So You Want Some Movies

By Thomas Mennecke 1/30/03

If you're just getting started in the file-sharing world, trying to make sense of all the programs and networks available can be intimidating. There are many file-sharing mediums available, such as P2P networks, IRC and Newsgroups. Since P2P networks are the easiest mediums for downloading movies, we'll just cover the two networks that offer the quickest access to these files.


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Background

There was a time when the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) had a great fear that the movie industry would fall victim to the file-sharing onslaught. Realizing the far-reaching consequences this new technology was having on the music industry, the MPAA joined the RIAA’s crusade against P2P networking. While publicly they oppose copyright infringement, they’ve managed to stay less vocal than the music consortium.

The music industry claims it has suffered greatly at the hands of P2P networking, citing a steady decline of sales in the past two years. However, things have faired differently for the movie industry.

Replicating a music experience doesn't require nearly as much expense or technology as a movie. With music, all one needs is an mp3 compatible CD player (virtually standard in most modern players) and a place to relax. With movies, it’s a whole different ball game.

Typically, a small computer monitor is inadequate. To truly imitate the movie experience, you'll need a state-of-the-art entertainment center that is well beyond the budget of a typical music downloader.

These facts have had an interesting effect on the movie industry. Although this type sharing has become common, it has not adversely affected this enterprise. Every year sets a new record at the box office, with no decline in site. In fact it’s probably that even if movie sharing becomes just as popular as mp3 sharing, the trouble in reproducing the movie experience has made this industry immune to file-sharing.

Where are these movies coming from?

Sharing movies on the Internet used to be the job of the elite. Release groups such as "Shadow Realm" or "SMR" occupied IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and Newsgroups, distributing movies within a small circle. Typically, only those with enough computer knowledge could access these files.

The growth of P2P networking and the rise in popularity of DVDs has changed the climate of movie sharing. Now, comparatively few computer skills are necessary to distribute movies on the Internet. Software called "DVD rippers" extract the large VOB file and automatically encodes it to DiVX format. The DiVX format creates a relatively small, high quality, 600-700 MB file. This has made movie distribution as simple as "point and click."

Although DVD rips are common throughout file-sharing, many people also enjoy downloading the latest theatrical release. In fact, the underground industry has become so efficient that movies are now being released before their official release date. While Star Wars, Attack of the Clones was one of the first to be pre-released, this practice has now become commonplace.

How are people obtaining these movies?

While IRC and Newsgroups continue to have the most diverse movie files, more advanced P2P networks have begun to level the playing field. Two P2P networks in particular, eDonkey2000 and FastTrack, hold the lion’s share of movie files. Whether you want a new, theatrical release or a classic, chances are these communities have the file in question.

FastTrack – With over 4 million simultaneous users logged in at any given time, an enormous resource of movie files are available. Over the last year, Magnet linking (URL links, hash links, etc) has become popular in the P2P world. With Magnet linking, a Webmaster can create a link that will automatically send the necessary search information to the client. Specifically, a small file is sent to Kazaa, called a start file, which initiates the search. These files are verified to be accurate using the file’s hash code. Simply put, a hash code is the files unique signature (usually displayed as a series of numbers and letters.) When a search is conducted using a file’s hash code, it will only find files with an identical signature. Even if an individual purposely mislabels a file to imitate your query, this false file will be ignored.

Sites such as FastTrackMovies.com have created a large database of “Magnet links. ” This site currently has over 1,000 movies and 1,000 videos in its database. Each movie has its own unique hash link. This takes the trouble out of probing and sifting through endless search results. FastTrackMovies allows its users to simply point and click the movie they want to download. The consensus among FastTrack users is that KaZaA Lite is the most compatible with this site, as all the necessary software is included.

eDonkey2000 - Another large network that takes advantage of URL links is theeDonkey2000 network. This network has well over 500,000 users and a wide variety of movies and videos. Unlike FastTrack, more obscure and rare videos are available on this network. eDonkey2000 benefits from having a large population that also traverse IRC and Newsgroups. Therefore, much of the rare material from these older mediums filters into the eDonkey2000 network.

Like FastTrack, magnet link databased also exist for eDonkey2000. Popular sites, such as Sharereactor.com and FileNexus.com, provide a database of magnet links for movies, videos and more. Like FastTrackMovies.com, simply search for the file you wish. It will then return a magnet link. Click on the link, which initiates the search in your eDonkey client.

While downloading movies was once the activity of the computer elite, virtually anyone with basic knowledge of P2P networks can take advantage of this phenomenon. As files become smaller and Internet connections faster, we should look forward to this type of sharing to continue well into the future.


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Tom from Slyck.com is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Tom's insights on other digital music issues can be read on his site and we encourage you to check it out.


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