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MissAnthrope's avatar

Copyright, TV, and BitTorrent: what is the deal, legally?

Asked by MissAnthrope (21399 points ) February 17th, 2011

I was always under the impression that the downloading of TV shows wasn’t that big of a deal and that no one really cared one way or another. I’m now hearing some tales of networks like NBC sending out cease-and-desist letters for downloading their shows.

Now, I totally agree that downloading movies and music is stealing, but TV? Seriously? If the household has cable, how is it any different than setting a VCR to record, so you can watch shows later?

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8 Answers

faye's avatar

I got a letter from Warner Brothers and my internet provider about Inception. And I was kind of bored through it. I knew it wasn’t legal but I also didn’t think they’d check this thoroughly. My Dil says she read that some movies are tagged so that they can catch people like me, who downloaded it for my own use cause I’m crickety and broke, grumble

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, let us wait and see if I get the same letter, then we’ll know it’s joke, because we have yet to copy a movie!

sinscriven's avatar

Big difference since if you’re watching torrented shows the commercials get stripped out of them, which is how they make their money. The networks don’t care about producing quality television programming, they’re interested in the cheapest most successful bait possible to bring you to advertisers.

They don’t like how you have a VCR/DVR either.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@sinscriven – Okay, sure.. but people using DVRs can totally skip the commercials, so I am having a hard time getting behind what the big deal is here. We have cable in our house, for example, and they can’t legally stop me from recording my shows, whether they like it or not. To me, downloading a show when we pay for cable, that show is paid for. What difference does it make how I watch it? It’s awfully nice to be able to watch a show at my convenience, rather than at someone else’s.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think all of the movies have a disclaimer that says that downloading the show for “any reason other than personal use” (for public distribution for example) is illegal.

faye's avatar

@Dutchess_III Must be more, they threatened to shut down my internet. I downloaded from btjunkie. I know that this way people don’t have to pay theatre prices

sinscriven's avatar

@MissAnthrope : For now you can skip over commercials, there’s been attempts to make that impossible at the hardware level of the DVR and they’ll succeed at some point. It’s always been illegal to record stuff on your TV unless you can claim fair use, it’s just gotten so prevalent to the point now where people have actually forgotten that.

Whether you pay for cable is irrelevant. The small text likely says you are paying for a license to view the content, but are not permitted to reproduce it. You pay to see live shows and movies in the theater and neither of those give you the right to record them.

The difference is they want you to see the ads, they want to be able to track the numbers of who views these ads, because the larger the viewership, the more the station gets paid When people pirate off BT they lose money because not only are the ads not there, the viewership isn’t trackable.

Plus, the method they decide in which what shows get to stay or go is based on the advertising revenue, not the quality of the show. If people don’t watch the show and those commercials, then the series will get axed. That’s how shows like American Idol continue to exist and shows like Firefly were axed even though the show itself was very entertaining.

the100thmonkey's avatar

With bit torrent, it is trivially easy to harvest the IP addresses of connections that are on the swarm. The protocol is designed to be public, after all. All the movie distributor/copyright holder needs to do is find a torrent file for their work, and start downloading it – they will then be able to collect the IPs of every other connection on the swarm. They can then identify the ISP of the connection and contact them. The ISP will generally pass on your details to the copyright holder’s representatives – their lawyers, for example – without any fuss.

If you want to download music, movie and TV show files securely, bit torrent is not the way to do it.

While you are right in that people with DVRs can record a TV show and skip the adverts, that kind of misses the point – the copyright on the show belongs to the people who make/distribute/hold the license to it, and they can stipulate how people view it. They get no advertising revenue from bit torrent, while they do from cable, satellite or other broadcast networks. There’s nothing in it for them financially to acquiesce to bit torrent downloads, so they don’t.

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