Thursday, February 03, 2005

[TV] Are TV show downloads illegal? (Part II)

As this Salon article (ad view required) indicates, Hollywood assumes you won’t watch TV if you can choose to watch what you wanted.

Read more!

The suits at the Motion Picture Association of America phrase it this way, "Technologies that enable redistribution of copyrighted TV programming beyond the local TV market disrupt local advertiser-supported broadcasting and harm TV syndication markets -- essential elements supporting the U.S. local broadcasting system."

Maybe the copyright laws are ridiculously restrictive but it’s easy to see the networks’ and the production companies’ POV: the harm isn’t in the file-trading or increased visibility of downloaded shows. It’s whether you lose advertiser dollars and therefore mess up the production of these shows, or instead increase a fanbase and make money directly from DVD sales.

At the moment, according to Salon, trading is not hurting Hollywood. The sales of DVDs of television shows is larger than anyone has expected. But this position may change as download technology becomes easier to use.

There are a few ways to still gain advertiser dollars. TiVo wants to start adding banner ads to fast-forwarded commercials. US Congress is considering a bill to make fast-forwarding through commercials on DVDs illegal.

In 2003, the FCC announced that any digitally broadcast show must include an invisible antipiracy device called a ‘broadcast flag’. Last October, nine groups petitioned the Court of Appeals, saying this oversteps the FCC's authority, makes life more difficult for consumers and fails to stop piracy.

Items such as digital TVs to DVD recorders that are sold before July 1 do not have to recognize the broadcast flag. So the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been holding ‘buildathons’ to help novices build home-brew digital televisions and DVRs.

At the moment the networks have no choice. They have to continue to provide product because to stop would cost them money. Still, the obvious first step is to work on some super-cunning encryption. What’s next, though? Force as many people to pay for it as possible simultaneously and then write the show off … or rely on people’s honesty and the crappiness of any technology designed to circumvent anti-piracy protection?

They better start thinking soon. Already it’s possible that free internet downloading is causing conventional businesses based on this tech to fail. In 2003, Om Malik posted about the death of TiVo. Now he's commenting about internal restructuring in the company.

And if you want to download a show, here’s a a How–To.
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