Break This Bad

May 6, 2010

The Digital Economy Bill was passed a couple of weeks ago by the British Parliament, calling for the suspension of Internet service for those who illegally download copyrighted material and hefty fines for those who host that material. The bill is already under much scrutiny, just like the bill that became U.S. law in late 2008. Like that legislation, the British legislation includes stiff fines, violators being disconnected from the Internet and reliance on Internet service providers to enforce anti-piracy laws, rather than law enforcement. There is a lot of concern being expressed from Internet pirates about this law, for fear that many other countries will follow suit.

I recently had an experience that could have deemed me guilty of piracy. It was the night the seventh episode of the critically acclaimed TV drama, Breaking Bad. I sat down minutes before the show was to begin, and to my dismay, the host network (AMC) was not part of my newly purchased satellite package. Instead of sulking, drinking a beer and flipping to a mediocre channel, I put on an eye patch, strapped on a wooden leg and sailed the Internet in hopes of locating a link to stream Breaking Bad.

My pirate fascination immediately came to an end as I saw Tweets rolling through Google like wildfire.

“Best TV series ever”

“OH MY GOD”

“WOW! Dare I say better than LOST?”

“Stream Breaking Bad S03E07 here”

Eureka! This was exactly what I wanted!

The Internet geeks who captured and uploaded the episode just minutes after it aired, along with  the other Internet geeks who Tweeted about where I could view it, saved my life. Damn the legal system; you are a blessing to a TV junkie. I do not frown upon your potential violations of anti-piracy laws. I support your dissemination of copyrighted material and directions on how to access it. You truly helped me out of a bind.

All that said, here’s my opinion: if the film, television and music industries want to earn income at the expense of my ability to watch a show just after it’s aired, they need to drastically update their business models to account for web-savvy consumers. The word of mouth created by allowing Internet users access to entertainment media for free creates far more value than the traditional advertising spend.

If you’re a pirate or someone who has benefited from a pirate, do you agree with the laws currently in place to protect big Hollywood at your expense?