Is Streaming Infringing Content Still Considered Piracy?

from the just-wondering... dept

There’s been some buzz about a recent research report claiming that streaming services are popular. There have been a few such reports, and there’s not much surprising in them. They basically point out that if people can stream certain content, that’s often easier than firing up a non-user-friendly file sharing service to get the same content. But, does that necessarily lead to the conclusion pushed by many in the industry and the press that “streaming kills piracy”? Not at all. As the folks at Freakbits note, this particular study didn’t even bother to separate out authorized streaming services and unauthorized streaming services — and includes YouTube in the calculations, which (as Hollywood keeps trying to let us know) often has a fair amount of unauthorized content. So, perhaps, people are suggesting that if the content is just “streamed” it doesn’t count as “piracy.” And, as someone who doesn’t like the term “piracy” in the first place, perhaps that makes sense. But it does not appear that this is what’s being argued. Instead, people are just assuming that all streaming is authorized, when that’s hardly the case.

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Comments on “Is Streaming Infringing Content Still Considered Piracy?”

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Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

I think it’s the opposite. Streaming makes unauthorized viewing even easier.

I recently missed the beginning of the new House MD episode and, of course, Fox doesn’t let new episodes of House run on Hulu or sell on Amazon until 8 days after the original broadcast, (which means that if you miss one week, you will never be able to catch-up) so I wasn’t going to be able to watch it online either.

In the midst of finding this out (while trying to purchase it on Amazon), I found an obviously pirated stream online. The quality was good and commercials had been cut out, even. So I watched that instead of having to wait to see it with commercials.

So, in my experience, streaming video makes unauthorized viewing even EASIER because I don’t have to download anything, I don’t have to worry about seeding, or having software; I just have to click and watch.

Of course, the real lesson that execs should take from this is to offer what your consumers want so I don’t have to look for unauthorized streams online. I would have been perfectly content to watch it on Hulu with commercials, but it wasn’t offered. Sorry, Fox. You fail.

A Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The main difference here is that the person it is streamed to is less responsible than with file sharing. The intent if you’re streaming something is (for most people) obviously not to redistribute it. That would seem to put any copyright infringement solely on the person providing the stream, so it kills the avenue of suing end-viewers for copying/distributing copyrighted material. It’s like the guy who said he had modded software that didn’t seed, except even more easily shown.

kyle clements (profile) says:

If content is being made available to be streamed, I don’t see how that is any different than content being made available to be downloaded.

either way, the user is granted access to that media.

plus, streamed content is extremely easy to download, just let it load, go to your /tmp folder, and copy the video to another folder, and thats it!

Streaming is downloading, it’s just deleted by your browser when you leave the page.

(note: I’m not defending the media’s companies position and saying that streaming media is ‘wrong’, I’m just saying that I don’t see a difference between the two)

well says:

think of my downloads as a VCR recording then

well why not then add vcr functionality to the streaming after all vcrs do download a copy and then place it on the tape fo ruse ANYTIME

whats so different form someone giving a buddy a tape or a copy
see its the same old BS about downloading form the net as vcr tapes only now its on a world scale
this is what Hollywood and America gets for globalization

lets make vcr tapes illegal and see the millions of mom n pops goto prison NOW

bill c61 in Canada almost did that
and it was drafted largely form Hollywood like ACTA is

get ready everyone THE END COMES FOR HOLLYWOOD and actors and musicians that work for them better get to hiding big time

Anonymous Coward says:

Streaming is a very good way for content owners to protect their content.

First and foremost, it makes it much harder for an end user to reproduce the content for others, where as a full download would obviously be easy to move to a torrent.

Second, the quality of the stream will almost never be exactly perfect, thus any copies made in any manner will be lesser than the original.

M-H says:

Re: Re:

“Second, the quality of the stream will almost never be exactly perfect, thus any copies made in any manner will be lesser than the original.”

I do not understand how you come to that, or, assuming it is right, why it matters. I mean, yes, when you recorded from VCR, the quality plummeted. However, that has not been the case in a while. Further, if we hold that to be true, then does recording TV to Media Center cause the quality to not be perfect? And does it matter when it is by far good enough for every day viewing? How would a stream be different than that? Unless you wish to indicate they could intentionally degrade legit streams to showing a degraded format to prevent piracy, in which case, wouldn’t people simply go back to the TV records?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The point is this: Perfect digital copies lead to more perfect digital copies. Imperfect streaming (it’s is compressed, sometimes bits drop. etc) means that any copy is NOT an original. Further, if you “stream a stream”, the quality degradation becomes more and more obvious at each iteration.

Basically, streaming puts it back to the times of video tape. A copy of a copy isn’t as good as the copy, and so on until it is useless. Piracy thrives on being effectively perfect copy to copy. Removing that perfection makes capturing streaming to share a less interesting idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Streaming infringing content is infringing. Period. Call it piracy if you want, but in the end it’s copyright infringement, plain and simple. You need permission from the copyright holder to rebroadcast copyrighted content. Time shifting doesn’t qualify as rebroadcasting if the intent is just for private home use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As an additional point, youtube doesn’t infringe when infringing content is broadcast from there because youtube didn’t put that material there in the first place… esentially, youtube is acting like little else other than a relay. The infringer is the person who broadcasted the infringing content to youtube in the first place.

Jason says:

Re: Re:

Subject ambiguity – “Streaming infringing content is infringing.”

By streaming, do you mean the act of offering streaming content or the act of viewing it?

Offering streaming content is rebroadcasting, sure. Viewing streaming content is absolutely not. It was never a crime to listen to pirate radio.

The whole “You could save the file” argument is fallacious – an argument from silence. That you MIGHT save the file doesn’t make viewing and not saving it wrong.

TheStupidOne says:

Different Legal Implication

If you download an infringing file on a P2P network, the default is to share. If you download via a torrent you have to share as you are downloading. So by default if you download you are “making it available” as well.

If you stream the content, then you are not sharing and therefore not “making it available” because the traffic is only one way.

In the US nobody has ever been found liable for downloading or for viewing unauthorized content, but only for distributing it. So if you stream the content you want then while it may still be considered infringement by the content companies, the courts haven’t agreed with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

the issue is about ownership. if i watch and like film at the cinema i still buy the dvd. if i watch and like a film on tv i still buy the dvd. if the movie industry made all their catalogues available on the internet. people would still buy the dvd. if you make your films available to be seen but not owned people will still pay to get that ‘feeling of ownership’

McBeese says:

Interested in your opinions...

Streaming Internet video is a relatively new (but growing) activity.

If I own a digital copy of a movie and I stream it to myself and a couple of friends in parallel – simulating the experience of watching it with them in the same room – is that infringement? There is no file copying involved and there is no public broadcast or availability. I’ve looked through all of the fine print on movies I own and I can’t see anything that says this is a problem, as long as I avoid ‘reproducing’ or ‘public showing’.

What are your thoughts?

Kevin (profile) says:

What's the difference?

I’m curious to know what the MPAA (and RIAA) would think about loaning a DVD or CD to my brother. Then my neighbor. Then my neighbor on the other side of me. Then to (eventually) everyone on the block. Oh, and all my family.

Have I infringed? Are those viewings “piracy?” As the above-mentioned organizations count them, probably. Especially when they jack up their bogus numbers of “sales lost to piracy.” But technically, I haven’t broken any law that I know of.

Now what’s the difference with streaming my movie collection over the internet?

McBeese says:

Re: What's the difference?

@Kevin – That’s my question too. If I invite 4 people to watch a DVD with me in my house, is that infringement in the eyes of the MPAA? What about if I invite 50 people into my house to watch it with me?

Now consider the same example, but make the location a public place, like a bar. Does that change anything? What about if I let any 4 or any 50 people watch it with me in the bar? Does that change anything?

It’s all very unclear to me, even for DVDs. Where are the lines? Is it quantity of people? Public versus private? I have no idea.

Michael Copeland says:


I wanted to elaborate. There was a movie aired many years ago, it was released on dvd but much of the movie was cut out due to permission only given to show on cable and not DVD. There is no possible way I can get that movie on DVD the way I saw it as a child, I guess the right thing to do would be to buy the movie, and then copy the original aired show.

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