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May 18, 2005

MPAA Tightens Screws on Bittorrent

Via EHomeUpgrade, the MPAA is filing lawsuits against BitTorrent directory providers who list links to downloadable files to television programming. According to MPAA Chief Executive Officer Dan Glickman:

"Every television series depends on other markets (such as) syndication and international sales to earn back the enormous investment required to produce the comedies and dramas we all enjoy. Those markets are substantially hurt when that content is stolen."

I'm not sure why a BitTorrent directory website is any different than google except that google is big enough to fight back.

Copyright issues aside, BitTorrent of television shows is a great resource for downloading and viewing programming your DVR didn't catch. For some series that require context to get emotionally involved in the show, downloading old episodes let new potential viewers catch up and become regular viewers, so in some ways it stimulates more viewing as opposed to hurting their investments.

That being said, it's still not the optimal way of getting old programming content and instead of hiring a bunch of lawyers, I wish the MPAA would acknowledge the demand BitTorrent has unearthed for old content. It's not rocket science to provide the content online with DRM safeguards, and if there is truth to the theory of the long tail, there is a huge market by providing access to every episode of Joanie loves Chachi, let alone every episode of Lost, Alias, or American Idol. I'd be happy to pay a monthly fee to be able to more easily download old episodes of shows that I missed the first time around.

I believe a ubiquitous and easy online service at a low monthly cost would likely be more effective than litigating to stop the distribution of television programming via BitTorrent. Of course, then the MPAA would be making money for the industry instead of spending it on lawyers.

Posted on May 18, 2005

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Comments

Welcome back. Deer frozen in the headlights. Most major studios are going to try to deliver these assets through traditional distribution mechanisms until they are forced to do otherwise. First they have to come to terms with the fact that the old business model is dead (before they die themselves) and then they can go about the process of taking advantage of somthing that will create more wealth for them than they can possibly contemplate using legacy closed distribution. Most will muddle their way through, it just won't be pretty.

Posted by: Alex Rowland at May 20, 2005 12:18 AM

The difference between most of these directories and Google is that Google, in the minds of the courts, serves a legitimate (and legal) purpose and just happens to also be useful for finding illegal stuff. Whereas most BitTorrent directory sites are really in existence mainly to local illegally distributed assets. Just the fact that you can easily filter "by TV shows only" pretty much proves this point.

It's a thin line, I know, but it's one that courts have cited in the past and continue to cite. That's one of the reasons why Napster was shut down and Hotline wasn't. Napster was being used *only* to distribute music illegally, whereas Hotline was being used for all sorts of things like educational collaboration.

That still doesn't answer your plea, however, for a legal way to do this stuff. It's coming though...

Posted by: Mike D. at May 21, 2005 09:55 AM

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