Watching movies and TV shows on streaming links and illegal sites for free is becoming increasingly commonplace. This is especially true here on a college campus where most students are not exactly flush with cash. The temptation to break a relatively minor law to get some free entertainment becomes very tempting when balanced against a $15 movie ticket.
To be honest, I’ve streamed media illegally a few times myself — and I’ve almost always hated it. Setting aside any concern over illegality and the film industry escalating its enforcement of copyright laws, it’s just a depressing way to watch a film.
There is a quality to watching a film in a movie theater that is difficult to get anywhere else. Being in the dark, immersing oneself in the action on that giant screen, there’s a sense of it being an experience. It certainly adds a lot to the experience of watching a movie. Again, I certainly don’t watch all my movies in the theater. As a matter of fact, I’ve probably watched 80 percent of the movies I’ve seen over the last three-plus years on a laptop. Those movies, though, have almost always been on DVDs, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. But watching a film from a link site is just not enough. After looking around for a long while to find a link for that new superhero movie you were excited to watch, you get a fuzzy, vaguely Iron Man-shaped thing, flying around the screen. That is, until Iron Man freezes in the middle of the sky as the link stops to buffer a little more. It’s bearable when he starts back up again in a little while, but all too often that link breaks down and you’re left with the option to dig around for another link or give up the hope of knowing what happened.
The convenience of watching a movie on your laptop or on your phone is fantastic. We live in an age when, with a smartphone, a subscription to Netflix and the right mood, you can start watching Pulp Fiction while standing in line at Subway. That accessibility is convenient, as is the impressive selection of films it makes available. Watching on screens that small certainly sacrifices a good amount of the immersive quality you get in the theaters. It’s inherently a lot harder when your field of vision contains a lot more than the screen, but the experience also suffers from the combination of fuzzy quality and that moment when the buffering stutter reaches comical levels.
Beyond this? It can seriously mess up your device. The websites that offer this kind of selection are not the most reputable and one thing that is very common on these less-than-trustworthy sites is malware and viruses that can latch onto your computer and make it more difficult to use for more important things.
There are plenty of legal streaming services online. Any one of these can offer high quality image and virtually no threat of cutting off your film midstream. Netflix has spread to the point that its virtues don’t really need to be sung any more here, but I’ve heard more and more complaints about the selection it offers. Amazon Instant is great for this. For the most part, they’ve offered everything I couldn’t find on Netflix on 24-hour rentals for two or three bucks. It’s still money being spent, but it’s less than the price of a movie ticket. Amazon has even begun to offer some films at the same time they are released in theaters, so, in some cases, there isn’t even a delay.
I’ve heard plenty of arguments about why we shouldn’t have to pay for movies, but none that are really convincing. The work that goes into moviemaking is very real and very rigorous. There is certainly a lot of money being made by these movies, but there is often even more money being spent on them, and the reality is that the film industry is struggling to balance the books these days. Cutting out more of their much-needed income, for the opportunity to illegally watch a greatly dulled movie experience that puts the probably-expensive device you are using to watch it in danger seems like a lose-lose situation.
Daniel Grzywacz is a senior majoring in neuroscience. His column “The Reel Deal” runs Fridays.
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