules. I have a special, segregated network for AP, so I can shut off AP wifi at will, if ever need be, without disrupting my WAH network or family network.

Meg December 2, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Just so I’m clear… this isn’t about streaming YouTube or directly from the content creator’s site or paid sources like ITunes etc right?

FirstTimeHM December 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Youtube and paid sources like ITunes and Netflix and Spotify are perfectly legal.

hOstCDmom December 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Right. That is legal (well, some things on YouTube are violating copyright/other rights, but the right holders regularly contact YouTube who must then immediately take them down.)

This is about unauthorized, unlicensed digital content which is downloaded without permission and without compensation to the right holder (who may offer it for free, which is fine.)

This is, for example, downloading or streaming your favorite tv show or movie from some site that offers downloads of it, but which is not authorized by the right holder to do so.

Anonymous in CA December 3, 2015 at 12:28 am

I’m with Meg…totally out of the loop. I watch stuff ( Greys Anatomy, to be specific!) on hulu. Is it legal? How would I know if it’s not?

Old China Hand December 3, 2015 at 7:14 am

Hulu is legal. That’s why you have ads. Netflix is legal – you pay. Amazon prime too. Borrowing from s library is legal. YouTube is legal, except sometimes content has to be taken down because it isn’t, but that is dealt with on the YouTube end.

NBHostMom December 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Since stumbling upon au #1 downloading torrents, we now have a section about this in our handbook and explain again in detail to our au pairs on arrival. They are typically very surprised by the strictness of our laws on this, but are also understanding. We have tons of other options for TV / movies but we find it takes our APs a good month to get comfy with accessing the legal options

Old China Hand December 3, 2015 at 7:16 am

Torrents themselves are legal and sometimes used for benign purposes. Sharing large open source mapping data is one example. I got open street map for my bike gps with torrents. Same with peer to peer sharing. The issue is copyrighted content.

NBHostMom December 3, 2015 at 9:03 am

You are correct, I abreviated the story…. The torrents downloaded were movies. I used the word torrents to differentiate from streaming

Kiesa December 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm

I have a section in our handbook, though I suppose I really should discuss it to make sure there isn’t any confusion. This is what I have written:

“Please be careful when downloading software and entertainment from websites. Try to download only from websites with a good reputation to avoid viruses and other security problems. In the US, downloading copyrighted music, videos, or software is a crime that can get you into trouble. You can view this video for more information about copyright in the US: http://www.copyright.com/copyrightbasicsvideo

I’m not completely happy with the wording and the video is kind of technical but it was the best I was able to come up with when I wrote it. How do others phrase it?

FirstTimeHM December 3, 2015 at 9:01 am

We’ve phrased it like: If you want to stream or download music of video, please ask HD first, he can inform you on how to do it safely and legal.
Please be careful what you download since it can contain viruses or cause security problems.
Please be careful what you upload, especially when it contains personal information, it may harm you more than you can think of.

We always discuss internet safety in the first week and HD is a computer wizz so our network security is pretty up to date.

German Au-Pair December 1, 2015 at 11:14 pm

The thing is, admitting to semi legal activities here is probably not the smartest move. Do I know a lot of people who stream? Yes. Do I know a lot of people who have streamed as APs? Yes.
Is there WAY too little information about the legal issues out there? Yes. Some say, streaming is not technically illegal, downloading is worse and uploading is the worst, others say “no to everything”.

GermanHostMum December 2, 2015 at 4:29 am

We are in Germany where the laws are also very strict about it. And here we, as the provider of WLAN access to the AP, are liable, if AP does any illegal downloads, streaming or whatever! So we have a section in the handbook about it, provide them with some press articles with case studies and talk to them about it at great length and recurrently. It’s especially important for us as we have had a number of APs from former Soviet union countries, and they typically have a very relaxed attitude to copyright issues. We also have a segregated WLAN for the AP which we can monitor, and set limits to at need.

AuPair Paris December 2, 2015 at 5:33 am

I stream but don’t use torrents (the only detectable way at the moment). I don’t think it’s immoral – the TV industry is hardly broke, but am aware that that could be kind of dancing around the issue semantically. I’d need to know if the family was against this up-front because I’d find it hard not to download/stream anything at all… But you can’t use torrents here without risking massive fines and I wouldn’t put the HF through that…

AuPair Paris December 2, 2015 at 5:45 am

Oof on reading the above comments, seems like you guys are way stricter about this in the US! (Maybe because usually you *can* access the shows in a legal way, which in Europe we usually can’t – not for months after the fact anyway… Not that that makes a difference to the morality of it all, I suppose…) In any case, having read the above comments, I feel weird about having admitted I do this… Too late now, I suppose.

Anyway, now I have netflix I don’t much need to bother anyway.

Boy Au Pair Spain December 2, 2015 at 10:13 am

“Maybe because usually you *can* access the shows in a legal way, which in Europe we usually can’t – not for months after the fact anyway”

To access the same thing that the USA does on Netflix and similar services you can use a VPN to fool the service into thinking you are connecting from the US. They cost around 10 euros a month and I well worth it to my mind! I often use them to watch UK tv too.

AuPair Paris December 2, 2015 at 11:11 am

This is equally illegal though. :P

Schnitzelpizza December 4, 2015 at 6:52 am

Circumventing geoblocking is… a very clear gray arey.

I wish I could access offers like Hulu legally. I am even open to paying for it, same for content you can stream from legal sources (abc.com etc.) in the US. I wish I could pay for access to US Netflix. I pay for Sky (pay tv), I pay for Amazon Prime, I pay for my German Netflix… but there is still plenty of content that is not accessible to me that I would want to access legally – not three months later and not in German.

It obviously is possible to make content available shortly after it is on US tv (FOX shows The Walking Dead about a day after it ran in the US). It is obviously possible to make content available in English (cf. Amazon Prime). It’s just that providers over here don’t want to pay the price and /or think there is not enough demand maybe?

German Au-Pair December 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm

I so hear you. And I don’t really get it. I understand that German cable providers don’t want people to watch the US version online like a year before they run their crappy dubbed version. But´that’s not the same target group anyways, is it? *I* would NEVER watch my shows in German anymore and most of my friends who COULD watch their shows in English still prefer to understand everything and watch the German version.
It just sucks so much. I would even order American DVDs (or have someone bring them over for me) but even that doesn’t work. So I really don’t feel sorry at all. I don’t think I should be forced to watch shows in a really really bad quality instead of being able access the American content. (And I do mean bad quality…besides the fact that we seem to have like three able German voices which will lead to A. having four charcters of four different shows with the same voice -EVERYONE is McDreamy!!!- or B. having super crappy dubbed versions, some shows actually get RUINED by it. ALL accents get lost (Cars’ Mater is not Southern anymore!! Scandal loses ALL its sass!) And in Glee, a show I really really loved in its earlier seasons, they even pitched the songs so not only are all characters dull in the German version, the already high pitched music now sounds like the Chipmunks. Ugh. I HATE the whole copyright thing. And don’t even get me started on the fact that without a proxy we can watch like 10% of youtube videos…NO music videos that are legally placed there by the artists and hardly any trailers. Seriously, it really really sucks.

UKAu Pair December 5, 2015 at 6:38 am

Yep, this is a grey area.

I spend a lot of time abroad, which means that I can’t access BBC iplayer, or any BBC services. I am a licence fee payer. I don’t feel that my right to access content that I have paid to support (and I have no problem with the licence fee) should be compromised by my location, particularly as most shows are only available for 29 days after broadcast. If I go abroad for six months, I miss six months of shows. So I have no problem with using a proxy to trick the website into thinking that I’m in the UK. I am morally against illegally downloading, streaming or watching content you haven’t paid for, but I think this is a grey area.

Boy Au Pair Spain December 2, 2015 at 10:10 am

There are no legal issues with download movies and music in Spain so it would seem odd if the parents told me not to. However, if this was a host families moral stance on the matter then I would respect it and not download. Although I download it is a difficult to defend morally – without relying on a Robin Hood based argument!

In my opinion, it is definitely something that host families should warn about! Last summer I visited Germany, knowing that it is illegal to download there. Unfortunately, I forgot that on start up my computer runs a P2P service so for the 6 minutes my computer was connected to the net sharing files. Within a couple of weeks the friend I stayed with had a letter from the lawyers representing Warner Bros demanding 1300 euros for making the movie available to download during those minutes. In the end we got it down to 400 euros. The Lego Movie was definitely not worth it! I learnt that in Germany, if the lawyers so choose, they can call the police and go down the criminal route. People have had their computers seized for it. Big mistake on my part. It is very easy for people from countries where the copyright laws are more relaxed to get into quite big trouble.

hOstCDmom December 2, 2015 at 11:21 am

Incorrect – if you download unlicensed movies, software and/or music in Spain it is illegal, implies liability, and in certain circumstance is also a crime. I have worked in this field in 30+ European countries for 20 years, including Spain. Spain is part of the EU and as such is covered by the EU copyright directive and the EU software directive, among other relevant legislation. The fact that the Spanish law enforcement may be less diligent in Spain, or the relevant right holders in Spain are not/have (yet) focused on such activities (currently), does not make it legal.

Boy Au Pair Spain December 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

There is no circumstances in which merely downloading a film for your own use could be consider a crime in Spain. I recognise that P2P is often also distribution.

Right, everyone has rights on everything they make and can take whomever you want to court in whichever moment if such a person reproduces what they do without permission. In the case of films, If its not actually happening then it isn’t, yet, a legal issue for ordinary people.

German Au-Pair December 2, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Since you seem to be knowledgeable abou this…I have read on several legal advise sides that streaming is a grey area because you don’t really download the video but only save it in your temp folders. The illegal side of it is supposedly uploading the technically stolen media, not the consumption of it as long as you don’t download it.
Can you say something about that?

AuPair in The Netherlands December 2, 2015 at 10:16 am

I use a website to stream (not download or torrent or anything) free tv shows and the chances of someone being prosecuted or even warned for just streaming (downloading, uploading and torrenting are way different) are slim to never because they 99% go after the people who post and download things. When you use limewire or something similar you tend to be downloading things which again is different and I have heard of people getting in trouble for that but I find it very very hard to believe that she is just getting in trouble for “streaming” a tv show.

Just thought I would add I do not stream shows as an aupair. I have not left yet so I am just doing this at my house and will not continue doing it as an aupair due to the fact that I am not sure of the laws over there.

FirstTimeHM December 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

You don’t have to fear prosecution in the Netherlands, I haven’t heard that happening for the last 10 years, not even for people who download or upload torrents.
The laws forbid it, but the police has quite different priorities, they don’t even come after people who use piratebay or popcorntime or anything like that.
But when in doubt simply ask your hostparents.

German Au-Pair December 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm

The issue is actually very interesting. A friend, who knows nothing about computers, downloaded a sharing platform (like limewire) and didn’t know about it. She was then fined with something but unfortunately the people fining her obtained her information illegally (only a federal prosecuter is allowed to get it) and she was able to settle with them. I know a similiar case of someone who did it on purpose and more than once, too. In her case, the claim was NOT about the down- but (unknowingly) uploading of the movie.
So it’s not a super big deal but one that I’d clearly want to avoid being in a different country. I didn’t have to stream as an au pair though because you GET all the episodes for free everywhere. Over here you wait for MONTHS to get a painfully dubbed version and then you have to wait for the dubbed season to be over before you can buy the DVD and watch the real deal. I would gladly pay for Netflix if I got the US version… so no, Au Pair Paris, don’t feel bad, for admitting to it. I understand. I am definitely a DVD collector (and I rewatch shows many times) but that doesn’t help me one bit if I have to wait for MONTHS to see the latest episode which has been spoilered a gazillion times by then.
Right now I drive more than an hour to see the biggest movies on the big screen in the Original Version. I love movies and go out of my way to experience them the right way and many times I will buy the DVD of shows I have watched before so I don’t feel even a tiny bit bad for streaming…if they just got rid of the YEAR long delay, maybe they wouldn’t have to complain abut the situation.

Another DC HM December 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I am apparently 85 years old because I had no idea what the OP was talking about! I hadn’t ever thought of this, but I guess I should include it in our handbook. The issue is downloading content, as opposed to watching stuff on youtube, right?

exaupair December 2, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Yes, people only upload the content they own on their youtube channels, otherwise it is removed or the entire channel closed.

Old China Hand December 2, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Fortunately for us, Chinese sites that are used for streaming are not allowed to be used in the us. The sites block us ip addresses the same way that Netflix blocks international ones.

Regarding people using Vpn overseas to get to us content which is blocked in those countries… We have thought about this a lot. We have lived in China and have relatives in Thailand and Hong Kong. When there, you are faced with violating copyright or using a vpn to get to us streaming site, thus not violating copyright but maybe violating local laws and violating the terms of service for the service. We decided that the best case was to use the vpn. We can’t get stuff that is guaranteed to not be pirated so at least this way we are ethically solid with copyright. But we have thought about this question a lot.

Last summer we had two girls from China (in addition to our ap) living with us. We found out after they arrived that one had been involved in hacking, pirating, and other such things in China. Some of it may have been quite serious. Those things may or may not be legal in China. We told her that if we caught her doing those things here she was out. She claimed to feel horrible about it and that she would stop. I believe she was actually using the college Internet for this and just spending more time on campus. In the end, it all came out when she was leaving in 2 days. So I chewed her out and told her she isn’t welcome back.

I don’t know what I would do with an ap under these circumstances. Maybe change the wifi password or something to cut her off the internet. I just don’t know because I need her to have access to the baby monitor through wifi, so it’s hard. I like the idea of a separate ap network either way, but am not sure how to set it up.

One good thing I’ve learned from this site is the idea of turning off the internet nightly. Not for the ap, unless we have issues, but for the kids when they are older.

calihostmom December 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm

We make our living through intellectual property, so from a moral/ethical standpoint we’re very against it. But also from a legal standpoint — our livelihood could be threatened were stolen media to be discovered on our computers or devices.

Our au pair downloaded something illegally to her own laptop, got a virus for her troubles, and was then told in no uncertain terms that, yes, we meant what we said in the handbook — absolutely no illegal content downloaded or shared in our home. I guess if she wanted to go download something at someone else’s house, I couldn’t stop her. But we’re zero tolerance here.

Au Pair in NZ December 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Hey, now, it’s worth it for Outlander. ;)

Personally, I’m really paranoid about this… If I’m going to get arrested for something, it better have a really awesome story behind it. Arrested for watching a few episodes of Greys would be pretty pathetic, you know? I know people are a little bit more relaxed about this in other countries, so yes, mentioning something casually about how the copyright laws here tend to be a little stricter (and what can happen as a result of infringing those laws) is definitely important.

Seattle Mom December 3, 2015 at 7:18 pm

I guess it is time to include something about this in my handbook! I never have, because I don’t watch stuff on my computer aside from the occasional Amazon Prime video (or directly from the network’s website).

I did know this stuff existed, and about the differences in enforcement internationally, because I used to follow FTA & WTO negotiations (including TRIPS) for my work. But it never occurred to me that an au pair might download or stream stuff illegally, and use my wifi.

Old Au Pair December 4, 2015 at 6:31 am

This happened to my Mum when she used to host foreign students. She send the students and my brother an email warning them that it was not to happen again. One of the students owned up, feeling rather silly I think. Most importantly, she kept a copy of the email she sent, proving that she’s done what she could to stop it.

Pacnwhostmom December 4, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Do any Hostmama’s educated on this topic want to share their handbook language?
I recall one of our APs talking about streaming in their home country and I’d like to make sure we have strong language to discourage this in our home.
I think some has been shred which is great. I’d love to avoid any mishaps and make sure it’s clear for our current and future APs.

SwissMama December 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Many countries overseas, including Europe don’t have a specific law about illegal downloading. I know when we lived in Switzerland you could download anything you wanted for free and it was legal. I think it was an error that she had no idea what she was doing.

experienced host mom August 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Everybody here misses a major point. These illegal or quasi legal sites come with nasty surprises such as sophisticated malware that can get to your bank accounts. Even Skype is notorious for allowing stuff past your protection. The longer you are on skype the more certainty there is that your financial accounts will be compromised and your computer slowly destroyed. We have had two au pairs destroy things that way. The first one was not monitored till it was too late the second one stole our codes, worse the internet system was job related. Luckily she was not arrested or deported. We now do not allow any use on our system. We will subsidize them using their own.

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