Think Twice Before Downloading that “Free” File

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Think Twice Before Downloading that “Free” File

When was the last time you received something for free? Was it a water bottle with a logo prominently displayed on the side? Was it an app you downloaded without paying any money, but every time you load it, a ten second advertisement plays? Even library books aren’t “free” – they’re paid for with tax dollars.

There is an economic phrase that can be used to describe this exchange:  “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” (link: ) (See generally, Milton Friedman). The idea behind this term is that no one receives som for nothing. The legend goes that originally, bar patrons were given “free” lunches if they bought beer- but the food was salty enough that patrons were encouraged to buy more beer.

Most of the time, we are willing to receive “free” items from manufacturers or advertisers because we believe that the exchange doesn’t cost too much. However, in the case of BitTorrenting, that “free” movie being downloaded could come with a nasty bill in a month or two: in the form of a settlement demand letter or federal copyright lawsuit summons!

When watching movies and television online, think about this exchange – what are you trading in exchange for the show? Is it your time – watching advertisements – if you’re streaming a recent episode of “The Bachelor” on ABC’s website? Is it a few dollars every month to Netflix? Or, is it the potential for a copyright infringement lawsuit to knock on your door?

Although torrenting sites like Popcorn time (which I wrote about last summer – link ) say their content is “free,” think about the consequences of hitting that “download” button. What is the potential cost to going through this “backdoor” method? To me, the potential for a federal lawsuit is not worth it.

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