Are Your Child’s Video Downloads Legal?

As with the mostly recent development of legal online music downloads, video download sites are up and coming in the Internet world. Most sites that make videos available for download are for the most part harmless. They feature silly or funny videos, often shot on home video cameras or phones. These videos are most likely copyrighted, but the owners of the copyright are most likely not going to go after the webmaster for copyright infringement unless it was a video that was made for profit or somehow invades that person’s privacy. The anonymity of the Internet has made it nearly impossible to track down the person responsible for originally releasing the video. When it comes to television shows and major motion pictures, though, video download sites sometimes drop the ball.

It is not surprising that most of the video that is downloaded is illegal, since the options for downloading legally are quite limited. Apple has its iTunes store, but that accounts for almost 90% of legal downloads according to some estimates. Despite its apparent unavailability, video downloads are actually legally available from a number of resources. Netflix, the popular movie rental company, is currently offering its customers the ability to watch movies on their computers. Even some online television websites like Hulu are now offering full length movies. True, these aren’t actually downloaded onto users computers, but the effect is the same- the ability to view the videos on your home computer.

Monitoring your kids’ video downloads is difficult to accomplish, since most of what is available is either patently illegal or flirts with the law in ways that are too close for comfort for most people. In fact, one of the most popular ways to download movies and television shows, BitTorrent, is a very hot button item for many copyright owners. BitTorrent is a protocol, not a company, and the way it works decentralizes the process to such a point that at no point in the download process does any peer node involve ever contain the entire file. Essentially, the data that is transmitted consists of merely strings of numbers.

The MPAA is rigorous in pursuing copyright infringement cases. In several cases, they have even hired private investigators to follow the moves of people who run BitTorrent websites, or paid hackers to break into websites to steal IP addresses. These tactics run along the edge of legality, of course, and would make it hard for the MPAA to press charges in court, but the end result is the same- they find out who you are, what you’re doing, and what belongs them on your computer.

Some download sites cost money, like iTunes and CinemaNow, but others are free, and legal if you live in certain parts of the world. Much to the chagrin of the MPAA, US laws are only enforceable on websites that are hosted within the US. Sites like are hosted off shore, so the same laws do not apply. This is not to say that the downloads are legal, however, they are still pirated, an still illegal in the US, but if you are overseas, you may be able to download them or view them with impunity.

Care should always be exercised when you allow your children to access online videos, as there is so much out there that is illegal or simply not for their eyes. Adult material is easy to come by, as are ‘free’ downloads of entire movies or television shows. As a parent, you must always watch what they are doing and make sure they know what you expect and want.

Have a great day!