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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Is Downloading TV Shows Legal?

Gee, I seem to remember us talking about this…  

Salon is running a piece on how many people are sharing and downloading TV shows using tools like BitTorrent, some going a bit further than the original broadcatching concept to create applications, like Buttress designed specifically as an RSS aggregator for BitTorrented TV shows. The article delves into one interesting issue that not too many people have discussed: is downloading a publicly broadcasted TV show illegal? As the article notes, it would be very difficult to show any kind of "harm" from such a download. Obviously, sharing premium content shows is a different issue, but what if someone already subscribes to the premium station in question? The real issue is that the TV industry suddenly has less control. There is also the fact that with the way BitTorrent works, anyone downloading a show is also automatically uploading a show -- but, again, this is a situation where the entertainment industry appears to be shooting themselves in the foot. For years, they've tried to come up with systems for TV-on-demand, and here's a way that users have figured out how to do it for them. The people downloading TV shows via BitTorrent are watching more TV, which should be good for the industry. Unfortunately, the industry still only thinks in terms of how much they control, rather than how much they can serve the needs of their viewers. It's amazing that the industry is so good at missing every opportunity that seems to come its way. Unfortunately, the industry also seems to view intellectual property law as a way of protecting business models, rather than protecting content. That they can't see a new opportunity staring them in the face speaks volumes about the sorts of "business" minds running the entertainment industry.


[Techdirt]