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The Legal Use Of P2P Movie Downloads

Mar 4, 2008
The legal use of P2P movie downloads is currently under scrutiny, as the movie companies bare their teeth and growl. However, they are a bit like toothless dogs, who can bark but whose bites are next to useless as a weapon.

At the moment the illegal use of P2P file sharing software to download copyrighted movies outnumbers legal downloads by around 5 to 1. There is very little likelihood of an individual being prosecuted for doing so for personal use, although they are taking more of chance if they are downloading with the intention of selling the pirated movies.

Much has been written about the distinction between legal and illegal downloads, and this distinction is still not fully understood. In fact there is no such thing as an 'illegal download site' since peer-to-peer file sharing is not illegal. Hence, the software that allows it is also not illegal. What IS illegal is the use of such software to download movies and music) that is protected by copyright, and that includes just about every commercial movie currently available online.

However, there are many movies that are legal to download because they are now in the public domain. Included among these are: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916), Bloodlust (1961), Charade (1963), Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), the 1940 Flash Gordon series, Gulliver's Travels (1939), Hercules (1958) and Sons of Hercules (1963), Two Women (1960), The 39 Steps (1935), Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and McClintock! (1963).

There are thousands more, but you won't find any current blockbusters among them. However, it is debatable whether or not movies broadcast on TV should be any more illegal to download than to video them. The major problem that the movie companies are facing are illegal downloads of newly released movies by people that mass produce copies and sell them illegally. It is not so much the schoolkids downloading a movie to watch on their computers - although the movie companies will disagree with that.

If P2P file sharing is such a problem to them, why don't the movie companies get together and offer their own P2P registration system? That way nobody could complain that there was no alternative. This is now happening with music, so why not movies? Or are the movie companies so Neanderthal that they are unable to break into the 21st century? A legal membership site would seem a logical answer, and on payment of a fee you could use the service legally as you currently use file sharing services to download illegally.

It is unlikely that we will see such a thing, however, and even Bittorrent's negotiations with the big movie makers look like they will take years to finalize, at least to enable you to download and burn a movie onto a DVD they will. You can legally download movies now, but the file disappears from your computer after a while. Who wants to pay good money for that when you can download to a DVD for free?

The movie companies had better get their act together before somebody develops a P2P system that is totally invisible to them. Then they will really be in trouble. In the meantime most download sites do not advocate that you download copyright materials, although it is sometimes difficult to tell if you need a license or not.

Others, on the other hand, falsely state that the use of their sites to download current movies is legal. All file sharing sites are legal - it is the way that some people use them that is not. The legal use of P2P movie downloads can bring thousands of movies back to life that have seen their day, but are wonderful movies nevertheless.

Many of these are now practically unobtainable, except for their existence on the hard drives of true P2P file sharing software users from which everybody in the network can download and legally enjoy them. Sophia Loren was fantastic in the 1960 movie 'Two Women', and the Hitchcock 1935 version of The 39 steps with Robert Donat is still considered the definitive and best ever version. Both are legally downloadable free using file sharing software.
About the Author
If you want more information of file sharing software that can be used to download movies online, then check out Pete's site Online Free Movies where alternative download sites are offered, and the ethics and mechanics of downloading free movies are discussed.
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