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Download Movies Online

Online movie downloads save a trip to the video store.

You can purchase or rent movies with online movie downloads. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
You can purchase or rent movies with online movie downloads.

Download Movies Online

Advancements in technology have made it faster and easier to download movies online and the process continues to increase in popularity. Powerful video and audio compression formats allow movies to be compressed and transferred quickly; and the availability of high-speed Internet connections enable download times to be drastically reduced. Downloading a movie online is also convenient since it can be done from home, rather than requiring a trip to the store. There are no late fees or returns and a wide selection of titles are available day and night.

Requirements to Download Movies Online

Each movie website specifies a particular set of requirements to download movies online. Windows requirements generally include a 56 kilobyte modem or higher, Microsoft Windows XP or Vista, a media player such as Real Player or Windows Media Player, a certain amount of available memory and various other audio and video codecs and programs. Macintosh requirements include an Intel, PowerPC G5 or 1.0 gigahertz PowerPC G4 or faster processor, Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or later, QuickTime 7.5.5 or later, a specified amount of available memory and a broadband Internet connection. Many websites that offer legal movie downloads require their own video player in order to download the file and watch the movie. These specially designed programs are downloaded directly from the website and free of charge.

The Movie Download Process

The process begins by browsing a catalog of numerous movies available for rental or purchase. Movie rentals are downloaded to the user's computer and stored for up to 30 days before viewing. Once the movie is started, it can be watched an unlimited number of times within a 24-hour period. After the title expires, it automatically disappears from the renter's computer hard drive. Online movie purchases can be stored permanently on the buyer's computer. There is no expiration date, limited viewing times or additional fees charged after the original purchase is made. An Internet connection is not required for viewing purchased movies.

Legal Movie Websites

When downloading movies online, it is important to find trustworthy, responsible websites that offer movie files that can be downloaded legally. Respect Copyrights, a website sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), contains links to movie websites that have legal downloads. It also offers information about illegal file sharing, its effect on the movie industry and the possible consequences for illegally downloading movies.

Popular websites that offer movie downloads for rental or purchase include Amazon Video on Demand and Apple-iTunes. These websites feature a large collection of titles to choose from, and offer options to view the movies on other devices, such as a TV, iPod, iPhone, TiVo DVR and Xbox 360. These websites also make a user's previous purchases and rentals easily accessible from an online video library. Although these websites recommend backing up purchased video files to a DVD or other removable media, it is not legal to burn a viewable copy of the downloaded movie. These copies are for backup purposes only and will not be viewable on other devices. Other license restrictions may apply and vary by website.

Illegal Movie Downloads

In recent years, the film industry began taking steps to reduce the number of illegal movie downloads by focusing on colleges and universities where a large number of students used campus Internet to download movies illegally. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing enables computers to connect to each other to distribute and copy files. Each file posted on the Internet has the potential to result in millions of downloads and billions of dollars in loss of potential income for the MPAA studios. When downloading a movie illegally on the Internet, the file is simultaneously being redistributed to others. According to the MPAA, this action creates a potential risk for identity theft, viruses, worms, Trojan horses and pop-ups. Anyone taking part in this activity is considered to not only be receiving stolen property but distributing it as well.

When downloading movies online, there are signs to watch for to ensure it is legal. Movies that have not yet been released or are still available in theaters are not available legally for download online. If an offer sounds too good to be true, such as unlimited movie downloads and millions of files shared, it typically indicates pirated movies. One-time and yearly fees with no details and contact information should also alert consumers to illegal websites. Poor quality, such as blurry or shaky video and poor audio, are indications that a file is an illegal copy. Unauthorized downloading and file sharing of movie files is a criminal offense and not taken lightly, so it is in the consumer's best interest to be careful when choosing where to download movies online.

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