Who should you fear when downloading TV shows?
November 20, 2004 6:05 PM   Subscribe

TV show trading has gotten quite brazen, compared to music or movies or warez. Have there been any legal rumblings at all? Who exactly would threaten or sue you?
posted by smackfu to Law & Government (17 answers total)
The shame of it, of course, is that there's no mechanism for which I can pay for it. I'd love to throw a few bucks at Scrubs, Family Guy, and Regenesis. They're the only shows I watch, and I want to support them in remaining excellent entertainment. But that ain't gonna happen so long as the only commercially-available delivery mechanism (a) forces me to be at a certain place at a certain time; (b) forces me to watch programme interruptions.

I'm hopeful that a group like the one that did Regenesis sees the possibility of making their episodic drama legitimately and profitably available on the 'net. It'll spawn an industry of small productions targeting at entertaining educated, well-read, intelligent and open people.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:37 PM on November 20, 2004

As I discovered here when a similar question was asked, there's a "Legal Issues" forum at suprnova.org that you can check for the latest news on stuff like this. People there have mentioned getting cease and desist letters for sharing certain shows; "Star Trek: Enterprise" is one of the titles I remember.
posted by mcguirk at 6:50 PM on November 20, 2004

There's this thread from the blue about the guy who was mirroring StarGate episodes who got shut down by the FBI.

fff - you can buy the complete Family Guy series on DVD you know.
posted by falconred at 6:53 PM on November 20, 2004

This article seems to insinuate that, depending on the hardware/software used to rip the TV show, it might be legal. Ripping it from a copyright-protected DVD: illegal. Ripping it from an old TiVo stream: legal. Taping off the TV then converting it to digital video? I'm guessing legal.
posted by muddgirl at 7:46 PM on November 20, 2004

It'll be illegal, at least in the US, if that new copyright bill gets let loose by the rodeo clowns. That goes into effect, you will have to keep the commercials, and not skip over them.

Cute, I say!
posted by id at 9:43 PM on November 20, 2004

Of course, the really funny thing in all of this, id and mcguirk, is that Enterprise is offered "clean" (as in commercial free) on Thursdays @ 4:00 pm EDT, Telstar 6 TP 21. :-D

Who could threaten me? Well, being in Canada where CIRA, the RCMP, and the CRTC have completely fucked up the law (how many judges have to throw cases out of court before we fix the law?), pretty much the only person left that could threaten me is God. Of course, I'm Agnostic, so if such a person exists, he could probably threaten me to do a lot of things.

I really have to get my BUD up and running again.
posted by shepd at 11:26 PM on November 20, 2004

I can't find the link to the original source, but I had heard that the creators of Battlestar Galactica (the new version) were begging people in the US not to download/copy from the UK sources because they needed people to watch the show on the network for ratings and such.

Which strikes me as a better excuse than most.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:56 AM on November 21, 2004

Here you go Katemonkey (via TrekWeb).

I despair of the entertainment industry ever learning that the 'net should be its friend, not its enemy to be brutally murdered. However, the television industry seems to be less bloodthirsty about prosecuting downloaders than are the film and music partitions. You hear everything from "We don't care, but don't do it," from Matt and Trey of South Park to the "please don't download" pleas as linked above. It seems quite rare, at least until a TV show hits DVD, to hear of someone getting busted for sharing TV shows.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:40 AM on November 21, 2004

were begging people in the US not to download/copy from the UK sources because they needed people to watch the show on the network for ratings and such

What does it matter unless those people have Nielsen boxes? That always strikes me as tremendously unfair when it comes to television - for other media such as movies and CDs, purchasing a ticket or a physical copy is a 'vote' in favour of that product. For television, unless you're one of a couple thousand unfairly selected 'average' people, it doesn't matter at all if you watch a show on TV or download it. If anything, the media folks are probably watching the P2P stats, so 10,000 people downloading a show would mean more than 10,000 non-Nielsen people watching it...
posted by Gortuk at 6:10 AM on November 21, 2004

Ripping it for your own use (a la Tivo, VCR) = fine. Ripping it and sharing it and having a few thousand people download it? Almost certainly illegal. The stuff is copyrighted and the TV companies and networks own the copyright. As of yet, the networks and so on haven't bothered or wanted to prosecute - but they will take action to get sites, servers, trackers, etc, shut down.
posted by humuhumu at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2004

To no avail, of course. But that won't stop 'em trying.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:31 PM on November 21, 2004

fff - you can buy the complete Family Guy series on DVD you know.

i want to reiterate this point -- it's about $100 for all three seasons, but well worth it. the sales of the DVDs were so high that they've decided to make new episodes. So yeah, definitely run out and buy the family guy stuff instead of bootlegging it.
posted by fishfucker at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2004

In Canada, Family Guy 3-pack doesn't appear to be available (not at Future Shop, London Drugs, nor Rogers Video). The one-season packs are going for fifty bucks a pop.

And there's this greed thing, on the part of the producers and on the part of myself. They want about C$2.50 an episode. I won't part with more than a buck, tax in.

I also think I'm more right than they are. If it were dead easy for me to flip 'em a buck when I grab the torrent, I'd happily pay it... and so would tens of thousands of others. They'd make a shitload more money by selling it cheaper.

It's worth noting that I can attend films at the local rep theatre for C$5 a crack, and I think they're still doing a double-feature for that price. I don't think twenty minutes of Family Guy played on my television is quite comparable to an hour and a half of blockbuster movie in a big theatre with full surround sound. If the latter is costing me five bucks, the former is worth a buck.

There is a lot of money to be made from people like me. They just have to figure out (a) how to make it easy to pay and (b) the price we're most likely to cheerfully pay.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:08 PM on November 21, 2004

Can I mention that Seinfeld DVDs are just being release in France ? SEINFELD! That's so last century! (and to top it off, only the 3 first seasons are available)
And that I can't find anywhere any Dream On DVD here. And probably won't hear from Scrubs or others for, what, 10 years ?
Yeah I hear you, "buy'em from amazon.com". Too damn expensive. My g/f bought 8 seasons from Friends (in VHS, even), and they're gathering dust in a corner now that we've watched them once again... Shame, really.

So I second fff : there's a lot of money to be made online (=worldwide) for those who will find a proper way to sell/rent/distribute medias online.
posted by XiBe at 4:14 AM on November 22, 2004

XiBe: actually, Seinfeld is just being released here in the states as well.

I can understand the logic behind the illegality of downloading ripped tv shows, but when I can't catch LOST on Wednesday nights, I'd rather download an .avi file and rip it to dvd than tape it with my crappy vcr. Who does that hurt? (Other than the advertisers. Ask me if I care about the advertisers.)
posted by papercake at 5:52 AM on November 22, 2004

No sure about legality, but D/Ling and sharing TV shows is an actionable offence according to my ISP (Charter Communications). I grabbed ONE show ONE time from a public tracker, and was contacted by my provider shortly thereafter. They had been contacted by the MPAA, and they demanded that I delete the file and uninstall any peer-to-peer software. They knew the exact filename and download date too.
posted by DuoJet at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2004

What show, DuoJet?
posted by punishinglemur at 4:05 PM on November 24, 2004

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