Earlier this week, as part of PBS Mediashift‘s 2012 guide to “Cutting the Cord” one entry in the series covered the darker side of this phenomenon:
I catch my favorite shows, new and classic movies, real-time sports, and breaking news for free, on my TV, through the Internet. […] There is the legal way, and the other way. Netflix, iTunes, Blockbuster, Hulu and PlayOn are lovely services. I have never used any of them. Instead, some of us revel in the freedom and free price tag of less-than-legal downloading services and streaming sites. Ones I may or may not be utilizing at the moment: uTorrent (part of the BitTorrent family, a program for downloading copyrighted files); FirstRow Sports and Justin.tv (both great for sporting events, the first more reliable from my experience); LetMeWatchThis.ch (a streaming site popular for its catalog of both little-known and just-released mainstream movies); and Torrentz and The Pirate Bay (the best sites I’ve stumbled across that house movie files ready to download).
Of course, to those that follow this space, the text isn’t particularly dramatic or revealing. It’s quite clear a large number of folks who have the technological knowledge and wherewithal are helping themselves to content online. And as industry analyst Michael Gartenberg responded, it’s “easy to cut the cord when you’re stealing”. But I find the article most notable simply because it’s hosted by PBS – an entity that creates, licenses, and presents content. So I’d think they might have also discussed how theft potentially hurts their business or cover the approaches they’re taking to make PBS content more accessible. Rather, their editor responded to a copyright infringement remark on Twitter with, “PBS prob not worried about sharing Downton Abbey. You can watch episodes free at video.pbs.org“. Which seems to show a poor understanding of how BitTorrent functions and the limitations of PBS’ licensing – which I assume does not extend internationally.
However, PBS must have sensed something was amiss with their presentation, as the article was updated to remove much of the cited text above and a disclaimer was added. Further, I guess PBS also has second thoughts regarding people sharing Downton Abbey, as they ironically filed suit today (along with Fox and Univision) against Aereo… for unlicensed content distribution.