Please avoid online piracy. And by piracy, I mean: Downloading movies/music/software from ersatz sources without paying for them. Just don’t do it. You’ll live to regret it.
I won’t preach or get all moral about this. That’s for other people to do. And I can’t judge; I’m sure I’ve poached an album or two, back in the day. Instead of appealing to your ethics, I want you to appreciate this matter from a computer security standpoint. Pirated downloads carry with them a risk of infection.
When you obtain and open a cracked software package, or start to watch that movie you saw posted on Twitter, how do you know what’s in there? Some of these popular pirated movies come with a dose of malware. Your antivirus may not block the viral load. Your VPN doesn’t matter. And the infections can range from nuisance pop-up ads to serious password and data theft. Yikes!
Look, I’m as excited as many of you are to own and re-watch the new Super Mario flick. But online piracy has a cost that you can compare against the price of what you want to enjoy. Weigh it like this: You can buy a streaming copy of the aforementioned movie, through legitimate means, right now for $30. (That price will come down as the Blu-rays are released in a month or two.) Or you can take your chances with a torrented copy or pirate download from some shady link, and then pay me to fix your computer. My labor fee for virus-cleanup is typically a bit higher than the price of a properly-bought film.
PS: Besides the viral risk, there is also a non-zero chance that you could get in legal trouble. It’s rare, I’ll admit, but I have seen a few people get some nasty threatening letters from lawyers, over the years. Getting one of those letters is sure to ruin your weekend.
If you like to buy and collect digital copies of movies, then you need to know about Vudu and their Disc to Digital offering. Using this program, you can add a digital movie to your library for $2 or $5. This is typically far cheaper than buying a digital movie from other vendors.
How this works is based on the movies you already physically own. You are buying a digital license for a DVD or Blu-ray that you have in hand. The process goes like this:
- On your smartphone or tablet, go to www.vudu.com/disc
- Scroll down to the Convert Disc button and tap it.
- Tap the next Convert Disc button and take a picture of a barcode from a DVD or Blu-ray case that you have on hand.
If Vudu can offer that movie to you as a digital copy, you will then have the chance to pay $2 or $5 for it. If the movie is not available for this program, Vudu will let you know.
Other Details & Thoughts
Not all movies are eligible for Vudu Disc to Digital, and I can’t find any “master list” of films, showing what’s accepted or not. But Vudu Support says that if you see the Movies Anywhere logo on the case, it should work. For older movies, you can only check by scanning, to find out if it can purchased.
While this is intended for you to expand your digital library based on your physical library, I don’t see much security or restriction to how this process works. So, thinking outside the box, this program would also work for you if you checked a movie out of the public library and scanned its barcode. Or borrowed a movie from a friend, and decided you wanted to add it to your digital library before returning it. All that is necessary is that you scan the official barcode from the movie clamshell case and pay the nominal fee.
And I have to say, I was astounded by one success I had personally with this program. I have a particular movie on Blu-ray that is out-of-print. At this point, it is not available for streaming, and can only be bought through collectors & shylocks on eBay. But somehow, Vudu’s D2D program allowed me to buy a digital copy for $2. Now I can stream and download a movie that I thought only existed on disc.
If you use various streaming services, JustWatch is a useful tool to consider. Search for any movie or show, and JustWatch will tell you where you might stream it. You can see all of your Rent and Buy options, as well as prices, and click through to any provider you want to patronize.
If you create a free account, then you may also create watchlists and receive recommendations, but I think it’s useful for streamers even without signing up.
If you’re looking to play a DVD movie on your Windows computer, chances are it won’t work. When you insert the DVD, your machine will spin and hum and eventually tell you, “Couldn’t open file” or some other frustratingly vague error. In any case, Windows 10 and 11 no longer have the necessary files (codecs) to make a commercial DVD run properly.
What you need for this situation is VLC Media Player. Download it for free, install it and then you’ll be able to play virtually any movie DVD, audio CD and other multimedia file that you’re having a challenge with.
You may find other DVD-viewing suggestions in the Microsoft Store, but they will either cost you money or turn out to be advertising lures. I can vouch for VLC Media Player being both free and legitimate. Oh, and it’s also available for Windows, MacOS and Linux!
Netflix fans, check this out:
Using this browser extension, you can sync up with other Netflix-using friends and watch a movie together. Using Google Chrome, multiple people can watch a Netflix flick at the same time. And they offer an optional group-chat window next to your film as it plays.
This is only available on computers running the Chrome browser, but hey: you now have a pandemic-friendly way of hosting a movie night!