Starlink bans users who download illegally

SpaceX has started sending warnings to users who download (and, most importantly, share) unlicensed movies, TV shows, and other content using torrent trackers via Starlink terminals.

According to the Народний Starlink group, the first warnings in Ukraine began to arrive in early 2023, and if piracy continues, SpaceX may completely block the terminal.

What actions can Starlink send the warning for?

An example of a complaint. Source: Volodymyr Stepanets

Users who download copyrighted content using Starlink will, sooner or later, receive a warning from the company. The first such notifications began to arrive back in 2021, but the service was not yet available in Ukraine.

According to Reddit users, SpaceX’s anti-piracy policy does not apply to all copyrighted content but only to attempts to download content owned by large companies that spend money on tracking downloads.

For example, a user with the nickname substrate-97 downloaded various torrent files for two months but did not receive any warning messages until he tried to obtain content belonging to a “Fortune 500 company.”

An example of a complaint. Source: «Народний Starlink»

What are the threats to the owner and users of the terminal?

The Starlink company follows general copyright legislation like ordinary internet providers, so it automatically sends warning notifications in case of downloading pirate copies. In case of a repeated copyright violation, it can put restrictions, including a total ban.

“Yes, this could lead to disconnecting a device, so its users could end without connection. Yes, it means that Starlink users should better not use torrents and other shit software, even if they want to. Yes, it means that the Starlink network operator, SpaceX, must react to such claims. And, most likely, it will setup appropriate control tools or imply traffic restrictions for violators,” wrote the administrator of the Facebook group Народний Starlink, Volodymyr Stepanets.

How to continue the use?

Such notifications are mostly sent to users who use torrent trackers to download illegal content. Violators are detected as follows:

  • The content owner has a bot on the torrent tracker that processes all incoming requests.
  • Torrents are public, so the content owner can identify your IP if you make yourself known in a public torrent (this is necessary for people to send you data).
  • After that, the company sends a complaint to your service provider, and the latter (in our case, Starlink) forwards it to you.

So in the case of torrent trackers, there are two problems at once: First, you are easy to identify and file a complaint (although apparently, only the most significant copyright holders do this), and second, you are not only involved in illegal downloading but also in the illegal distribution of content.

Because the usual copyright complaint against torrents is precisely the distribution of illegal content since, by default, you are not only downloading for yourself but also distributing the downloaded files to other users. And the laws and penalties for sharing unauthorized material with others are much stricter than just downloading for yourself.

So the only easy way to bypass the ban (if you don’t buy content, of course) is to stop using torrent trackers and only watch content without downloading it.