You may be breaking the law and not knowing it

If you’ve ever uploaded a video to YouTube, you know how quickly it will be flagged if there’s even a hint of a copyrighted song in the background.

If you shake your head, you are not alone. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t be doing online. Some are just plain dangerous. Tap or click for five silly mistakes that endanger your privacy and online security.

Benign actions can put your information in the hands of smart criminals. Take your phone number. Tap or click to find out why you should stop sharing your real phone number with anyone who requests it.

Before diving into my list of illegal online activities, I must remind you: I am not a lawyer. Use your best judgment.

Get free movies

This illegal activity should come as no surprise. Downloading a movie – or an album, eBook, audiobook, or other media – from a torrent site is prohibited. You hear a lot less about torrenting than in the past, given how easy it is to stream just about anything.

Still, people are flocking to download copies of recently released movies. Go to a torrent site, click download, and you’ll just as well have a wobbly, dubbed version of what you want to watch as you’re the real one.

It could get worse. Watch the mail for a warning when your ISP detects that you have downloaded copyrighted content. If you don’t, they could cancel your service entirely and alert the authorities.

Here is something else to consider. Torrents are a common vector for the spread of malware. Stay safe and only use reputable apps and services that have the right to show you what you want to watch.

Tap or click to discover 13 proven ways to watch movies for free.

Use images on your site or videos

Unless you have express permission or know for sure that a photo is in the public domain, it is not your responsibility to use or share it online. You are unlikely to be convicted of copyright infringement by posting a meme on Facebook. However, be especially careful when posting images to your website or when using images in your videos.

At best, you’ll get a pat on the wrist. At worst, you could end up with a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars for posting someone else’s work without authorization or credit.

If you go to Google Images, type in a search term, and grab the best photos that show up, you’ll be in trouble eventually. Tap or click for legal and free ways to find solid images for all purposes.

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Bypass paywalls

Years ago, you could access most news sites online for free. Today you are faced with paywalls on most of the major sites. Some of us pull out our credit cards and often pay for the sites we visit.

Others find clever ways to bypass paywalls, like browser extensions or other tricks. Before you celebrate, know that it is illegal. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act says you cannot circumvent technology intended to restrict access to copyrighted material.

Password sharing

Raise your hand if you’ve ever shared a password for a streaming service or other subscription. Not only does this violate the terms you agreed to when registering, it may also be illegal. Depending on how you interpret it, US computer fraud and abuse law makes it a federal crime to use someone else’s passwords.

Now don’t expect Netflix to come knocking on your door. Things change. Netflix is ​​starting to stop people making fun of accounts.

Are you spending too much money on subscription services? Tap or click to collapse your action plan.

Use of specific search terms

There are some things you shouldn’t be looking for online. You can guess, but the list includes material for child abuse, hiring the services of a criminal, and the steps to make a bomb.

Then there are the things you should never Google for other reasons. Tap or click for a list of search terms that could put you at risk online.

Downloading YouTube Videos

Maybe you find a video that perfectly explains a topic you are trying to learn. You download the video so you can reference it again later. No harm, right? Not so fast.

Under YouTube’s terms of service, you cannot download content without the express permission of the creator. And, of course, standard copyright laws also apply.

Videos that fall into the public domain, Creative Commons, and CopyLeft are fair game for downloading, although you can still violate YouTube’s terms of service.

Stick to adding videos that you want to revert to a playlist. Tap or click for simple YouTube tips you’ll use over and over again.

Bonus tip: Essential technological cleanings to be done before 2022

Does your digital life need a little attention? Hear about smart ways to store your tech, inside and out. You’ll learn some cleaning secrets, along with easy ways to sort through the clutter, get rid of junk, and free up space on your devices. Looks like you’ve just found your new vacation plan.

Discover my podcast “Kim Komando Explains” on Apple, Google podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.

Discover all the latest technologies on the Kim Komando show, the nation’s biggest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacking. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.