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    18 February, 2005

    TV Downloads 'R' us?

    The UK has become one of the countries where illegal downloading of TV programmes is most likely to occur, according to the Media Guardian this evening.

    TV piracy was a problem when I worked at the BBC in the 90s, but then we tended to be talking about video-recorded episodes of Pride and Prejudice being made on home VCRs then shipped overseas for sale or broadcast.

    Nowadays,we are talking about programmes being recorded off-air and uploaded to the web and then downloaded by others. I remember seeing a presentation about this at the Royal Television Society TV Convention in 2001. The report fom Envisional says:

    Fox's Kiefer Sutherland epic 24 is the most popular show among downloaders, with over 95,000 copies of the fourth series copied last year - a 150% increase on the 35,000 detected for series three.

    But illegal downloads of Desperate Housewives have shot up from 40,000 for the first episode to 60,000 for the latest ones, according to research undertaken last year.

    Other shows in the top 10 list include The OC, Smallville, The Simpsons, Battlestar Galactica and Lost, ABC's hit drama about a group who crash-land on a mysterious tropical island.

    The company said high-quality versions of hit US TV shows were often available on the internet within minutes of finishing their first runs on American TV networks.

    During research undertaken last year, Envisional found that an August broadcast of HBO's popular series Six Feet Under was available on the internet just 30 minutes after it had aired.

    Downloaders typically record or rip TV programmes onto a computer, often cutting out ads and titles to make the file sizes as small as possible, before posting the file on the net.

    The regulatory economics of TV are going to become more and more complex, what with this and also Tivo or Sky Plus style hard disk Personal Video Recorders that allow people to avoid ads on playback.

    The BBC website has this on the same story:

    The Envisional reports said that the TV industry should consider offering a legal way to download shows.

    The BBC ran a trial of what it calls the Interactive Media Player (iMP) last year, which was based on a peer-to-peer distribution model.

    It let people download programmes it held the rights to up to eight days after they had already aired. It is looking to do a more expansive trial later this year.


    David said...

    The BBC is working with Lawrence Lessig - very sensible of it. Do you remember when the cassette taping of radio broadcasts was supposedly illegal? Remember how many people took notice and how as a consequence the music industry collapsed?

    I did try to introduce the Creative Commons to a copyright lawyer who'd been put in charge of an Assembly-funded company. Not much interest shown at all, and no previous knowledge either.

    For a fact: kids are currently using school broadband to access bittorrent sites to download pirated films and burn DVDs.

    If the content is made to be read it will be ripped. Content creators and broadcasters should think about business models that take that reality into account.

    Leighton Andrews said...

    Yes, I'm familiar with Lawrence Lessig - indeed, you mentioned him in an earlier post. The BBC's approach to copyright is progressive and as I said in my Assembly debate on digital media in October, aims at creating 'BBC-on-demand'. However, intellectual property remains an important source of revenue for companies and will do in the future. The issue as you are suggesting will be enabling legal downloads, as with music.

    Ray said...

    I am an avid blog surfer and came across your blog by chance. I think it's great to offer your thoughts and ideas across to a worldwide audience for comment. At present, this is my own blog broadband phone and although the subject matter is totally different from the one you're writing about perhaps it does affect us all in some way. Cheers!

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    The Labour Party

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