Download Free Online Movies – The Ethics

Posted on 27. Feb, 2008 by in Legal ethics

Peter Nisbet asked:

It is possible to download free online movies legally, with or without p2p file sharing software. It is not the peer to peer networks that are illegal but the way they are used, and it unfair to blame the tool and not the user.

It is not only downloading free online movies that we are discussing here, but also so-called free music downloads and video game downloads. Here we shall not only be looking at P2P software services and how they are used illegally and the ethics of free online music and movie file sharing, but also how to download movies and music legally.

A. P2P File Sharing Software

Peer to peer file sharing software allows users to connect to specific file formats on the hard drives of other members of the P2P network that are connected to the network at the same time. You can use one of the free open source P2P file sharing networks such as Gnutella directly, though most prefer to do so through a paid membership system that offers some benefits over the raw option, including accelerated music and free movie downloading speeds, enhanced file storage and retrieval, more reliable downloads, absence of dangerous malware, such as adware and spyware, and connection to more sources.

To locate a free movie, music track or game to download, you simply enter the name of the movie, track, artist or even genre and you will receive a list of what is currently available on the network, the quality of the reproduction, the file format, and how many sources are currently available online from which to download. The more sources for each track or movie the better. Click on your choice, choose the destination folder and the download starts. It is very easy to use.

You will download free online movies simultaneously from all sources (hard disks or other storage devices) offering your choice of free movie download (or music track or free game). The more there are then generally the shorter the download time.

B. Download Free Online Movies Legally

Free movie downloads (or music or video game downloads) are legal if the movies or entertainment files are not copyrighted. There are many public domain and non-copyrighted files available online that you can find using a simple internet search using your favorite search engine. You can legally download as many such online movies or music tracks as want.

Many new movie-makers that want their work publicized sometimes offer their work copyright-free, as do many people who make home movies. The same is true of new bands and singers that want to build up a fan base before releasing their work commercially, or that want to advertise a new album by offering free music tracks from it. Others might release a beta version of a new game on a P2P file sharing network to get any bugs sorted and also a sense of how well received the idea or concept of the game might be.

In other words, free legal movie downloads, free online music downloads and legal free online games provide a benefit for both the originators and the users of such free entertainment files. The problem lies in the illegal downloading of copyrighted work.

C. Illegal P2P File Sharing

Peer to peer file sharing becomes illegal when the files being shared are under copyright. This applies to all current chart hits and online movie blockbusters, new games and most commercial software that is not open source or in the public domain. Most work produced over the past 50 years is liable to be copyright protected, although much of it is also copyright-free, and can be downloaded. A good rule of thumb is if you are unsure, and then don’t download it. Unfortunately most people download free online movies illegally.

A good membership P2P file sharing network should inform you if you are attempting to download free online movies or music that requires a license to download – another advantage of using a paid peer to peer network. It is unfair to condemn the software or the P2P network because of its misuse – the software is not illegal and neither is its use: it is the way that most people use it that is illegal. But should it be?

D The Ethics of P2P File Sharing and Illegal and Legal Movie Downloads

Who are movie and pop stars who openly use drugs, trash hotels and blatantly and publicly break other laws and get away with it to complain when kids break the law by copying one of their tracks or movies? The movie and music industry would be better spending their time putting their own house in order than chasing high school kids and fining their moms for downloading free movies or music tracks.

However, although that is my opinion, there are circumstances where those that download free online movies illegally can damage the entertainment industry. It is the professional movie, music and video game pirates that use P2P file sharing software to download entertainment files and copy them to portable storage devices such as CDs and DVDs by the hundreds of thousands for sale that are causing the real problem, and it is they that should be vigorously pursued, not the kids.

A major problem with this is that a large number of these pros are Asian, and it is not possible to prosecute these people in their own countries. So where does that leave us? Is it ethical to prosecute and give massive fines to people breaching copyright using P2P networks while being unable to touch those causing most of the damage? Is it right to fine a kid for copying a track from an album, who then goes on to purchase that album or even to buy a ticket for the live concert because they liked what they heard or saw?

Many of the whingers owe part of their success to illegal music downloads, because it was partially through these that they came into public prominence. The ethics of P2P free movie downloads and illegal music downloads are not as clear-cut and unarguable as those mooting them might have us believe, although we are not yet in a situation where anything other than legal movie downloads and paid music file sharing can be justified.

P2P file sharing networks are not all bad, however, and in a free world should never be made illegal – only used properly and intelligently by artistes, designers and the public alike. One day we will be able to legally download free online movies and music that has been specifically produced for promotional and testing purposes, and this shall become a common marketing and testing technique for new film and music genres, and new video game ideas.

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