While watching movies on services like Netflix is convenient and enjoyable, sometimes you want to download them. Having a movie on your computer or mobile device allows you to watch it again and again.
Is it possible to download movies for free without breaking the law? The copyright regulations are generally very strict in all counties, especially the USA, where the majority of the movies comes from.
Before downloading the movie to your computer, watching it, or sharing with others, you need to know the consequences of your actions. In some cases, downloading movies for free is possible without breaking any laws.
Let’s take a closer look at the legal side of movie downloads and websites where you can do it for free.
Legal movies download: Copyright issues
When it comes to downloading movies from different sources, you can come across a variety of content types:
Legal downloading allowed
If you want to download movies online legally, this type of content is the best you can come across. From a legal standpoint, you can safely use the files, which the creators want to share.
For example, some amateur filmmakers may want to share the content with others for promotional reasons. Famous movie directories may want to do it as well for charity or to get the viewers’ attention.
Independent filmmakers sometimes prefer to distribute movies online without charging for them. Especially, if they have problems with showing them in a traditional manner.
So wherever you are looking to download movies, you are bound to find this type of content. Generally, it’s available through torrents. However, you have to be very careful about distributing such content. Some of this work may have been pirated.
While downloading it is unlikely to get you in any trouble (even though it’s possible), sharing it with others could result in a fine or other serious punishment. When you aren’t sure that the content is 100% legal, do the research.
In many cases, when in doubt, it’s better to avoid downloading or distributing videos.
Another way to download movies legally and for free is when they are part of the public domain. This usually happens if the copyright has expired. The duration of the copyright can be different for various types of media. Lately, it has been getting longer.
However, you are likely to find an impressive choice of old movies that have been uploaded as torrent files for free downloading. Expiring copyrights aren’t a rare occurrence. So for the fans of old movies, downloading them shouldn’t present a problem.
Sometimes, it’s hard to check if the copyright is truly expired or if pirates are uploading the content illegally. A safe place to download such movies is in libraries, universities, and other cultural preservation sources.
In many cases, classical movies that still run on TV are illegal to download.
Protected by Copyright
Unfortunately, the majority of movies you find online and on torrent websites are prohibited from such distribution. These are copyrighted materials, which have been uploaded illegally. If you see any of the latest movies or TV films available for free downloading, most likely, they aren’t legal.
These materials are protected by copyright and can’t be downloaded or distributed without payment. You have to be careful if you suspect that a file is protected by the copyright. Check out your local laws to find out about the related reprimand.
Downloading, or worse, sharing a copyright-protected movie is illegal. If you do it unwittingly, it generally doesn’t lift the blame. If you notice that you downloaded a copyrighted movie, consider removing it immediately and reporting the website where you downloaded it to authorities.
In the United States, if you are convicted of violating the copyright law, you can face up to 5 years in prison and pay up to $250,000 in fines.
How to check what movies are legal to download
In many cases, it’s almost impossible to check if the movie is legal to download. The copyright information may appear only after you finished downloading it. So if you are using torrents, you have no way of knowing before downloading.
The easiest way to avoid problems with copyright issues is to check the list of public domain movies online. For the USA, such information is available on such resources as Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the list of such movies is fairly short.
If an independent filmmaker wants to share the movie for free, you are likely to find it on their official websites.
Legal Movies Download Sites
If you’d like to download a legal movie for free, you can take advantage of the following websites.
Archive.org is one of the most popular sources for free legal movies. You can find a variety of video content on any subject, from motion pictures and documentaries to TV films and shows.
All files available on that website are 100% free and legal to keep on your computer and share with others. It offers more than 3 million movies and videos.
Downloading videos from YouTube may seem questionable at best. Even though many films you can find there are copyrighted, some free ad-supported content is readily available for movie lovers.
You can check out a variety of movies from Hollywood, Bollywood, and other media companies in the world. The majority of them are available for rent or paid ownership. However, it’s easy to find some free options as well.
Hotstar app has a wide selection of American and Indian movies. It’s possible to download the majority of them for free. The website has an easy-to-use interface. Even though some of the movies can be copyright-protected, you should be able to find the related disclaimers.
Besides movies, Hotstar features TV shows made in India.
Note: the service is currently unavailable in Europe.
4. Public Domain Torrents
Public domain torrents give you an opportunity to download movies through torrents. You can get access to thousands of movies in many different genres. You can also watch some of them without downloading.
Since the movies are in public domain, you can download them through torrent services for free. Public domain files are available for sharing, burning on DVDs, etc.
Vimeo isn’t the most popular source of videos but users around the world are happy to take advantage of it. It offers you access to a variety of movies from independent creators, who are happy to offer their files for free downloading.
Unlike YouTube, you don’t have to worry about finding special software to download the movie from Vimeo. Some of them have a convenient “download” button.
6. Open Culture
Open Culture provides access to over a thousand free movies for downloading. These movies are uploaded by independent creators, who are happy to share their videos.
This website also gives you access to other useful materials, such as audiobooks, online courses, and more. All of them are available for legal free downloading.
7. Classic Cinema Online
If you are a fan of classic movies, you can enjoy downloading them from Classic Cinema Online. However, some of these movies may not be available for direct downloading, so you have to use third-party tools to get these files to your computer.
Classical movies in many different genres are available around the clock. You can also watch them online or purchase a DVD.
8. Movies Found Online
Movies Found Online is a useful website for movie lovers, who enjoy different genres. You can take a look at a wide selection of movies filmed in the past century.
Not all movies are readily available for downloading. Some of them reroute you to YouTube. To download these files to your computer, you would need to use a third-party tool.
Please note that downloading movies from YouTube may involve breaking copyright laws.
9. Top Documentary Films
If you want to download documentaries, visit Top Documentary Films. You can find an impressive selection of documentary movies on many different subjects.
You can watch these movies online or download them to your computer using special software. Some of the documentaries featured on this website reroute you to YouTube.
PoprcornFlix features a variety of movies in different genres filmed in the past 100 years. These movies are available for free downloading with third-party software. You can also watch them online. Besides movies, the website offers TV shows and viral vids.
Would you like to download movies online legally?
Downloading movies online legally is not an easy process. In many cases, what seems like a legal way to download a movie turns out to be copyright infringement. If you have to use third-party software to download a movie from the website that streams it online, be careful. You could be breaking the law.
Checking the copyright isn’t always an easy matter. The information you can get before downloading the movie is usually scarce. To download movies legally, stick to public domains and independent creator offerings.