TV Trouble

For those who haven’t read about it in my forum, there is trouble in TV trading paradise. Apparently the MPAA is cracking down on a number of torrent tracker sites which provide a means to download and share episodes of popular television series after they air.

I think that I have made my position on downloading television shows clear in the past, but I will reiterate. In general, I’m not one to download a lot of “copyrighted” material – although I will admit that I certainly have in the past. Back in the heyday, when hoarding MP3s were in vogue I was known to use Napster, but when the ball dropped on that I reluctantly let go. Unlike many I didn’t stagger around trying to get a new fix from Kazaa, Limewire or god knows how many other file-sharing applications were born in the wake of this transition.

Call it laziness perhaps, but I couldn’t be bothered with file sharing – the inconsistent behavior and unpredictable results were frustrating – not to mention the unholy violation of your computer by the applications themselves. No thanks.

Instead I downloaded music from which at the time provided legitimately free music from independent artists. Occasionally I would buy CDs when they were warranted. Fortunately the music that I enjoyed most wasn’t under the deadly talon of the RIAA. DJ sets and other electronic music proliferated in this time – and for a while it was good.

Then with the spread of broadband came the spread of video distribution. The thought of downloading a 350 MB file over dial-up was enough to make you wake up in a cold sweat. Now it can be done in a matter of minutes. And once again I partook. Being in university at the time, movie swapping became second nature – especially in residence. And it was fun while it lasted, but that fad passed pretty quickly – for me anyway. If a movie was worth downloading then it was probably worth buying on DVD and that was what usually happened. Otherwise it was like a free rental. So in my case anyway, it was the rental companies who were out because of my movie downloading.

None of that has to do with TV though. TV episode downloading is more of a recent thing for me. I only started downloading TV episodes about a year ago. And it was great for me – originally because I didn’t have cable and it allowed me to follow my beloved CSI without having to find myself somewhere else to watch it. Then once I did have cable – it allowed me to fuel my addiction to the 10+ shows that I watch(ed) each week. I could stand to miss an episode here or there knowing that I would be able to download it later that night or the next morning.

Not only that but it was because of torrent tracker sites that I found out about new shows. Because none of the shows that I already watched were on ABC, I would never have heard about Eyes without the help of a centralized download site. I downloaded the first episode on a lark after seeing it on the list of recent shows. It was episode 101 which meant it was brand new. I watched it later that week and I was stunned – one of the best shows I had ever watched and I to think that it might have slipped by me. And as I pointed out yesterday it might slip away anyway.

This is where I point out the difference between TV/movies and music. When a song or album is released it probably isn’t long before it ends up on file sharing networks. So if I wanted to get Moby’s newest album Hotel, I could likely do it illegally on some music swapping network. However, I can also buy it on the iTunes Music store, or failing that in an actual music store.

When a TV show airs, if you didn’t tape it, then you are SOL because unless the show catches on you might never see it again. Not all shows make it to DVD or syndication. And those that do you are looking at about 5 months at least before a DVD hits the shelves. The same thing goes for movies – but there is the difference that movies are self-contained entities and you have the ability to see them multiple times in theatres, at a time convenient to you.

The fact remains that I would gladly pay for episodes that I missed if they were available in a timely fashion. That is the reason that I have bought so many TV shows on DVD – they are great quality, often contain enticing extras and I can watch them whenever I have the time.

If you read this whole thing, I apologize, it was just a need for me to vent my frustration about the possible abolishment of many sources of TV torrents. However, on the other hand I can come up with a compelling argument to watch shows on TV as opposed to downloading them if you have the choice - networks don’t count the downloads that a show gets towards it’s relative popularity when considering whether to keep a show on the air.

However, my two reasons for downloading TV episodes:

  1. Watching later if I missed it (Time shifting - legal)
  2. Watching later if I enjoyed it (also Time shifting) in both cases I will likely end up buying the DVD of the show if given the chance. Thanks for your time.