For many people the last few years have been financially challenging, to say the least, and we are all constantly looking for ways to cut our spending. However, cutting costs doesn’t necessarily mean going without some of life’s little luxuries – such as music, films and books. Free music, free films and free books are widely available on the internet but some of us naturally worry that “free” means they infringe on copyright or are pirated or illegal. So what free (and low-cost) legal and non-infringing options are there for getting your hands/ears/eyes on some online entertainment and information?
Free Books; Where, How and What?
Thanks to the proliferation of the e-book there are now hundreds of thousands of free, non-infringing books out there all available at the click of a mouse. With or without an e-reader you can access books from Amazon, iTunes and many other sites, as well as your local public library. Software to read books on various devices is often free and, in addition, there are huge libraries of free books on the main sites (Amazon/iTunes). As well as free options, there are daily deals, countdown deals and other offers on these sites allowing you to stock up on reading material for an almost indefinite period. In most cases the free deals are part of promotions by authors and publishers; it’s important to be aware that with quantity there may be a pay off on quality. Two other great sites include the Project Gutenberg site – which uses royalty free (usually out of copyright and in the public domain) material and has a staggering range of online-ready books. Wattpad is a community site for aspiring writers and it offers a free to publish/free to read model. It’s a site that takes some navigating to avoid writers who are, shall we say, a little too early in their career to be entirely readable. However, the site seems to be supported by author Margaret Atwood and a careful browse will help you find some literary greats of the future.
Innovative Musicians and Free Tunes
The music industry, and musicians themselves, have been dealing with copyright infringement and piracy for a long time now. Recognizing that there are benefits to making music legitimately available for free and that it’s hard to pirate music that is already free: for any amount of free listening two sites are worth visiting. Spotify operates a free music streaming service – made possible by advertising – or a paid option – minus the irritating ads. If you choose the paid version it’s a low cost way to get access to millions of tracks without hurting the ones you love the most (the musicians). For those looking for free music downloads, Jamendo is a site worth a few hours (days/weeks/months) browsing. Music on Jamendo is free, and you can download it, totally legally. The model on which the site operates is the creative commons one – i.e. musicians release their music for free, with limited (or unlimited) copyright. It’s a model popular with new musicians and those looking to broaden their reach, so is most likely to appeal to true music enthusiasts. Jamendo also features radio channels which offer the chance to find new music and new artists without even trying.
Film and TV is a slightly more dangerous area when searching for free options. Your first stop should be any and all TV channels that offer ‘On Demand’ services. These usually offer download features and you can choose from their current schedules and (in most cases) a selection of films. You won’t get the latest cinema-only releases here (if you can find them anywhere they’ll be illegal and infringing, probably, so stay away from those) but there’s plenty of choice. Free trial periods, from sites like Netflix et al, should be your next stop; the free trial is to tempt you to subscribe, but sign up to one, one month, and another the next, is a great route to months of fresh-from-the-cutting-room releases.
Managing all These Downloads
File sharing applications like Vuze offer a great way to download, manage and store your (legally and non-infringing) downloaded material. Vuze is one of the better known download managers and utilizes bittorrent functionality to allow you to quickly download TV, music, books or films. Vuze is one of a reputable new breed of download managers and they’re keenly promoting responsible and legal downloading, although it’s important to remember that it is up to you as a user to ensure that what you download is legal and doesn’t infringe on copyright!
George Neal is a massive music, book and film fan. He looks at how free (legal) downloads can help to balance the budget in even the most recessionary times.