We know that there are a whole bunch of anime streaming websites that are in fact illegal because they don't own the licenses to the anime they stream.

However, in a number of anime chat rooms/servers, one feature they announce is streaming sessions through rabb.it, particularly (at the time of writing this) if you go to the animation page you see Case Closed, Pokemon X/Y, Assassination Classroom and Naruto.

Why is rabb.it allowed to stream anime? I don't think they have the licences to those series.

  • 1
    I feel like this question belongs on law.se. That said, the answers here are pretty good.
    – Tyzoid
    Jan 7, 2019 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


I'm going to preface this with a note that I've just looked a little into rabb.it's model, so my understanding will be imperfect. However, it looks like it's built around a particular interpretation of the laws that allows for a certain amount of wiggle room.

First off, it is definitely legal for you to get a few friends to come over to your house and join you in watching, for example, My Hero Academia on Crunchyroll. It is definitely not legal for you to book a local cinema and sell 100 tickets for people to watch you stream the same show on the big screen. Somewhere between the two is a legal grey area that would earn two teams of lawyers a decent amount of money to chart. So rabb.it offers what is essentially a virtual version of the former - you can get about 20 people into the room watching the show together and sharing the experience.

It also looks like they use a peer-to-peer client, which means that none of the streamed content ever goes to their server. This helps protect them from the kind of issues Youtube has, although it's not a perfect protection (before torrents, there were a few major P2P clients for sharing content that got shut down because they weren't considered to be doing enough to protect against sharing copyrighted files).

So the main things that allow rabb.it to do what it does (and this is based on interpretations of IP law, which mean that if taken to court with the right judge and lawyers this could change):

  • Limited room sizes
  • No hosting of content
  • Requires someone to actually have an account on the streaming site
  • Live stream (not providing a download)

That's not to say that someone couldn't get around those things, but in doing so they would probably be in violation of rabb.it's terms of service, although I'm not sure what they would do in that instance. It's also not obvious (to me) how they prevent people from using the service to get around geoblocking, which could cause them some problems at some point.

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    rabb.it is not p2p. a firefox instance runs on their server, and its audio/video output is captured and streamed to users' browsers over HTTPS. architecturally, it's a pretty standard web app.
    – user371366
    Jan 7, 2019 at 6:19
  • Fair enough. I saw some reference to P2P relating to it, but that could very well have been an article about the service making a mistake.
    – ConMan
    Jan 7, 2019 at 6:21
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    on further reading, it appears there's an option to host the stream yourself, but i've only ever seen people use the "rabbitcast" feature which uses a browser instance on their server.
    – user371366
    Jan 7, 2019 at 6:23
  • Yes, if you install the browser addon you can stream any tab on your own browser, bypassing rabb.it's internal firefox instance.
    – Pyritie
    Jan 7, 2019 at 13:23

Based upon what I have seen browsing the website, the short answer is that Rabbit is not allowed to do it. I suspect that they are trying to get away with it for the same reasons YouTube gets away with hosting infringing content: Internet service providers, such as webhosts, are protected by D.M.C.A. safe harbor provisions codified into U.S.C. Title 17 §512.

These provisions exist so that webhosts and other such internet service providers are not held liable for the infringing actions of end users without their knowledge. The internet service provider is required to remove the infringing content upon discovery, and document a procedure for removing any infringing content at the copyright holder's request.

The reason I suspect this is based on Rabbit's terms of service which has specific provisions against using the service for the hosting of infringing content, under section II. User Content, subsection A. Non-infringing Content Sharing, which includes a D.M.C.A. takedown notification procedure. Here are some especially noteworthy excerpts:

The Company Service offers Users the opportunity to share content with each other. Company encourages such sharing but prohibits copyright infringement or the infringement of other intellectual property rights through the Company Service.
Content Removal Policy. We will respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement that comply with applicable law and are properly provided to us. If a rights holder believes that User Content has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, such rights holder or its agent or designee should provide our copyright agent with the following information in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act:

Notice that under How Does Rabbit Work section of the F.A.Q. they claim:

Rabbit allows you to share content with friends, video and audio chat, and text chat within a Rabbit room. You can share content with a virtual browser (Rabbitcast) or by sharing a Chrome tab using our Share on Rabbit extension.

Basically, they seem to be claiming that since the users are sharing the content, it is not their fault if their services are misused.

That much would probably be fine, but unfortunately for Rabbit, they are not in perfect compliance with the law because they are advertising their service for the express purpose of sharing television shows and movies for which an end user is unlikely to own distribution rights, so it could be construed that it is at their direction that the infringement is taking place. If such is the case, then they are not eligible for U.S.C. Title 17 §512 protection. Advertising services in such a way is what got Grokester in trouble in M.G.M. Studios, Inc v. Grokester, Ltd. I would not count on this service lasting, or at least not how it is now, since they seem to be liable for contributory infringement.

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