Sharing music, movies and software online is illegal in most cases unless it has been released by the owner to the public domain. Illegal file sharing is usually done via Bit Torrent software (such as Limewire, Frostwire, Bearshare) that downloads the content from other computers via a file sharing site. These programs aren’t illegal themselves, but can be used to access copyrighted content.
People on the Internet upload files to websites (like ThePirateBay or IsoHunt) for other people to download. This is illegal because when you purchase a CD or DVD your rights to that product are for your personal use. In the case of software, you get a license to use that program, but it cannot be “shared” with other people. The risk of infection can come from ads that are hosted on the site, files that have been infected by the people uploading them (the uploader got them from who knows where, or perhaps infected them on purpose) or from security lapses in the website itself. So not only is file sharing potentially illegal, it is also unhealthy for your computer and potentially for yourself. The courts are increasingly aggressive in prosecuting people that download files illegally.
Don’t download music from just any source. Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio offer free radio-type options and many services let you make a playlist of your favorite songs. These sites run ads which pay for free music use, but they also offer ad-free listening with paid subscriptions. This is one way you can listen to music you like without compromising your computer. As always, ignore the ads. If you prefer to purchase albums or songs, use a program like iTunes, GooglePlay or Amazon. Not only are these methods safer, you also support the artists who make the music. Most traditional radio stations are also available online. This is great because you can listen to those old stations from back home and broaden your listening pleasure! I enjoy listening to jazz stations in California (http://www.kjazz.org/), blues stations in Chicago (https://wdcb.org/) and even polkas in Appleton (http://www.wrjqradio.com/).
Some sites or apps let you stream new movies for free. These are often films playing at the box office, so you might be tempted to skip the theater and watch from home. Unfortunately, most of the time these movies have either been recorded (illegally) by someone who has gone to the theater; these are called “cams” and are poor quality. Other times there are DVD “rips” from other countries where the movie opened first. Sites like this are packed with malicious content and frequently change their address as the authorities attempt to shut them down. If you want to watch a movie, check out your local library, Redbox, Netflix, or Amazon Prime. If the film is in theaters, support your local community and see it in a theater! Movie dates can be lots of fun and don’t have to be expensive. Our favorite place is The Stanley Theater, check them out at https://stanleymovietheater.com/.
Be sure to check back next week for Part 2!