Free On Line Movies: Are P2P Legal or Bootleg Movies?

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When you download free on line movies, are you downloading P2P legal or bootleg movies? The answer to that question isn't as easy to answer as you might believe, since it digs into the murky depths of copyright law, and in the USA at least the term 'murky' barely covers it.

Let's get one or two facts right first, so we all know where we are starting from in this discussion. P2P, peer to peer, file sharing or network software, whatever you want to call it, is not illegal.

Although it is illegal to own Kazaa in Australia, the Supreme Court in the Netherlands ruled that Kazaa was not illegal because it was the way the software was used that was illegal, not the software itself. A similar judgment was given by a federal court judge in Los Angeles, who ruled that peer-to-peer firms Morpheus and Grokster were not responsible for infringements of copyright made using their software.

Hence, P2P legal software can be used to download free on line movies, as long as these movies are not protected by copyright. Some have pointed to Napster's demise in their original form as evidence that software is illegal, but those that do have missed the point entirely. There is a fundamental difference between Napster and the other P2P sites. The reason Napster was closed down, and had to be resurrected in a more normal format, was its central server.

To understand that you have to understand how peer to peer software works, and the difference between P2P legal downloads and bootleg movies. When a member of a P2P service downloads a movie or a music track, they do so from the hard disk of another member who is currently online. If you are searching for a particular movie, you will be given a list of those available and normally how many online computers have that movie on their hard disk.

When you download, you could be downloading packets from several hard disks simultaneously to speed up the process. Napster used a central server as a hub between the provider and the receiver of the file, every download passing through the server. Because of that, Napster was deemed legally responsible for every download made, since they in effect passed the illegal files on to their customers.

Current free on line movies are downloaded directly from the provider's hard disk, with no central hub. The download is a direct link between you and the computers that are collectively providing the download. It is purely software driven, so that the merchants of that software cannot be liable for the way it is used.

That is what annoyed the movie and music companies so much, because they thought they had the problem cracked when they successfully prosecuted Napster. But they were wrong, and suddenly found that they had to pursue each of the millions of users that were illegally using the software as opposed to the relatively simple task of tackling the software providers.

So when is downloading legal and illegal? What is the difference between a PSP legal free download and a bootleg movie? It's a simple answer, but not so simple to follow. Basically, any work that is still protected by copyright law cannot be legally copied or downloaded without the owner's consent. You can be practically certain that all online music and most movies and games are protected by copyright unless the owners are permitting them to be downloaded.

Many do allow it. Particularly young artists wanting their names known, or wanting to test a new game or advertise a new album by releasing a copyright-free track for online distribution. Most don't, and if you try to understand the copyright law, particularly in the USA, it is very murky indeed. It's fairly simple with movies in the UK: music tracks are copyrighted for 50 years after it is generated, and movies for 80 years after the death of the last major director, author or composer.

In the USA the situation has been complicated by the Sony Bono Law, and it seems that no music is now free of copyright, and movies will covered for at least another 30 or 40 years, though some made before 1923 might be in the public domain. As I said - complicated.

Here, therefore, are a few tips on how to ensure P2P legal downloads of free on line movies and avoid bootleg movies:

1. Don't download anything from a P2P site unless you know that it is definitely copyright-free.

2. If you have a specific need for a particular movie, then rent it using an online rental service such as Love Films or Blockbuster.

3. Alternatively, if you like movies and are liable to want to download a lot, take a membership with a 100% legal download site. There are sites online that allow downloads of licensed titles for a monthly or annual membership fee. One even offers a 2-year membership with unlimited downloads. That sort of deal is very attractive, since why take the chance of a $150,000 fine if you can get what you want for a measly $40 every two years? That's less than $1.70 a month!

4. If something is completely free you can be sure it is also likely a bootleg movie, and therefore illegal. Unless it is monetized by adverts, no site can make money by giving away legal movies free of charge. The same is true of music. The reason for that is these movies and music tracks have to paid for by whoever is promoting them, so why give them away having paid for them? They must be illegal!

To sum up, then, it is possible to get free on line movies by paying a one-time membership fee for unlimited downloads. OK, they are not free, but two downloads a week would mean they cost only 19 cents a movie. Is that cheap? Bootleg movies will cost just the same, but you have the added complication of perhaps being caught. This is unlikely, given the untold millions that use P2P sites, but why take the chance if it isn't necessary?

If you want to avoid the dangers of illegal downloads, visit Pete's web page Free On Line Movies where you will find a 100% legal membership download site and also online video rental and other legal means of obtaining legal an non-bootleg movies.

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