I'm a pretty law abiding guy.
Except when I think the laws are dumb. Even then I don't go out of my way to flaunt my lawless ways. But there's a moral question that's been bugging me lately and I'd like to hear what other people think.
I have a friend...
And like many of you he's a Bit Torrentin' fool. For the most part it's been shows there is little or no chance he'd ever see here in Canada anytime soon. Particularly shows from Britain that weren't on BBC Canada, and that he couldn't find at the local video store. Then it was shows that were mentioned at a story meeting that he hadn't seen that were on HBO (Movie Central) and they weren't out on DVD yet and he didn't have "the cable". And then, it was just episodes of shows that he happened to miss during their first run... and now it's anything at all.
He has no illusions that what he's doing is legal. But he believes in Karma. He knows he'll have to pay... some day, some how.
And this is the thing: for the most part he does eventually pay for stuff he likes. The pleasure of watching some downloaded file on his computer doesn't compare to watching it on HD with his digital cable... or on DVD. So when he finds something he likes... like Six Feet Under and Deadwood a couple years ago... or Rome, Life of Mars, and Extras more recently... he doesn't mind coughing up the bucks for the DVD so he can watch it in it's full glory.
And today: it happened... he saw his own show being bit torrented... and what did he feel? Guilt? Resentment? Outrage? Nope... it was Pride.
Somebody... a fan presumably, cared enough to digitize and upload it... it's being seeded out there by a few curious viewers who maybe heard something about it but never got around to seeing it. And maybe they'll give it a chance.
There is a part of him that wonders if he, or more specifically his livelihood, is being threatened by the practice. After all, the show is a product. It is part of a business in an industry and profits are what motivate the decisions of the investors. But is this cutting into the industry's profits? I mean really? In the short term, there's no doubt. Viewership is down and therefore so is ad revenue. On the other hand these are also the guys that own and operate the companies that enable people like my friend to download the programming in the first place. And in the long term... isn't it actually more likely the industry will make money by creating content for not just one medium but several at the same time.
They irony is his show is on a network that makes the episodes online available to anyone (with a PC) who live in the country. So the people downloading the show are probably outside the country... but wouldn't it make more sense to make the show available to anyone around the world and talk with an smart advertising agency to find some way to get ad revenue by customizing the content to the local viewer?
It's just the old model of exchange that is dying. And people like my friend are just helping put it out of its misery.