Downloading TV Shows Re-visited

By Deane Barker on September 14, 2004

On the heels of my post about downloading TV shows, one of the editors of Gadgetopia has received a letter from his ISP and the MPAA advising him that this is bad.

I’ve looked over the letter carefully, and they’re really saying the same thing I said. My words were:

I also draw a distinction between distributing a show and receiving a distribution. I’m perfectly entitled to receive a distribution — that’s what I do whenever I watch TV. However, you have to be careful with your P2P client because there’s a good chance you could be distributing it as well, especially if you use a BitTorrent client or have it in a shared folder for something like Kazaa.

Well, this is exactly what the letter is accusing. They say nothing about downloading the show, but they state:

We have received information that, at the above noted date and time, the IP address [removed] was used to offer or to materially contribute to the offering of downloadable or streaming copies of copyrighted motion pictures. [emphasis mine]

And there you have it. With BitTorrent, never forget that you’re uploading at the same time you’re downloading (hence the success of the app). While downloading may be okay (this is still just assumed, of course), this letter states, in no uncertain terms, that making the show available for downloading by others is a problem.

As much as I’d like to launch in on a tirade here, I guess I can’t argue so much with the letter. They have a valid point, the gist of which I mentioned in my earlier post.



  1. Rob made the very good point that even if you consider downloading as a form of timeshifting, you still need to make sure you’re doing just that. That is, if you download, say, a cable show, and you don’t have cable, you’re in violation, because you’re ‘timeshifting’ content that you can’t really get. His theory is that they’re far more likely to go after cable-only shows than broadcast TV shows.

    Frankly, I doubt the MPAA would have such a laissez-fair take as to consider downloading timeshifting. Their analysis has just told them that uploading is easier to litigate than downloading, and since one requires the other, they go after the uploading, which also conveniently nets nearly all P2P. In their eyes, the Net is short-circuiting the distribution channels that are paying them for the content. So, even if you get a show on your TV, but you miss it and pull it off the net, the MPAA will want to crack down because you didn’t use the distribution channel.

    I’ll just stick with MythTV from now on. It’s funny that MythTV is completely legal, even though the technical differences are pretty minor. Heck, the signals even come in over the same wire in a lot of places.

  2. Yeah, I touched on that in my earlier post too (“I have the cancelled checks to prove it…”). In my case, the big thing I downloaded was “North Shore” and the TNT miniseries “The Grid.” That was really it, and I’m perfectly entitled to both of them.

    Specifically, I stayed away from Season One of “Alias” because, I reasoned, “They’re out on DVD, and the only reason I would download them is to avoid buying the DVD.” That struck me as straying into the danger zone.

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