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TV downloading. Of course it's illegal, but is it immoral?

Of course it is illegal to download TV shows from the Internet. But if you had to wait a year or more to see a series, wouldn't wonder why the powers-the-be want to make you wait?

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If you live in the USA, you don't have to download TV programs from the Internet, since you're among the first people to see a new show. But the rest of the world has to wait, up to a year or even more, to see a popular new series such as Desperate Housewives.

Of course, even if you do live in the USA, you might forget to watch an episode, or program your video incorrectly. You'll still have to download because that's the only way to see the episode other than to wait until it comes out on DVD.

Downloading TV programs feels different to downloading movies. If you download a movie rather than seeing in the theater, renting it or buying it, then plainly you are depriving the producers of revenue. Whether you still feel justified is up to you.

But TV is free, or incrementally free once you have paid your subscription, so who does downloading hurt? Broadcasters would say the advertisers, and therefore they will almost certainly start a campaign to get TV downloading stopped, like the RIAA is doing for music.

But this is where they will make the same mistake as the RIAA. People want downloads, and they want them bad. There is a tremendous demand. So what's the sense in just stopping it? Why not find a way to profit from it?

Remember when video rentals first started? The movie industry wanted it banned. Now they make more money from rental than the box office. Eventually they had to move with the times.

So why can't the movie and TV industry just move with the times right now, rather than pick up a big stick to beat the consumer with?

Don't forget that it suits people in these positions of massive power, influence and wealth to treat the consumer as a cash cow to be kept docile and milked. Maybe the 'cash cows' ought to moo a little more aggressively in future.

So if you stop downloading just because you have been told to, nothing will change. If you keep on downloading, and use every trick possible to thwart the people who would stop you, eventually they will see the light and offer legitimate paid-for downloads. And when people are offered a service that is useful and priced appropriately, they will use it massively.

Somehow it's so obvious, but the people in control refuse to see.

By the way, if you live in the USA, you might think you get to see shows first. But if you live on the West coast, then people in Europe have already downloaded shows that were broadcast on the East coast earlier in the day!

By David Mellor Sunday February 20, 2005
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