BitTorrent lures Australia back to its convict roots

Asher Moses, Australian broadcasters are mistaken if they believe that it's possible to quell TV show piracy purely by launching iTunes-like video download services. Such a venture would flop faster than a Vanilla Ice comeback album, opines Asher Moses.

According to Envisional, a web monitoring company, Australians are responsible for 15.6 percent of all online TV piracy, bested only by Britain, which accounts for 38.4 percent. The US lags behind in third position at 7.3 percent. These figures are alarming on their own, but become far scarier when one considers that Australia is home to almost 20 million people, whilst Britain's population is closer to 60 million. As a result, our TV piracy per capita is -- according to Envisional -- the highest in the world.

The most popular pirate TV program is 24, but hit shows The Simpsons, The O.C., Desperate Housewives and Lost all rank highly on the list.

There are a number of proposed solutions to the piracy pandemic, one of which involves broadcasters creating iTunes-like online stores, where users can purchase footage of their favourite shows on a per-episode basis. This may prove successful in the US since the convenience of being able to download shows for playback on your own schedule is worth the small fee, but it'll never work in Australia.

The reason is simple -- few Net-savvy users are willing to wait months on end for popular US shows to hit our shores. This, not convenience, is the main factor enticing fans to pirate their TV shows online. From the average viewer's perspective, the prospect of downloading an episode of your favourite TV show from a fast BitTorrent link less than half an hour after it's aired in the US is far more attractive than paying money for the privilege six months down the track, where the content's portability is likely to be hobbled by a cryptic DRM scheme anyway.

Australian broadcasters need to embrace globalisation and realise that, in an Internet age where consumers are used to immediate satisfaction, releasing shows months after they air in the US just won't cut it. Nor will trying to pry consumers over to a paid-for online download service that suffers from similar delays. If we're able to watch live feeds of worldwide sporting events at virtually the same time as the rest of the world, why should we put up with such long delays for TV shows?

The above is less pertinent to purchasing tracks from the iTunes music store -- which has proven successful in Australia -- because the aforementioned lead-time doesn't affect music releases on anywhere near the same scale as it does TV shows and movies. Downloading tracks from iTunes is so easy and inexpensive that the allure of piracy isn't nearly as strong.

It's time for broadcasters to get with the program (no pun intended) and revise their archaic scheduling methods, or risk more viewers deflecting to BitTorrent services for their TV fix. What's more, the rapid uptake of media centre PCs will only speed up this process should broadcasters remain idle.

Would you use a local video download service to pay for your favourite TV shows, given the current broadcasting climate? Have your say below!

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jc posted a comment   

Well as an ameican i have found they aussies do have some great shows of their own down under like stingers, all saints and sea patrol man i sure wished i could be able to watch them all for free on hulu or some other online website without paying or downloading. does anyone know where i could. i can never seen to get bit torrent to work so i can download them anyways.


Anon posted a comment   

I downloaded all of South Park and I still bought the all the available DVD boxsets.


Ben posted a comment   

Downloading video content is a grey area for me, so i distinguish it by only downloading free-to-air content available either free in america or free here. Also, if they are straight to dvd releases, i don't download them but rent them. I don't download music or movies either. But free tv is free, and more than 2 1/2 years later than this article was written, the networks are still treating viewers with contempt. I fully support free tv piracy, especially in Australia with the state of our free to air networks.


dave posted a comment   

is it piracy with tv shows that are free too air? people have the rights to record them, they are not being sold its a gray area, its an issue of equality of information if people dont have access to good tv shows hell yeah there are going to download them. but of course this doesnt apply to movies or music or any other material that must be bought free to air tv shows should be avaliable for download.


connie posted a comment   

I tried to use BitTorrent and it won't let me. Its says US Only. I am from Australia.
Whats the go?
someone please help me out!!!


felltimber posted a comment   

You are wrong. Its not anymore in Oz. The law changed in 2005. Its called time shifting. Details at the govt. web pages. If you tape a show you are legally allowed to watch it once and then it must be deleted....that's called time shifting. It cannot be lent to a third party either. Still stupid, but legally you can tape TV in Oz.


sry posted a comment   

actually it is illegal to tape shows


wodonga posted a comment   

I understand why downloading movies is illegal but why TV? You can record it legally but not download it....the product is still the same....stupid system. And TV channels themselves offer many shows for download....what if you miss a free to air TV show that you could have leagally downloaded? Surely you can go to the stations web site and download it...or any site for that matter....they are free to air for goodness sake!


rosros posted a comment   

I certainly wouldn't object to paying for episodes of tv programs.
A lot of people use bit torrents to download episodes they have missed on tv. You can't ring up channel 7 and ask to pay for a copy of that episode, so what other option is there.


The_Fiddler posted a comment   

I don't think we should have to pay at all for somethign that will be shown free-to-air. There should be a free, legal downloading service that has embedded ads (Some web-series are already doing this) as money for TV programs comes from ads.

By embedded, I don't mean ads in between like normal TV, cause they will just get cut out, but embedded over the bottom of the actual program. Code Monkeys does this quite well.

If that option was available, I would use it.

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