First it was songs, then music videos and clips of trailers from movies, and the latest in the world of downloads is free movies.
Movies have been available through online rentals for a long time now. But downloading movies is a comparatively new phenomenon. The huge size of the video files and slow downloading speeds had prevented this from becoming a reality. Now, with greater bandwidth, faster connection speeds, and new methods of file-compression, more and more people are seeking out movies through the net. In fact, its not just movies. Television shows or commercials and even radio-based commercials are freely available.
India has yet to catch up on that front. There are few TV commercials available readily on the web but in countries like the UK, there are hundreds of TV commercials, ready for downloading.
According to one claim, at least 3 billion movies, video clips and songs were downloaded during the last month, from a single website! Most of this is illegal, of course. The BBC claimed in a report that the number of movies or TV files downloaded illegally has increased three times. This comes to about 1.67 million people, most of them being young men.
Movie downloads work in two ways. One is the controversial method, as it was with music – file-swapping and free downloads. Certain groups build a network of people across the globe, to gain access to a sneak preview of the movie.
They copy the film, process it and put it up on the great world wide web. Soon enough, this film is up on public file-swapping networks like Kazaa. Sometimes, a movie is available on the net before it has even reached the theatres! This is not a common practice but it has been giving headaches to film producers.
Earlier, producers and film companies have dragged file-swapping sites to court over this issue. Watching a movie downloaded off the net usually means compromising on quality.
The picture might be blurred and besides, you need to download and install certain software before you can actually get to the movie. The advantage is that it works as an excellent tool of reference. And although movie and TV downloads have increased, it has not really affected the sale of DVDs or box office collections.
DVD sales have shot up and most viewers, if they really want to watch a movie, will go to a theatre and watch it there, irrespective of DVD movie downloads available on the net. The other way is to hire a movie that you want to download.
Hollywood film companies have decided to experiment by making movies available for public downloading. But it comes at a price, of course. And often, the movie must be seen within 24 hours. After a stipulated time, the file will self-destruct. After 24 hours, the file is inaccessible. This option brings its own problems, because even with the fastest connectivity, you would need 24 hours just to download the movie. In fact, it is cheaper to rent out Movie DVDs. The other problem is that the film companies are not taking any risks; they are only putting up old successful films or else, second-rate new releases.
Critics of the new system believe it will never take off. If there is a big enough market for paying for movies as per demand, they say that the real watching will happen through cable or satellite, and not on computers. The advantage lies in the fact that web delivery is convenient. And many web-based systems do offer a huge collection to viewers if they pay up a monthly fee. You may find some rare movies, even foreign ones, or documentaries through the web.
In fact, there are even sites where you can submit movies. If you are a budding filmmaker, you have the option to submit your movie for downloading or online rental, on a file-swapping site.