The Smart Way to DownloadTara Swords
As we all know, digital content, such as music, movies, software and TV shows, is available in droves on the Internet. You can get it legitimately from reputable companies such as Apple, Microsoft and even big retail chain stores like Wal-Mart. You can also get downloadable content through the “online black market” from file-sharing services. So, it is easy to see that if you’re not careful, downloading content can be risky -- download the wrong material and you might unknowingly infect your computer with viruses, spyware or other malicious code. Doing so might cause your system to crash, or expose your personal and private information to an identity thief. And, of course, it’s prudent to confirm that the material you download is legal.
With so much downloadable material out there, how do you know what’s good and what’s dangerous? To help sort through the confusion, here’s a handy guide to downloading -- the safe and smart way.
1. Only download material for which you have purchased rights Thousands of people have been sued for downloading media illegally. Why? Illegal downloads deprive artists of the money they would normally receive if you were to purchase the song, movie or other material from a legitimate store. “Intellectual property belongs to someone, no matter what it is: music, games or whatever you find online,” says Jeff Godlis, spokesperson for i-SAFE, an Internet safety education organization. “It’s not just there for the taking.”
Another thing to watch for: Downloading from illegal sources (such as some peer-to-peer networks in which users download files from each other) might expose your computer to viruses. “Peer-to-peer networks, in addition to being conduits for illegal file trafficking, are also havens for adware, spyware, viruses,” says Jenni Engebretsen, of the Recording Industry Association of America. “That should be front and center in people’s minds.” Guidelines for legal downloading can be found at #IF($EnableExternalLinks)MusicUnited.o#COMMENT#ENDCOMMENTrg#ELSEMusic United#ENDIF, along with a list of reputable sites that offer legal downloads.
2. If you are downloading software, understand what it is There are several different kinds of software you can download: commercial, shareware and freeware. Commercial software is like Microsoft Office -- it’s released by a well-known company and is generally understood to be safe. Shareware software is low-priced software, often created by lesser-known companies -- again, usually safe. The third kind, freeware, is the one that is most likely to be an unknown quantity. You are taking your chances when downloading freeware.
3. Google it first Before downloading a program, do a quick Google search of its name. If you find information suggesting that it’s not safe for download, don’t try it. This is also a good way to find out if the music, movies and TV shows you want to download are legal. If you find any information that suggests it isn’t legitimate, don’t take the risk.
4. Don’t download anything that comes to you by invitation You probably get email advertisements for software programs. It may even be a free download. But the number one rule of email safety applies to downloading as well: Do not download anything that comes to you by anonymous invitation. If the software is not coming from a trusted, reputable source, stay away from it. “Be careful of everything that comes from people you don’t know,” Godlis says.
5. Don't bite off more than your computer can chew Be sure your computer can handle the program or file. Most legitimate downloads will clearly explain what kind of operating system, available disk space, and memory capacity it requires. If your computer doesn’t meet all the requirements, it will not be able to complete the download.
6. Make sure children understand the risks Whether it’s music, movies, games or other software, make sure children who use the family computer understand the risks of downloading. “That is one of the most positive outcomes we’ve seen from these lawsuits,” Engebretsen says. “Legal downloading is becoming one of those kitchen table conversations and we certainly see that as a very good thing.”
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