The global nature of the Internet allows you to enjoy your favorite music and movies anywhere you have an Internet connection, unlike in the past when you had to visit a movie or record store. Much of the media found online is pirated, affecting the millions of artists and workers who depend on the legal movie and music industry for their livelihoods. Thankfully, you have several options when it comes to legally downloading movies and music online.
Connect your laptop or PC to a high-speed Internet connection--it can take hours to download a single song or video on a dial-up connection. Make sure you also have enough free hard-drive space for the download. The average song takes 3 to 5 MB of space, while the average movie takes up 700 MB to 3 GB. To view your hard drive's available space, right-click the hard drive in Windows and click "Properties." On a Mac, right-click and select "Get Info."
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Download music through software that's run on your computer. These include the iTunes Store, accessible through Apple's iTunes software, and the Zune Store, available through Microsoft's Zune software. This is ideal if you use hardware that's only compatible with the specific program, such as the Apple iPod and the Microsoft Zune. The software can be easily downloaded for free directly from its respective manufacturer, and Music United offers a full list of software downloads (see Resources).
Get music from a website offering legal music tracks. This is best if you don't want to install software to download music. Examples include Amazon's music service at amazon.com, and eMusic's service at emusic.com.
Watch movies online legally from a streaming site, which temporarily downloads small pieces of the movie at a time. This is ideal if you don't want to expend the bandwidth and hard drive space to permanently store a movie file on your computer. Examples include most TV network websites, such as cbs.com/video and fox.com/fod.
Download movies directly to your computer. This is best if you want to download high quality movies that you can watch at a later time. Such movie files can be downloaded legally from websites such as Amazon's Video On Demand service (see Resources), or through programs like Apple's iTunes.
If you use a device like the Zune or the iPod, programs like iTunes or the Zune software, which can be used to download music, come with the device for easy installation on your computer.
Be wary of downloading movies and music online from file-sharing networks like Limewire. Such files are often pirated and may host malware such as computer viruses or spyware.