It might be tempting to download "free" movies and music on computers; but with virus risks and copyright infringements flourishing on the Internet, Better Business Bureau reminds it's not always safe.
"Illegally pirated entertainment puts consumers and their computers at risk," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "Free downloads today could turn into expensive mistakes tomorrow."
According to research from the cloud security provider Zscaler, movie download websites like letmewatchthis.com, letbobwatchthis.com, and movie-source.org appear harmless; however, those who download pirated movies on their computers are committing copyright infringement.
Copyright Infringement: As part of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, the Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act makes it illegal to pirate copyright-protected entertainment. According to the United States Copyright Office, an individual who uploads or downloads online movies or music without the permission or authority of the copyright owner can be charged with copyright infringement violations and fined for statutory damages. The U.S. Department of Justice can also criminally prosecute copyright infringers, with fines up to $250,000 and possible imprisonment.
Dangerous Downloads: Blurry or distorted visuals, incomplete recordings, and poor quality sound are all warning signs of pirated entertainment. Dodge dangerous downloads with the following advice:
- Only purchase copyrighted works online from official or authorized music and movie media sources; check with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
- Look for copyright permission statements. If music or movie files are legal, there should be proof of permission from the artists or company representing the artists. Be wary of free downloads for popular, pre-released media.
- Setup a secure firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on computers. Illegal digital files may put consumers at risk of downloading malicious viruses or malware.
Visit www.bbb.org, www.copyright.gov and www.cybercrime.gov for more resources.