Is it safe to download music or movies
Your computer and a high speed internet connection make it very easy to download movies or music right to your computer. However, as with any online activity, it is necessary to follow some safety guidelines to insure the safety of your computer, yourself, and your personal information.
Online movies and music basically fall into three categories: 1.) paid and legal with a high probability of being safe, 2.) free, legal and probably safe, and 3.) free, illegal and most likely harmful. The purpose of this article is to attempt to provide guidelines to help you determine which type of file you are about to download, and the potential risks and liability associated with each.
It is probably best to begin by flatly stating that all music and every movie is copyrighted and owned by its creator. In most cases, to obtain your own copy of a copyrighted work, you will be required to pay. If you are able to obtain a copy without paying, your action is probably illegal. This also works in reverse. If you make a copyrighted material available for free to others, it is illegal and you can face stiff fines and a possible prison sentence if caught. In recent years, the music industry has decided to make an example out of random individuals they catch downloading or sharing free music. Under federal law, those who are caught illegally obtaining or sharing a song can be fined from $750 to $30,000 per infraction. In one of the most recent cases, a post-graduate college student was fined $675,000 for illegally downloading 30 songs.
However, there are legal ways to obtain your own downloadable copies of music or movies. At this time, it is possible to pay for and download thousands of songs and/or albums legally. Legal music download websites include Walmart, Amazon, iTunes and Rhapsody to name just a few. These sites will typically allow you to listen to short clips of each song to help you determine whether you want to purchase the song or not. Individual songs or entire albums can be purchased. In many cases, complete albums are priced well below the price of a retail CD since the manufacturer does not incur the expense of creating the CD, packaging it, and shipping it to a retailer. These sites provide very safe ways to obtain your music legally.
There are also a few ways to legally purchase and download movies. This can be done at either Blockbuster.com or iTunes.com, which actually allows you to download a full digital copy of the movie. This file can then be stored on your computer and/or burned to a disk for your own personal use. Many websites also allow you to view a movie from their website by paying a rental fee. This is very similar in concept to on-demand movies supplied by cable or satellite TV providers. However, you will only be able to view the movie once or a few times, or within a certain period of time.
Although a bit rare, there are opportunities to obtain free music and movies online. Some music artists, especially newer and/or independent artists give their music away in an effort to build a fan base. However, there are risks involved with downloading any free music or software. These risks will be identified in the next section of this article. In regards to free movies, there are more legitimate options available. Websites such as Hulu.com and Fancast.com allow many movies, trailers, and TV episodes to be viewed for free. These websites provide free viewing by allowing sponsors to place advertisements within the content. Since these are legitimate websites, and the content is viewed and not downloaded, they are very safe.
Finally, it is very necessary to discuss free movie and music downloading. Unless you are fully aware of how the music or movie is being provided legitimately free, it is most likely that the content has been pirated and the download is illegal. If the website you are downloading from describes itself as “peer-to-peer,” or “bit torrent,” it is a most likely a platform for sharing illegal content. As discussed earlier, federal law allows stiff penalties to be levied against those caught sharing or downloading illegal music or movies.
But it is equally important to discuss the threat to your computer and your personal information. Many illegal downloads contain viruses which can negatively affect your computer in a number of ways. In the worst case scenario, your computer may come under the control of a cyber criminal, who obtains your personal information stored in your computer, or begins using your computer as a host for their own illegal activities. In many cases, you may not even realize that your computer is infected and being used by someone else.
It is also important to realize that if you open your computer to peer-to-peer file sharing, you are allowing any other person with a computer to access your computer over your internet connection. Although there are steps that can be taken to protect your computer and the files you don’t want accessed, the easiest and safest method is to avoid these services altogether.
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