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Credit: Paul Gallo, used under Creative Commons License

Credit: Paul Gallo, photo used under Creative Commons License

How To Safely Find Free/Legal & Low Cost Subscription/Legal Streaming Services:

Finding safe and legal downloads/streaming is becoming much harder and harder to detect. Unless you have a good thorough understanding of both the basics of copyrights and computing, most people just don’t know. The truth of the matter is, most people don’t want to know about copyright stuff (or the inner workings of their computer/device for that matter). Sometimes there is just too much to know, and can get quite overwhelming. All most people want to do is view or listen to whatever they want and not be bothered. And you know what? I kind of feel the same way to some extent. However, the reality is we are at a point in time where we should know something about it, and the reasons are just too long to get into (not to mention the issue of privacy of where you live being compromised, subpoenas issued for phone numbers, security being compromised, open access and full control of all our devices connected to your network (unbeknown to you), which can include (but not limited to) your SmartTV. All of these things you’re exposed to, while you’re either unknowingly, or willfully trying to illegally get movies, etc from untrusted websites or torrents. The other unfortunate fact is, the average person isn’t savvy enough to know how to properly secure their network. And even then, you got to constantly update yourself, in making sure what are the latest threats, which can be maddening! You don’t always want to be behind the criminals do you? By the way, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a wireless network or connecting via RJ45. However wireless do tend to be a little more vulnerable if it isn’t properly secured. Let me also say that it is unfortunate that Samsung doesn’t do frequent updates on their SmartTVs’ OS, I would NEVER get on the internet using my Samsung SmartTV. Hence, you REALLY need to be careful about attaching that camera to your TV as well. There are two major things that my readers need to focus on. First is security, you need to understand the devastation that a hacker can cause once they gain access to your home network. It’s not about someone “piggybacking off your bandwidth.” The second thing is, it’s not just about “getting caught stealing movies,” it’s about both worrying about getting caught via DMCA AND HACKERS that can infiltrate your system and cause not only physical damage to all your devices, but can cause irreparable damage to your life. You really need to stop bullshitting and invest a little more time in getting to understand computers, and how loop holes in security has affected our privacy.

However, these are some of my personal tips, clues and advice, on how to safely spot legally free movie streaming sites:

  • If you see it on your Roku Box, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, or Chrome stick, there is a 99.99% chance it’s legal. Currently, these are out biggest and well known streaming competitors on the market. Big names would NEVER ruin their reputation by having any illegal content, or links to any illegal operations.
  • Android, and Windows platforms are starting to get more applications for “free movies” for your mobile devices. PLEASE be careful!! I’ve investigated quite a few of them, and a good percentage of them are illegal. Not only are they illegal, they’re filled with Spyware, Malware, and many times before you can use them, you MUST give them permission to gain access to your phone contacts, photos, social media, incoming phone calls, etc. We are now at a point in time that mobile users really should start installing anti-viruses. Please only stick to the well known names such as Netflix, Hulu, and or Amazon for right now.
  • Links without video ads. Video ads are essential to any free streaming service. There has to be a sponsor that pays for that stream you’re seeing for free. Therefore, if you’re not paying for it, and there is no ads, it’s illegal (unless public domain).
  • Be on the look out for unknown blogs that mix legal and illegal resources under the label “free movies.”
  • If there are hundreds of links pointing to different sources, chances are it’s illegal. Note: most Creative Commons site don’t use ads, however, sometimes internet radio may to help pay for streaming costs.
  • At the current stage of video streaming, no service will offer free downloads of new movies, unless independent movie under creative commons license (rare), or Public Domain, or New York Public Library (but studios usually don’t allow libraries to have digital copies until years later)! So if you see 30 different buttons that say “download now,” 98% of the time it’s illegal and you’re at risk.
  • However, there are extremely rare occasions that an independent/major label would promote an artist by offering a limited time offer of ONE or two songs free download. I have personally never witnessed full albums offered, UNLESS the music is under Creative Commons license (which major artists are not). Nowadays, labels preferred method of promotion is YouTube.
  • If you click on a link and 50 background pages pop up, it’s an illegal site.
  • If you see a website that offers movies that came out in theaters only a week ago, it IS illegal.
  • If you click on a site that loops you to several other sites, it’s illegal (although sometimes they’re curated YouTube videos; however, remember the goal is to find streams with video ads. Ads pay for the licenses (and ads needs your IP address to be seen, in order for the actors/studio to get credit)).
  • If you click on a link, and it says that you’re required to download any software to see a movie, or claims that your flash is outdated, cancel/exit the website immediately! Do NOT download it, your computer could be compromised.
  • If you see a DMCA compliance notice link on a site’s legalese, chances are its 100% illegal! Why? Sites that are legit, has already setup license agreements. They don’t need to post a DMCA compliance notice “if illegal content is found.” That should be a BIG clue to everyone! DMCA notices are deceiving, because the safe harbor laws require you to have a DMCA link on your site anytime it allows users to upload content; but to the average person it makes the site appear fully legit; and as far asΒ  their legal obligations go, they are. A good example is a site called “SoundCloud,” much like YouTube, while the site itself is a legal operation, it’s users upload content they’re not authorized to use. This particular site is geared towards DJs, with the assumption (or good faith) that the DJ has already taken care of the license/performance fees/and or permissions needed to upload the content. Please go through SoundCloud’s very short help document here. Because SoundCloud is basically a file storage company (bottom line), they don’t pay the DJs’ portion of the licenses and the artists are not being credited. License agreements are VERY different for DJs depending on the circumstance. It is good to keep in mind that SoundCloud is an entirely different service from companies like Spotify, in that the service specializes in DJ mixes not available anywhere else. SoundCloud offers free accounts with few banner ads and audio commercials. They do offer a standard $9.99 subscription service, but in my opinion, they don’t offer enough features for me to want to pay that price (but it is the standard price for most on-demand streaming services). You’re basically paying for the privilege of downloading, no additional bells and whistles that actually wow’d me. On the other hand, if you love DJ music from all over the world it may be of value to you. Now, 8Tracks does pay licenses for music on their users’ uploads (one of the rare ones that do (free)); provided that the user has already purchased (retail store, Amazon, Google, etc) the songs being uploaded (DRM free tracks) and that the ID3 tags are properly filled (can be easily obtained by looking for something in your program’s menu like “get CD info/download CD info/Album covers,” etc); so that both the label and artist get proper credit. Most of the time, programs like iTunes will automatically search the database and fill that information for you once you load the CD. However, there are those occasions, where the music might be very old, obscure, or an independent artist may not have registered their album yet; in that case, you’ll have to do it manually. You should always have them filled out anyway, this is how ALL music programs search and find the music you want to listen to, and make your life easier.
  • Use sites like mine as a good source for finding safe legal content.
  • Remember also that the goal isn’t just being legally safe, it’s also about preventing viral intrusion. Some of these sites have very dangerous viruses/malware just waiting to be installed and attack your computer. Be very careful.
  • While searching, make sure that your virus scan is up-to-date, and having a VPN can really help divert intrusions as well. Some legal services like Netflix, and or Hulu my give you trouble whilst usingΒ  a VPN. That’s ok, it’s because their licenses don’t permit them to stream outside the U.S., their service doesn’t know your local because of the VPN. Simply disable it temporarily, until you’ve finished using Netflix, etc.
  • It is often safe to click promotional ads from inside video being played. However, I don’t recommend clicking on any other banner that offer downloads around it. Although they’re likely to be safe and legal, many of them do have 3rd party software that often times install additional menu bars you don’t need; or additional programs you don’t care for; or programs that are difficult to uninstall; which can be just as annoying. Those banners are just a way for the website to make additional/supplement income.
  • The last point I’d like to make is, the lines are often blurred with streaming sites. In other words, it’s not like using torrents, where the bulk of what gets you in trouble is the seeding/leeching. Streaming is an entirely different animal, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of exceptions to the rule, and YouTube is one that gets away with a lot of ^%$#. For instance, if a movie or song is illegally uploaded by a user on streaming service such as YouTube, the viewer is NOT in trouble for watching it, but the uploader is in trouble for uploading it. However, if you’ve signed up for a “free” video streaming service, and it has movies that just came out a week ago in theaters, then common sense says it is a pirated community, and I suggest that you delete that account and no longer use that site. Why? As copyright holder’s search tools become even more proficient and sophisticated, that site will eventually be taken down, and they more than likely may have recorded of your IP at the moment of sign up (unless you’re on a VPN). If the site doesn’t delete their logs, or are unable to quickly enough, oh boy…… Also note that, just because a pirated site may be foreign, it doesn’t mean America cannot get it shut down. While it’s true that the copyright laws are different for every country; because of the Internet, the industries are coming together forming alliances likened to the United Nations. You see, even if you’re not an uploader, because of the nature of what that “site” is, you’re a part of a collected pirated community, and you’re watching movies without purchase, or license to rent. Hence why many people like private trackers (but we’re not discussing on this blog). Again, I want to reiterate that I chose to write about this NOT to judge! I don’t judge people who use torrents for illegal downloads; I come from the file sharing community myself. The reality is the prices on movies are still just too high, as well as the licenses are not low enough to completely get people to curb torrent use. Hopefully this will continue to change and streaming gets even more cheaper, more choices as a result of reasonable licesning, and more easier, safer, and convenient than using torrents. You know, it’s not funny, yet it IS kind of funny that, file sharing is still so huge, that even street bootleggers have been effected. When I was growing up, there were guys with tables on almost every other corner, selling bootleg cassette music and movies. Now, you don’t see none of that anymore, cause you can simply download it from just about any tracker! πŸ˜€ It literally isn’t hard to find at all. The problem is, what is the quality when you get it? Are the files compatible, and will it play? Or will you find yourself reading a DMCA email. Or is your ISP at risk of being cut because you chose not to get a VPN? Yet, this does speak to the fact, the lengths people go to, to get the entertainment they want when they absolutely can’t afford it.. Again, My goal is to discuss digital safety to the best of my ability, and we as a file sharing community should discuss this more; from a copyright standpoint, privacy standpoint, security standpoint, and viral/malware standpoint.
  • Good luck!

 

IMPORTANT BLOG READS:

  1. Where To Find Old School Classics?
  2. β€œLegal Streaming vs. Torrents: The Dawn Of A New File Sharing Era!”
  3. β€œDownloaded!”
  4. β€œBefore The Music Dies (2007)”
  5. β€œWhat Are The Differences Between the 3 Major Video Streaming Services?”
  6. β€œWhere Are All The Black Bloggers At? Where Are The Black YouTube Movie Reviewers?”

Updated *3/1/17*

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