In the United States, copyright law only protects a work of art such as a film for a limited time. After the original creator of the film has been deceased for many years, the copyright expires and the film enters the public domain. Several well-known feature films, such as "Charade," are now in the public domain and available for free on the Internet. If you enjoy old movies and would like to be entertained without spending money, try downloading a public domain film.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Open a Web browser and navigate to a website offering free downloads of public domain films. Three such websites are listed in the Resources section of this article.
Use the search features of the website to locate a film that interests you. PublicDomainFlicks.com, Archive.org and the "Entertainment Magazine" site, emol.org, all have search boxes at the top of the page that you can use to search for keywords, actors or titles. Archive.org and emol.org also allow you to navigate to movies by genre, such as comedy and film noir.
Click the title of a film to preview it in the browser window and decide whether you would like to download the full version.
Click the download link to save the full version of the film to your computer. Emol.org has one download link to a server hosting Flash Video, Ogg Video and MPEG-4 versions of a film, while Archive.org has three download links, for the DivX, Ogg Video and MPEG-4 formats. PublicDomainFlicks.com has download links for the MPEG-4, Ogg Video and MPEG-2 formats.
Save the downloaded file to your computer. Double-click the file to begin watching the film when the download is complete.
Tips and warnings
- Although some old movies have entered the public domain, United States copyright law has changed many times. As a result, copyright protection on some films has been extended when it might otherwise have expired. Three online services, iTunes, Amazon and Netflix, offer paid legal downloads of old movies still protected by copyright.
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