Jenn and I have been without internet and cable for about four years now. We’ve survived pretty well tethering to our phones for internet, but we do miss the speed of a real connection. Now as for the cable, well, I’ve been downloading the shows and movies we watch.
Now downloading has gotten slightly more difficult as authorities shutdown torrenting sites, but there are still plenty out there, and I don’t think they’ll ever really go away. However, the DMCA and its supporters in Hollywood and Cable companies are very adamant about people not downloading their properties. The focus of this little piece is actually about TV shows that are downloaded/streamed illegally.
I’m wiling to bet that most of the takedown requests facing torrenting sites come from the Cable companies. Most of you probably think that it’s because it’s taking viewership away from the channels, which brings down Nielsen ratings of TV shows. The Cable companies like to say that it’s copyright infringement. It is, technically copyright infringement, but what is the difference between watching a show that a friend/relative recorded with their DVR at their house and watching a show that you downloaded from the internet? Both shows have been recorded by someone else, and neither are being viewed for profit or by the public. The majority of the time, downloaded shows are used for private viewing in the home of the downloader. So what’s the big deal?
Jenn and I had to move out of our apartment five weeks ago because of water damage. One of her sister’s friends has rental properties on a beach and was kind enough to let us stay in one for a very small rate until we can get back home. This little cottage has Cable so we can actually watch our shows when they air. We’ve done it a few times…and Jenn doesn’t like it. She hates having to sit through the commercials. Being already exhausted from the stress of not being in our own home, having to travel an hour each way for work, and just the stress of the job itself, she tends to fall asleep early (she’s out by 9:30PM). Having to sit through commercials makes it even worse for her (since she’s already stretched out on the couch), she’ll just close her eyes until the show comes back on. Sometimes she starts to fall asleep, so I have to nudge her awake.
Now what does this have to do with torrenting and torrent site takedowns? Well, the answer is advertising. When Jenn complained a week or so ago about having to sit through commercials, it got me thinking that it’s the advertisers who are really loosing when people torrent shows. The only real difference between torrenting and recording is with torrenting, you get the show without the commercials. Advertisers spend millions of dollars per year hoping to get their products seen by the public when they’re watching TV. They know people tend to change the channel when commercials come on, but they still manage to get their messages and products out there for people to see. Even streaming sites like Hulu, YouTube, and the channel’s websites themselves (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, et al) have commercial breaks during their shows.
Yes, I know that the advertisers pay the networks to show their products so the cable networks will lose money if everyone resorts to downloading their shows. Websites are using targeted ads more and more these days, so even the network sites and streaming sites are getting inundated with banners, pop-ups, and other ways to get you to see ads. This article from Wired is showing even more how much advertisers are trying to get people to buy things. With this approach, advertisers save money by targeting ads at people, rather than just throwing ads against viewers and seeing what sticks.
So really, the rage against torrenting sites and downloading TV shows isn’t so much about copyright infringement as it is more about advertisers and media companies losing revenue because people aren’t seeing advertisements. I guess you could say it’s all about truth in advertising.