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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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December 24, 2012

BBC: Nothing New in TV Show Piracy

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Despite a year that saw big publicity moves against file-sharing and torrent sites, piracy of television shows remained essentially unchanged in 2012. The un-bylined story published today lists the most-pirated shows of the past year based on a survey from TorrentFreak.

The survey also repeats conclusions we've come to in the past decades of the copyright wars. Lack of any publicly streamable alternative such as Netflix or Hulu led to HBO's "Game of Thrones" doubling its US viewing numbers through illegal copies. This is the same lesson that's been on offer since early Napster days.

There's also a continuing correlation between delayed release and illegal copies. Australia, where people are supposed to wait an arbitrary extra week more than the rest of the world for things, tends to score highest in the illegal viewing numbers. Well, duh. If the Cartel haven't yet figured out that worldwide simultaneous release is good for business and delayed releases are bad I'm afraid I can't help them.

The story lists several major court and police actions taken against sites such as The Pirate Bay, Megaupload, Newzbin2, and Surfthechannel - all of which were taken offline in whole or in part the past year. Shockingly, taking down big-name linking or torrent sites doesn't actually reduce the flow. This is the same lesson that should have been learned when Napster was first shut down. I used to refer to it as "smashing mercury with a hammer." It's visually satisfying and absolutely ineffective at reducing the amount of mercury.

Perhaps a slightly new lesson is that most of the top copied titles are behind paywalls. That would indicate that paywalls themselves don't reduce piracy, but leaves open the question of how the owners of the shows should create revenue. Just because something costs money isn't an excuse for illegally copying it, but it does indicate that there is a consumer marketplace that's going untapped.

Of course, the Cartel's response is not creative thinking on how to market to those consumers - it's a repeated effort to pass draconian laws. I think I'm safe in predicting that those won't be any more effective in 2013 than they were in 2012.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


1. ethicalfan on December 24, 2012 2:38 PM writes...

This is completely false. According to Cisco, P2P "filesharing" grew in the UK from 232 Petabytes per month in 2011 to 254 Petabytes per month in 2012. It grew 40% in the US from 690 Petabytes a month in 2011 to 818 Petabytes per month in 2012. Envisional found that 14% of all BitTorrent traffic was TV shows. So in the US, piracy of TV shows grew by 40% from 2011 to 2012. The real question is why would the BBC give legitimacy to a site like TorrentFreak?

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2. ethicalfan on December 24, 2012 3:18 PM writes...

"Perhaps a slightly new lesson is that most of the top copied titles are behind paywalls." That is because HBO has investors who actually employ people to make content. Walmart has a "paywall" as does the Apple Store. HBO is in the business of selling content that they own and create on the terms that are most likely to give them a return on their investment, not meet the demands of the criminal for-profit pirate industry advocated by TorrentFreak. Again, why would the BBC give TorrentFreak this level of legitimacy? Is the BBC going to print statements from drug cartels and street gangs too?

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3. ethicalfan on December 24, 2012 4:49 PM writes...

The LESSON since Napster is that illegal "filesharing" is DEVASTATING to the everyday lives of artists and creative people. If an artist wants to give away their music, that is great. The current situation on the internet forces an artist to give away their music. Copyright is a human right. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that musicians wages are down 45% since p2p technology arrived. Recorded music is down worldwide from $27B in 1999 (Napster) to $15B in 2011.

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4. alan wexelblat on December 25, 2012 12:32 PM writes...

I get that you're an angry person with an axe to grind, but slow down a minute. TorrentFreak is a remarkably useful and noise-free news site. Have you actually read the site or are you just knee-jerk reacting to their name? If you have any evidence that they're illegitimate feel free to point to it.

I can't validate "Cisco"'s numbers on filesharing without some indicator of what they're measuring. It's possible that there are more torrents but still a comparable quantity of shared television shows. Feel free to link your source(s).

You also seem to be confused about the notion of a "paywall". A paywall is a situation in which you must pay for all access, not for content you select. Walmart, iTunes, and similar a la carte sales places are the opposite of paywalls. If I go to, say, the NY Times, I pay to access any article over some minimum (10 per month I think). That's a paywall. If I go to iTunes, I pay for the specific things I wish to buy. That's the opposite model.

HBO maintains a paywall. As I noted back in February ( HBO is refusing to sell its content to people with ready cash in hand. All HBO wants to sell is subscriptions. That's a choice of business model and it seems to correlate with higher levels of piracy.

Finally, you are entitled to your opinion about the effect of filesharing, but it's contrary to the data. Feel free to cite your own sources, if you like.

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5. Irish Hare on December 26, 2012 10:26 AM writes...

The media companies should ride and manage the BitTorrent wave - not fight it. For example, from the Moscow News 29 Sept 2011 "While most anti-piracy methods focus on destroying illegal content, Klimenko’s revolutionary software, Pirate Pay, aims to protect artistic content as soon as it leaves the studio. It does this by attaching a pay-firewall to artistic files as soon as they are released onto the Internet, which sticks with them whenever they are downloaded as BitTorrents,"

Current distribution methods (theatres, DVDs and streaming) are inefficient or impossible in many parts of the world. Make it possible to pay for using torrents and they become an effective distribution method. Users in many parts of the world are willing to pay, if there was a means to do so, but will continue to torrent 100s of millions of movies if provision is not made.

There was one comment that really made me smile:
"I live in Africa at the end of a slow (384kb) line, but I watch whatever I want courtesy of Bit Torrent. Why? Because there is no other choice (other than watching nothing). Besides the fact that no online services are offered here, they would not work anyway because the bandwidth is too low. But torrenting works fine. I now have a 2Tb library increasing by 100Gb/month - and shared with many friends. So the media companies had better not only think how to distribute via streaming, but also how to get it to the rest of the world. We are willing to pay - just give us a model that makes it possible."

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