Free Online Movies: Not Exactly Free

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Alright, let’s be honest. Everyone does it. You want to watch a movie, but the exhausting hundred foot trek to your car to drive to the local Blockbuster just isn’t happening. And besides, your wallet is so empty that even the moths in it are dying of starvation. That’s where the internet comes in.

Yes, bootleg movies are amazing, and yes, we all love them. But there’s a little something you should know before you download the latest Twilight flick and settle down in your computer chair to watch some gorgeous werewolf vs. vampire action: free online movies can be dangerous.

Not just in the legal sense, although that’s a considerable risk in and of itself—chances are, if you’re using a website that runs the risk of being caught by the FBI for its activities, that website has a traffic counter that records the IP addresses of its visitors. When the FBI busts the site, the owner can hand over those IP addresses in exchange for a lighter sentence. And then, well, you’re in really big trouble. If you  are discovered, you can be sued for anywhere from 200 to 300,000 dollars per movie. Say you have ten downloaded movies on your computer. The owner of the rights to those films can legally sue you for up to three million dollars—basically, they will own you for the rest of your life. Get used to washing the dishes and sweeping the floors for them.

But, even if you (and/or the website you’re using) don’t get busted, you may still be at risk. And that’s because of two lovely little things called spyware and adware. Websites that offer you free movie downloads don’t seem to be getting anything out of the deal— they don’t charge any money, after all. But while you aren’t paying monetarily for the movies you’re getting, you may be helping some dishonest webmaster steal from you in other, more subtle ways.

It’s a simple concept— the owner of the website simply adds some spyware or adware to each movie file, and when you download the film, you also download the spyware/adware straight onto your computer’s hard drive. Adware is more annoying than anything else— it’s a type of program that makes pop-ups constantly appear on your computer screen while you’re on the internet in an attempt to get you to click and buy some product or another.

Spyware, on the other hand, is more sinister. Depending on the type of spyware, the owner of the website that you downloaded your movie from can steal your personal information— including information on your bank statement, your credit card number, your email passwords, etc. Everything you do on your computer is essentially spied on.

So how do you avoid these trapdoors of free movie downloads? Well, one method some internet lovers recommend is to find legitimate websites that do charge for movie downloads. Some only charge a one-time user fee of around 40 dollars, which technically frees you from the distinction of having “illegally” downloaded movies. And most of those websites offer free virus protection that guards your computer against spyware and adware.

But if you really want to be safe, take out a Netflix account or get someone to carry you to your car and drive you to Blockbuster— your computer and your bank account will thank you for it.

Photo from Bahamut0013 via Wikimedia

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