The Pirate Bay: Online Piracy and Entertainment for Today

The Pirate Bay: Online Piracy and Entertainment for Today

If you haven’t heard of the Pirate Bay, the time is now. Just 18 years ago, in the symbolic year of 2000, famous metal band Metallica sued the young website Napster. Designed to make use of the increasing speed of internet connectivity, Napster offered its audience of mostly college-aged adults a platform to share and download MP3s. The industry accused it of facilitating online piracy. By the time the lawsuit was over, it ended up being one of the most divisive court battles of the burgeoning online technology. Its fault lines can be felt even to this day in the cultural zeitgeist, even if the players have changed. The most famous one being the notorious website the Pirate Bay.

Ultimatimately, the argument came down on two sides. Some felt Metallica’s response was dis-proportioned and showing signs greed. Signs of a millionaire artist who lost touch with the realities of music in social environments. For many Napster was just the newest incarnation of activities such as tape trading. An exchange of cultural values outside any economic concerns. At the same time, Metalica stood up for artists everywhere. The artist who put untold hours into their hard work, and deserve to make a living from their craft. And in these terms, it is not easy to draw up easy, binary conclusions. Is piracy an issue of consumer vs. artists? Consumers vs. industry? Most likely it is a grey area of muddled intent and values, a grey area we are going to try and explore.

This article is neither a guide to nor an endorsement of torrenting. But it will serve as an introduction to the Pirate Bay. As it currently stands, online piracy represents an illegal form of copyright infringement, and as such is a criminal activity.

What is The Pirate Bay?

Image CC by 0, by Fleshgrinder, via Wikimedia Commons

For those unfamiliar with the Pirate Bay, and Thepiratebay.so, it is a so-called torrent site. Torrent sites, or BitTorrents, are websites distributing torrent files for download. Simply put, these files work as a form of a decentralized distribution network. For example, if someone downloads a song from iTunes, they access the file from one of many central servers. This, however, is an inefficient way of managing downloads, especially when many people want to download at the same time. A torrent file, however, gets broken into little chunks, distributed over a swarm of participating user bases. Instead of downloading a file in one piece, torrenting downloads the file in small increments spread out across many sources. And as soon as you start to download, you are also taking part in the swarm and help others to download.

The torrent file itself does not contain any of the actual content. Rather it contains metadata, that enables the user to download the content using specific clients. This is where the Pirate Bay comes in. Torrent sites like it are collections of torrent files covering everything from music, movies to video games. They are a source to gain access to endless hours of entertainment. All free, and all illegal, provided by collectives of hackers and determined individuals. Online communities rank the best torrent sites, based on their catalog. The market is in constant flux, as legal actions force sites to shut down, only to reappear a week later under a slightly altered name.

Piracy and You –  a Consumer Perceptive

picture of FBI anti piracy warning

Image CC by 2.0, by bizmac, via Wikimedia Commons

To understand the appeal of online piracy, especially during the days of Napster, we have to take a look at the past. Media distribution used to build itself was highly centralized. Print, movies, TV, music were all controlled by a strong entertainment industry, asserting vertical control. The result of which was a media landscape with a limited number of channels, most infamously of all probably TV. When there were only a handful of networks present, the amount of time was finite. But then came the Internet.

The Internet was not the first incident of new distribution channels occurring. But unlike anything before, it really opened up the floodgates. Instead of waiting for the industry to provide entertainment through their rigid structures, the audiences began to change. A hunter-gatherer mentality started to take root. People started to actively seek out desirable content. Why miss your favorite TV-Show, when you could just watch it on your own time? The media landscape turned into a fragmented collection of endless distribution channels, all competing with one another.

Instead of publishers, record labels and studios controlling the system from the top down, the internet opened endless opportunities to reach people. The only problem, the entertainment industry did not catch up quick enough to this change. This is why Napster first took the world by storm. For a more media savvy generation, traditional distribution began to feel more and more constricting. To use a metaphor, if there is only one store in the city selling music. And that store is only open once a week. It is only a matter of time before people begin smashing windows. What everyone failed to understand: consumers are willing to pay for their entertainment, but it was not reflecting their reality.

Game of Thrones – The Canary in the Coalmine

Since its release Game of Thrones has been one of the most successful TV shows of all time. At the same time is also has been the most pirated show of all time. While this success is certainly flattering for HBO, the network producing the show, it also represents millions in lost business. It also shows how a global phenomenon in the age of the Internet transcends borders. Throughout the show’s runtime, HBO began to decouple their pay-TV model from their online streaming model, in order to appeal to the new viewing standards.

At the same time, however, a global fan base cannot always legally engage. A service like HBO is not always available in every country. Waiting for physical home video releases is not enough for many, living in an interconnected world. This leaves them in the position of distribution limiting their willingness to pay. The same is true for films often being released with huge gaps in different local markets. Some companies still acting as if they are living in an analog world. They have to embrace the interconnectedness of worldwide audiences, instead of punishing them through outdated models of local distribution.

One company that did act on this has been the streaming giant Netflix. It expresses and encapsulates streaming’s combined ease of use, variety, and value, beats the allure of pirated entertainment. When you can try a free month of more content than hours in the week, why bother with illegal channels? Furthermore, Netflix took the lessons piracy is willing to teach. By using the Pirate Bay statistics as market research, they determine what type of content is popular with audiences.

The Way of the Future

image of Netflix with a remote and hand as an alternative to the pirate bay

Image by freestocks.org, via Unsplash

There is no question that online piracy is illegal. Court cases across the globe have used the download/upload realities of torrenting to justify some extraordinary high fines. In most cases, these ruling hardly justify the intent of the person who committed a crime most closely compared to shoplifting. Punishment should fit the crime. Yet online piracy never gained the same stigma as theft in the analog world, despite PR attempts throughout the early 2000s.

Subscription has been more than anything the industry’s way of defeating piracy. Torrenting is most likely never going to vanish, but Netflix proved that the changing user expectations making piracy popular can be embraced. Nowadays the music industry applies this business model with services such as Spotify and Apple Music to great success. Software giants like Microsoft and Adobe did the same for their user programs. Convenience is the keyword. And its time for the remaining businesses holding out, to embrace the lessons the Pirate Bay and other torrent sites are trying to teach them.

 

Featured Image: By Markus Spiske, via Unsplash

Using a Roku: How to Finally Cut the Cord on Cable

Using a Roku: How to Finally Cut the Cord on Cable

It seems to be standard for almost everyone to cut the cord on their cable TV providers and use a Roku or similar TV streaming device these days. The term “cut the cord on cable” is used by many people.

It means to stop subscribing to cable TV service providers and use a TV streaming device. The thing is, “cut the cord on cable” is a cheap way to get your fix for all of your favorite TV episodes, movies, news, local channels, and more. Here is more information on how to “cut the cord on cable” and use a Roku stick instead. And the many benefits of doing so.

Why Cut the Cord on Cable and Use a Roku Instead

image of roku box and stick, to cut the cord on cable

Roku streaming sticks are easy to use. Image CC by 2.0, by Bago Games, via Flickr 

There are many benefits of “cutting the cord on cable” and using a Roku stick instead. If you think you won’t be able to get the same TV shows and movies you did with the more expensive cable or satellite TV providers, you are wrong. There are a lot of TV streaming services you can get a whole lot cheaper than what you are or were paying for services like DirecTV, Dish Network, and Xfinity.

You can get it, or Netflix, Hulu, Youtube Red or regular free Youtube, and more for a lot cheaper. Don’t forget about Amazon Video because they are inexpensive as well. Almost all of these TV streaming services cost under $10 per month. Also, you don’t need all of them to get the TV shows and movies you already enjoy.

Using a streaming set-top box is like only paying for the things you watch instead of paying an outrageous cable bill every month for channels you may not even be watching much, if at all.

What is Roku TV

A Roku TV is more expensive but it is a nice option to have.

Roku TV is a nice option for easy streaming. Image CC by 2.0, by Michael Sheehan, via Flickr 

You have more than one option when it comes to using Roku. You can use a Roku box that hooks up to your TV and Internet. Another option is to get a Roku streaming stick that does the same thing but it is a lot smaller than the box, or you can buy a TV with Roku built into it. This is called Roku TV. With all three of these, you will be ready to enjoy watching your favorite TV shows and movies as soon as you connect the box or streaming stick to your TV. Then, connect it to the Internet and create a Roku account where you can choose the channels you want to watch.

With a Roku TV, the Roku is already on the TV, so all you need to do with this is connect to the Internet and create your Roku account to start enjoying your favorite shows and movies. Admittedly, a TV that has this streaming device built into will be an expensive purchase at first. However, it is a one-time payment and the only thing you pay out every month is your services for your TV channels and movies like Netflix or Hulu or similar cheap services.

A Roku TV is easier to use. However, the box or a streaming stick is cheaper. So, if you are trying to save money all the way around, not just with your TV shows and movies, you should go with the box or the Roku streaming stick.

How to Use a Roku Streaming Stick

It is easy to hook the streaming stick up to your TV.

Roku streaming stick is the easiest choice. Image CC by 2.0, by Mike Mozart, via Flickr

Using a Roku streaming stick is one of the easiest things you can do when it comes to the streaming device. All you do is plug it into the back of your TV and connect everything to your home Wi-Fi. Then, create a free Roku account, choose your free and cheap TV streaming services and channels, and start watching and enjoying your favorite TV shows and movies. However, both the box and the streaming stick plug right into your TV, so they are essentially the same thing.

The only real difference between the two is the size and the price. The box is a little bit cheaper, approximately $10 less expensive than the stick. You can go to a store like Walmart and pick up the box for around $60 to $70 one-time payment. You can pay a little bit more for the stick and a lot more if you want a new TV with it built in.

The only reason for buying the Roku TV is if you already need a new TV. If you already have an excellent working TV, it is recommended to pay the one time $60 or $70 for the box or a little more for the stick. Then, choose the streaming services you think you and your family will enjoy the most.

Sign up for your account with the streaming service or services you are choosing. Add your free and cheap channels to your Roku. Now, you are well on your way to enjoying free (or a whole lot cheaper) TV shows and movies to your heart’s content!

About Roku Channels

Not only can you find very inexpensive channels on the Roku website but there are free TV channels and movie channels that even come with your free account with this service.TV and movie channels like Crackle and a few others come included with the Roku. There are also local TV streaming channels like Sling TV, US TV Now, Playstation VUE, and more. Some of these are free to use while others give you the option to pay for a monthly upgrade for even more local TV channels and movies.

Some sports fans wonder if they can still watch their favorite sports on it if they decide to “cut the cord on cable.” The answer to this is YES! Many of these streaming services and channels have sports channels included with them.

How Much Money Can You Save?

You can save a lot of money by switching to a Roku.

Save money with a Roku. Image CC by 2.0, by Pictures of Money, via Flickr

Many people often wonder how much money they can save if they “cut the cord on cable” and go with a Roku. The answer to this is about $1000 or more per year. That is a lot of savings every year. Think about what you can do with an extra $1000 or more per year if you aren’t paying for cable anymore! It is amazing!

So, are you convinced to “cut the cord on cable” yet? It is as easy as calling your cable or satellite service provider to cancel your subscription. Keep your Wi-Fi and go to the nearest Walmart or similar store to pick up your Roku box, streaming stick, or your new Roku TV.

Then, come home, choose your streaming services like Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, or more, connect everything to your home Wi-Fi. Create your free Roku account and your account with your new streaming service provider. Choose your channels and movies. Sit back, relax, and watch TV as long as you want.

What is Binge-Watching TV?

If you have never heard of binge-watching TV, you will soon discover what it is all about with your new TV streaming device! Once you have all of this, you should calculate what your monthly and yearly savings will be after “cutting the cord on cable” for good! You might be surprised how much money you can save. Not just every month, but every year as well! Not only will you be happy with your new way to watch your favorite TV episodes and movies, but you will be happy about saving money too!

 

Featured Image: CC by 2.0, by Mike Mozart, via Flickr 

 

Is Hulu Free Actually Free Anymore? Here’s the Scoop!

Is Hulu Free Actually Free Anymore? Here’s the Scoop!

The pressing question is, “can we get Hulu free anymore?” Inquiring minds want to know. Hulu had bloomed in popularity because they bring us all the TV shows we love, but can’t get on Netflix, at one click. But, you used to be able to get Hulu, “Hulu Plus,” and even a free trial of Hulu — can you anymore? Well catch you up on the greatest aspects of this service, and answer all the questions you have about Hulu free.

Many people turn to online sites that allow us to watch television. And everyone likes to get stuff “free,” though nearly nothing is really free anymore. Usually, to get something free, you are paying for it in information or watching advertisements.

Still, we ask ourselves; in a world where free isn’t really free anymore, is Hulu free?

Online Video Streaming: Hulu Free

Hulu is an online video streaming site that launched in 2008. You can find your favorite movies there, but Hulu centers more on TV series. You’re able to use any device available to stream your favorite shows. With the use of your tablet, smartphone or TV, you can stream Hulu anywhere. You are able to watch all types of shows on Hulu; action, comedy, romance and more. If you’re into anime, you’ll find select shows and movies on Hulu and “Hulu Plus.” Hulu is becoming the most go-to site for television programs found on major networks, not including the CW and CBS.

Many people had Hulu free, and others Hulu Plus, though their model has changed in the last few years.

Hulu video streaming for free

The services Hulu provides are becoming more popular, like Netflix or Amazon Video. Of course, Hulu works by connecting to wireless internet services. By doing this, when they started, you were able to stream your favorite videos and shows for free on a trial basis. This makes traveling long distances, or a long flight more tolerable. Just plug into available internet services and enjoy! According to Hulu Press;

“Hulu is the complete TV experience for consumers, offering both live and on-demand programming and more consumer choice than ever before,” said Freer. “We are the only place that delivers award-winning content, ad loads less than half that of traditional television, with ads that are always viewable and always in a brand-safe environment — and we are leading the TV and advertising industries into the future.”

But, the Free trial on Hulu is a thing of the past

When they started out, new subscribers were able to get a 7-day free trial. You were allowed limited access to the site, with commercials, while choosing a plan. Hulu began to take catching up with the competition seriously, in 2016. That is when they dropped the free trial, and added other things.

Is it true “Hulu Plus” is no longer free?

Yes, it is true, they ended their 7-day free trial. And, actually, “Hulu Plus” no longer exists either. With competing companies, Hulu decided to move towards an all-subscription model. In 2016, Hulu joined a deal with Yahoo. That is when Hulu decided to phase out their free trial system. Why?

According to PCMag.com, “Hulu used to have a free tier with limited shows and advertising, but killed it in 2016. Now, the price is a flat $7.99 per month for its base content. Hulu used to call this tier “Hulu Plus,” but now it’s just Hulu.

They focused on building a subscription service that provided a more personalized experience possible for their viewers. Hulu Senior VP and Head of Experience Ben Smith said in a statement, “As we have continued to enhance that offering with new originals, exclusive acquisitions, and movies, the free service became very limited and no longer aligned with the Hulu experience or content strategy.”

Hulu free is no longer available, but the services offered by the streaming service seem to make up for the low cost.

The Product Formerly Known as “Hulu Plus” – Is the pricing worth it?

To get or not to get, that is the question. When Hulu started, their basic package for $7.99 came with limited commercial interruptions. Some were fine with these interruptions. However, for $4 more you can get more content with no commercials – minus certain shows that have them due to streaming rights.

But what makes Hulu better than cable?

Cable television is very expensive these days. And a technician from whichever company comes to your home to install everything. Some companies charge for that installation, and even that can run into money not well spent. Additionally, if you don’t own a cable box you’re looking at spending $20-$30 a month. That adds up to a lot of money.

Whereas, if you were to sign up for Hulu today, you’d only be spending $7.99 a month. If you chose to sign up for Hulu with Live TV, you could completely skip the Cable TV, for only $39.99 a month. If you already have cable, you know that is a heck of a savings. With average US cable bills running $99.99 a month, that is only one third the cost.

Also, if you’re going on vacation or need to take a break, financially,  you can put your account on hold for up to twelve weeks. Can you do that with cable? We’ll cover more about Hulu with Live TV below. First, let’s talk about an exciting offer for Hulu and Sprint customers

Sprint Unlimited Plus Hulu, Plus Means Better!

Sprint users are in luck! All new or current Sprint users are able to sign up for Hulu on their smartphones. How does it work exactly? After you’re done signing up for your subscription you’ll get an activation link or code. By using the link or code, you’re able to complete any Hulu registration process.

Adding Hulu to your Sprint plan

Basically, enter your email address to create an account and log in to your current Hulu account. It’s that simple! Note, those who are already signed up for Hulu Limited Commercials, won’t have access to Hulu Live TV or add-ons. According to the Sprint FAQs page, your plan “includes the TV you love, with the Hulu Limited Commercials plan. Your Sprint Unlimited plan also includes a 10GB mobile hotspot so you can watch on the go, where you go. You’ll be able to watch the most popular next-day TV, original series, thousands of hit shows, movies and more.”

Sounds almost too good to be true, right?

Watching Hulu “Free” with Sprint Unlimited

After registering and activating your account, watching Hulu with Sprint is easy. Since the app comes on your phone already, you can take it anywhere. Stream your favorite shows and movies from the comfort of your home, car or wherever you get an internet connection.

There are, however, some exclusions at the moment. Sprint prepaid brands, any phones on seasonal standby, as well as Sprint corporate and business accounts are excluded. There is no information on when these types of exclusions will be allowed, till then it looks like Sprint users are limited. Hulu free is no longer available here either.

Hulu Channel Lineups and Subscriptions: Hulu with Live TV

Like mentioned above, cable is expensive these days, especially if you want to watch certain networks, movies or television shows. Even when using a DVR system, you’re looking to spend large amounts of money to achieve this. If you are addicted to your cable, your best bet is to go with Hulu with Live TV.

Sure it’s $39.99 a month, but in the long run, you’re saving money to watch live television. This subscription will cover your local, regional and standard cable networks. Not to mention, you get up to 50 hours worth of DVR recording time. (If you’re not looking to spend $40 a month, you also get DVR with the basic package.) Even with the cheaper versions, you still have access to your favorite shows.

Have a large household, look into getting the Hulu’s add-on packages. You get more hours for DVR recordings, and Unlimited Screens packages. However, some regional and local channels might be limited due to where you live.

Free Movies Online, a Thing of the Past

It was sad to see Hulu free disappear. However, you’re still able to stream favorites such as Law and OrderFamily Guy, and South Park just to name a few. There are no hidden fees, no extra equipment, and no cable guy to come install anything when signing up for Hulu. All you need is your phone, tablet, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV device or a Samsung Smart Tv for streaming. It’s also nice to know that you can cancel at any time without any extra costs. Even the streaming quality is pretty nice. Hulu with Live TV comes in HD quality.

For your viewing pleasure, Hulu Free no longer

Hulu with Live TV is a great replacement to cable television, and Hulu’s lower tiers make a great addition to your current streaming services. For just $7.99, that’s a deal you don’t want to pass up. You save money in the long run and it’s a great investment in entertainment.

So, what will you be watching today?

 

Featured Image: CC by 0, by ADMC, via Pixabay

Who Is the Royal Family and What Do They Do?

Who Is the Royal Family and What Do They Do?

When people in the West talk about THE royal family, they’re usually referring to the British monarchy – not the Jordanian or Saudi monarchies.

 

At the same time, England’s royalty has a very close – and long – relationship with the Saudi royals and other monarchies throughout the world.

 

But who is the Duchess of Cambridge? Kate Middleton? What about Megan Markle?

 

Let’s take a look.

 

Who Is the Royal family and What Do They Actually Do?

Sustaining a royal family isn’t a cheap undertaking.

 

Once you factor security and living arrangements, the British royals cost about $307 million each year and this number tends to rise quite a bit annually. This money comes out of citizens’ pockets in the form of taxes.

 

Some argue that this is a minor inconvenience due to the large revenue from tourism. Indeed, people flock from all around the world to see Buckingham Palace and the royal grounds. Royal births and weddings are huge tourist booms for the U.K.

 

The Duchess of Cambridge aka. Kate Middleton aka. Princess Kate

Kate Middleton is known throughout the world as the official Duchess of Cambridge. It’s possible that Princess Kate could see the ultimate throne in her lifetime because her husband, Prince William, is second in line to become king.

 

The Duchess of Cambridge is an international fashion icon triggering what’s known as “the Kate Middleton effect” due to her refined style. This earned Princess Kate a slot on Time’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in both 2012 and 2013. Kate is currently expecting her third child with the Duke of Cambridge.

 

Megan Markle

Born and raised in Los Angeles, actress Megan Markle is engaged to wed Prince Harry this spring. Although she isn’t a member of the family yet, Megan Markle made headlines after announcing her engagement due to her race. Her father is white and her mother is a descendent of enslaved African Americans in Georgia.

 

Her soon-to-be husband is fifth in line for the throne. They’ve been in a loving relationship since 2016 but kept things private for the first six months.

 

Prince William

Prince William is second in line for the throne – just behind his father, Charles. After graduating from the prestigious University of St. Andrews, Prince William spent a gap year hanging out in Chile, Belize, and various parts of Africa.

 

He’s spent his fair share of time serving in the Royal Air Force and British Army where he trained as a cadet and helicopter pilot respectively. When Prince William isn’t taking part in royal duties like speaking on behalf of the kingdom, he often plays polo or football.

 

Prince Harry

Prince Harry spent his gap year in Lesotho and Australia before training at the Royal Military Academy and entering the Blues and Royals. In fact, Prince Harry actually served in Afghanistan’s Helmand province for ten weeks before an Australian magazine blew his cover.

 

This prince is very active in many organizations and foundations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and actively participates in Walking with The Wounded and the HALO Trust.

 

Queen Elizabeth II

Born in 1926, Queen Elizabeth II has seen her fair share of world events. She became the world’s oldest monarch after Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died in 2015.

 

In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland since the country gained independence from the kingdom in 1922. In addition to Ireland’s independence, this queen has seen several portions of the British monarchy fall throughout Africa and Asia.

 

Queen Elizabeth II fell in love with her husband, Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark, at the age of 13. The two officially became engaged in 1947.

 

Prince Phillip

Prince Phillip is married to the British Queen. His family was exiled from Greece when Prince Phillip was just a baby. Later in life, during World War II, Prince Phillip served the kingdom with the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and Pacific regions.

 

There’s More Than One Royal Family

Although the United Kingdom’s royal family tends to get the most attention, several royal families exist throughout the world. Wherever there’s a monarchy, you’ll find a royal family.

 

No one seems to make more waves throughout the world than the Saudi royals. This family is notorious for their lavish lifestyles, and unruly or often criminal behavior. One Saudi princess recently had a French arrest warrant issued in her name for ordering a body guard to assault an interior decorator in Paris.

 

Additional royal families live in Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Jamaica, Japan, Morocco, Thailand, Sweden, and several other countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

What is Popcorn Time, and is it Better than Streaming?

What is Popcorn Time, and is it Better than Streaming?

You might have heard about Popcorn Time, an app that lets you download and watch movies free. Free movie downloads? It sounds too good to be true. How does that work? Is it legal? Is it ethical? And how does it compare to movie streaming services like Google Play or Netflix? Grab some popcorn, pull up a chair, and read on to learn all about it.

What is Popcorn Time?

Popcorn Time is a BitTorrent client with an integrated media player. What that means, is that it’s a piece of software that allows peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of media files. In addition, users can use the software to view those files on their devices. Peer-to-peer means that users post media files, like movies, and other users can download those files and watch them with Popcorn Time. Many consider Popcorn Time a free alternative to subscription-based video streaming services such as Netflix.

Popcorn Time was developed by a group of people in Argentina as an antidote to what they perceived was a flawed system of streaming services there. Its ease of use quickly made it popular. There were versions for Linux, macOS, Windows, and Android. On top of that, it was free, open source, and had a larger available library than Netflix.

But legal troubles plagued Popcorn Time. First, several governments blocked access to the site, citing copyright violations. Then lawsuits ensued. Then, in 2014, developers took down the official website and its GitHub repository. A year later, different user groups resurrected the software. The current version of Popcorn Time is available at this website, but take caution as it may be illegal to use where you are. Below, we have the best ways to stream free, if Popcorn Time is illegal where you are.

How Does it Work?

Popcorn Time uses the BitTorrent protocol. The BitTorrent protocol allows users to join a group of hosts who upload to and download from each other simultaneously. This allows the files to transfer effectively using lower bandwidth, and makes file transfer faster than it would have been, had users tried to download from a single server. The diagram below illustrates the idea of distributed computing that makes software like Popcorn Time work.

How free movie downloads work through Popcorn Time and other BitTorrent apps.

Image CC by SA 3.0, by Scott Martin, via Wikimedia Commons

How Can Movie Downloads be Free? Is that Legal?

That depends on where you live. The BitTorrent protocol itself is perfectly legal. Many users employ it to transfer their own content, for example, to other users. Because the technology makes it easy to share other people’s copyrighted material, though, the potential to violate copyright laws with a BitTorrent client is always there. And downloading free movies can get you into trouble.

Several governments have blocked high profile BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay and Supernova because users violated copyright laws in those countries. In addition, sites like Supernova, TorrentSpy and yes, Popcorn Time, have received lawsuits from the MPAA over shared movies. Many of these lawsuits resulted in the sharing site shutting down, or worse. Two of The Pirate Bay’s founders even received prison sentences in their home country of Sweden for copyright violations.

Popcorn Time app may not be legal in your country.

Image CC by 0, by lechenia narkomanie, via Pixabay

Yes, you can get in trouble too

And it’s not just companies that find themselves in hot water. In the United States, more than 200,000 individuals have been sued since 2010 for sharing copyrighted material using the BitTorrent protocol. And fines can range from $2,500 to $150,000 — that’s a lot more than a year of your favorite streaming service.

The upshot is if you want to torrent, check the rules of your country very carefully. Some countries, like Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, and the Netherlands, have permissive laws about downloading copyrighted works of art. Others, like the United States and the United Kingdom, are much stricter. In addition, read the fine print of your user agreement with your Internet Service Provider. Some ISPs frown on torrenting and may come after you themselves. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and on the side of the law.

User safety

The BitTorrent protocol is not anonymous and is not necessarily secure. The tracker function within the software allows interested parties like law enforcement to obtain the IP addresses of current and past users. This means that users are vulnerable to lawsuits, legal prosecution, and cyberattack. So if you want to share something you created with other peer users, that’s great. But if you’re thinking about sharing someone else’s copyrighted creation, think again.

Users have faced fines and jail time for free movie downloads that weren't legally obtained.

Image CC by 0, by Clker Free Vector Images, via Pixabay

Ethical concerns

And if you think sharing artists’ copyrighted work is a victimless crime, try telling that to an artist. The Recording Industry Association of America has found that pirating music has cost over 71,000 jobs in the music industry. Book piracy causes authors to lose sales, which is not only lost money but may also cause their publishers to drop authors’ hard-won contracts. The average author’s earnings dropped by nearly $16,000 between 2009 and 2015 due to piracy. As for movies, experts estimate that pirating causes the film industry to lose around $750 million per year.

That’s a lot of income and a lot of jobs. Some may argue that artists should be happy people are interested enough in their work to steal it. But the fact is, every sale an artist loses due to piracy puts that artist one step closer to not being able to afford to continue making art. So think it over.

So, Is There a Way to Legally Watch Movies Free?

We’re so glad you asked that! In fact, there are several.

Watch movies free and legally from these websites and apps.

Image CC by 0 Creative Commons, by JESHOOTS, via Pixabay

Free downloads

There are a number of free, easy to use, and completely legal download services where you can watch free movies. How are they legal? Well, some services are owned by movie distribution companies that make their films available to users. Others provide movies that are in the public domain. And some are advertising supported. Have a look.

Popcornflix

Popcornflix is owned by Screen Media Ventures, a film distribution company. They have a library of over 1,500 full-length feature films — that’s a lot of movies. And they make it available to users at no charge. You can enjoy new films and classics, in all the popular genres, and all for free.

Public Domain Torrents

Public Domain Torrents allows you to download movies that are, you guessed it, copyright free and in the public domain. Choose from a number of genres, including action and adventure, comedy, science fiction, and more. This is a great place to find classics, but you’ll find some more recent movies as well.

Free streaming services

It's Popcorn Time! Time to watch your favorite free movies!

Image CC by 0, by Stocksnap, via Pixabay.

Some people prefer downloading to streaming because sometimes, streaming can glitch. But there are a number of high-quality streaming services that are not only free but address the glitching problem as well. You may have to put up with some advertising from time to time, but it’s a small price to pay for free, legal, high-quality content.

Crackle

Sony Pictures owns Crackle.com, which means two things. First, the content is fresh. There’s a continuous flow of new TV, movies, and more, from a major studio. Second, since Sony owns the content, it’s perfectly legal for them to give it to users for free. Their free app works with the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry phone, Nook tablet, Kindle Fire tablet, and the Windows Phone. It’s easy to get started, so why not get started today?

Viewster

If you like foreign films and anime, you’ll love Viewster. They have other content, too, of course. Some of it you will have heard of, and other content you might not have heard about. It’s a great place to discover something new. And it’s legal! Viewster pays a licensing fee for each of its films, which allows them to provide the films to you for free.

Cut, and That’s a Wrap

Everyone loves free movies. What’s not to like? And today, you have so many ways to get them. Some, like torrenting with tools like Popcorn Time, may or may not be legal in your area. If you’re going to go that route, make sure you know the risks and the rules. And make sure you’re prepared to deal with the possible consequences. If you’d rather skip the risk, then lucky you. There are so many ways to get your hands on free, legal, high-quality movies, videos, and TV shows — without the risk of lawsuits or legal prosecution.

So fire up your popcorn popper, put your feet up, and get ready to find your next favorite movie — for free.

 

Featured Image: CC by 0, by dbreen, via Pixabay

How to Choose a Great Party Theme: Entertaining 101

How to Choose a Great Party Theme: Entertaining 101

A party with no theme compounds social worries and leaves guests unsure of themselves. A good party theme provides a built-in icebreaker and an automatic topic of conversation. A recipe for success.

Think back to the last party you hosted. How did it go? Were your guest relaxed and having fun, or did interactions seem forced and awkward? If you were one of your guests, would you want to attend your next party? The difference between a party and a great party comes down a good theme.

Thanks to the rise in popularity of online social media, more people than ever before are suffering from social anxiety. The problem is compounded in real-life interaction. What should they talk about? How will they fill the gaps in the chatter? Consider the following party themes to choose one that’s sure to be a hit.

Holiday Parties

The holidays are a time to gather together with one’s family and friends to eat, drink and be merry. What does that sound like? A party! Hosting holiday parties is an excellent way to get more comfortable with hosting gatherings. Holiday parties come with a built-in theme, which makes them the easiest to put together. Pick a holiday and think of all the traditional foods, drinks, and activities attached to it. Instant theme.

Winter Holiday Parties

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or something else entirely, there are wonderful parties to be had during the winter holiday season. Get out the decorations, turn on the holiday tunes, brew some hot cocoa, and consider the following themes:

Cookie decorating party theme

Cookie decorating as a group makes a great holiday party theme.

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Bake several batches of your best sugar cookie recipe. Whip up (or buy) some colored icing. You have yourself a cookie decorating party theme! You can go traditional with holiday shapes like angels, Christmas trees, or menorahs. Or, shake things up with ugly holiday sweater cookies. You know your audience, so choose what you think they would enjoy most. Don’t forget the eggnog!

Sledding or snowman party theme

Outdoor fun is a favorite of all the party themes, especially for kids.

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If the climate in your area provides an abundance of snow during the holiday season, take advantage. Bundle up and head outside for some fun building snowmen or sledding down the nearest hill. Playing in the snow brings out the kid in even the staunchest of adults. Just be sure to let your guests know the theme in advance, so they know they’ll need their winter gear. Also, throw together a batch of hot chocolate in the slow cooker before you head out into the cold. Your party guests will thank you when they come in to thaw out.

Gift exchange party theme

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We all want to give gifts to our friends and family during the holidays, and receiving a present or two doesn’t feel too bad, either. There are many different methods to organize a gift exchange party. You could have your guests draw names ahead of time, play a game like white elephant, or narrow down the theme by asking that all gifts be ornaments (or any particular item you think your guests would like to exchange with each other). If you’re not into consumerism, you can require that all gifts be handmade by the giver. If you’re an Eco-warrior, ask that all gifts be used/recycled. You can tailor every party theme to you and your specific guests’ interests.

Halloween Party

Halloween makes the perfect Party Theme

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Who doesn’t love an excuse to dress up, have a drink, and eat candy? Host a fabulous Halloween party by decking the place out in scary decorations, playing creepy music, putting out gruesome snacks and drinks, and holding a costume contest. You’ll be shocked at how much fun people have crafting the perfect getup, casting their votes, and taking advantage of all the spectacular photo ops.

Pro tip: Put out a pile of cheap masks for those who thought they could get away with showing up to your party without a costume. This keeps it festive without directly calling out the party poopers.

Birthday Party

Save time with a birthday in a box.

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The king of all parties is most certainly the birthday party. Birthdays are a bit different than other holiday parties in that the occasion itself doesn’t provide much of a theme. The only thing all birthday parties seem to have in common is cake. If you want to throw a hit of a birthday party, you’ll need to dig deeper for a theme. Find out the birthday boy or girl’s interests. Are they obsessed with a certain show, band, or sport? Use it as their party’s theme. If you’re stumped on how to make a theme happen, it is now possible to purchase a birthday in a box kit and have the work done for you.

Decade Party

People love a blast from the past. A decade party is a fun, affordable theme that your guests can run wild with. Choose a decade, send out your invites, and watch how creative everyone gets. Vintage clothes and accessories are available at thrift shops and consignment stores for great prices, which makes this theme perfect for those who may not be rolling in extra money. Just be sure to choose a popular decade and maybe provide examples, so your guests know the vibe you’re going for.

’30s party theme

A 30s party theme is fun for dressing up.

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The era of the gangster. Think pinstripe suits, suspenders, fedoras, pin curls, and silk or leather gloves. This theme pairs best with scotch in rock glasses or martinis, and jazz or old movies playing in the background. Bonus points for giving out cigars as party favors.

’70s party theme

The 70s is one of the easiest party themes to organize.

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Everybody needs a chance to dress up like a hippie once in their lifetime. Bell bottoms, tie-dye, denim vests, patchwork, and peace signs. The best part about a ’70s party theme is the music. Put together a playlist of legendary artists of the time, like Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and you won’t be able to go wrong.

’80s party theme

The 80s gives your party theme some ultra fun changes to dress badly but listen to great music.

Image: CC by 2.0, by Jamie, via Flickr

Bring on the neon, spandex, shoulder pads, and Aqua Net. An ’80s party is all about the absurdity of the decade’s fashion choices. Put on a Brat Pack movie and watch people reminisce about their own embarrassing memories. Or, get really creative, and build this giant Jenga game. From acid-washed jeans to mile-high bangs, the ’80s is a decade for revisiting, if only to remind ourselves never to repeat our fashion mistakes.

Movie or Game Party

Movie watch parties is an easy party theme.

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The best party theme for someone nervous about hosting is easily a movie or game party. Human beings love to be entertained. Choose a movie (preferably one with a sequel, or even a trilogy, to last the entire night) to show. Or choose a multi-player video game to play. Dig out the cards or board games (or even giant Jenga, like we mentioned above). Just make sure you have adequate seating and abundant snacks. Done. You don’t have to worry about whether people are getting along or facilitate conversations. Everyone will be busy watching or playing, and that takes the pressure off of you.

Food and Drink Party

Special foods make a great party theme to highlight your cooking skills.

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Are you passionate about cooking or baking? Wine? Margaritas? Food and drink pairings? If so, a food and drink party theme is definitely the one for you. You can go as big or small as you want with a food and drink party. Offer a simple DIY taco bar with margaritas from a jug. Go big and prepare a multi-course meal with a different wine pairing for each course. You can even make the cooking or baking part of the party. Give your guests aprons and bake different varieties of cookies or brownies together (possibly while sampling wines). There is really no messing up a party with good food and drinks.

Don’t let your next party be a dud. Your guests need a gentle push in the right direction when it comes to socializing and having a good time at your gathering. A good party theme provides that push by setting them up with fail-safe activities and conversation starters. Choose a theme, invite some guests, and become the successful party host you always knew you could be.

 

Feature Image: CC by 2.0 by Pawel Laj via Flickr