Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Is Downloading TV Shows Legal?

from the good-question... dept

Salon is running a piece on how many people are sharing and downloading TV shows using tools like BitTorrent, some going a bit further than the original broadcatching concept to create applications, like Buttress designed specifically as an RSS aggregator for BitTorrented TV shows. The article delves into one interesting issue that not too many people have discussed: is downloading a publicly broadcasted TV show illegal? As the article notes, it would be very difficult to show any kind of "harm" from such a download. Obviously, sharing premium content shows is a different issue, but what if someone already subscribes to the premium station in question? The real issue is that the TV industry suddenly has less control. There is also the fact that with the way BitTorrent works, anyone downloading a show is also automatically uploading a show -- but, again, this is a situation where the entertainment industry appears to be shooting themselves in the foot. For years, they've tried to come up with systems for TV-on-demand, and here's a way that users have figured out how to do it for them. The people downloading TV shows via BitTorrent are watching more TV, which should be good for the industry. Unfortunately, the industry still only thinks in terms of how much they control, rather than how much they can serve the needs of their viewers. It's amazing that the industry is so good at missing every opportunity that seems to come its way. Unfortunately, the industry also seems to view intellectual property law as a way of protecting business models, rather than protecting content. That they can't see a new opportunity staring them in the face speaks volumes about the sorts of "business" minds running the entertainment industry.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Someone, 11 Aug 2004 @ 4:37am

    But what about the ads?

    The whole point of broadcasting "free" TV is to get people to watch ads. However, most shared online content has been stripped of the ads. I don't think that the industry is too happy about that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    thecaptain, 11 Aug 2004 @ 5:20am

    Re: But what about the ads?

    True...however it IS legal for me to tape a show to my VCR and strip the commercials while taping.

    I guess it depends on if you interpret "downloading" as time-shifting or distribution.

    Of course if someone shares, say, an AVI of a Simpson's episode on Kazaa then it IS copyright infringement as they are "re-broadcasting" without a specific license to do so, with or without commercials (as having the commercials does not in and of itself give you license to distribute copyrighted media).

    But what I wonder is, if its legal for ME as a user to receive the broadcast, ie: download it. If a TV station broadcasts a show illegally and I tape it, sure, the station as a distributor is in trouble, but am I for having taped it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    jim stephens, 11 Aug 2004 @ 9:19am

    Downloading from has a download facility that is in use at
    least on the Jimmy Kimmel Live site on

    I was a the show Monday when Lenny Kravitz played,
    and they allowed immediate download of the show
    after the broadcast.

    You do have to use a driver from ABC to get to the
    video, but it is downloaded to your machine, not
    web or stream fed to you


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2004 @ 1:24pm

    Re: But what about the ads?

    True...however it IS legal for me to tape a show to my VCR and strip the commercials while taping.
    It may not be legal for much longer. The broadcast industry if pushing for laws to make it llegal to sell recording devices in the future than can skip commercials.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Ghost, 15 Aug 2004 @ 11:48pm

    Forget the ads?

    We pay for our sat tv & cable tv & as far as I am concerned, when I write that check to those vampire companies, as far a I am concerned the media is now mine & I feel no shame or anything, but I do not share it, but I do not see any harm in sharing something that you paid for. Big Brother & his croneys think they can control everything & everybody & I for one is very sick of it. They are chasing after media downloaders like there criminals, but what makes the uploader different then the cop that goes home & records the big football game & then shares it with his buddy, then gives it to his brother? theres no difference in my eyes. I just think that the time & money they are spending tracking down little teenage kids in there room downloading shows & music is a big waste. They need to be fighting drug sales on the street (or)Duh! maybe fight terror attacks, you know actually do there job. I just think sometimes this world is such a joke, It sometimes makes me sick to my stomache how rediculous these idiots on top is and they need to stick to doing what they know best & that is stealing money from us tax payers & being politic freaks. All of this started when dummy Bush was elected and it just tickles me when I see people cheering for this dummy, when he has took most of our jobs and sent them out of our country, people Mr.Bush is not helping us he's hurting us. When Clinton was in the tech jobs were everywhere and then comes Big Tex(BUSH)and now the Tech Jobs hardly still exist. I say download & upload all you want as long as your not hurting anyone. If you pay for the channel, as far as I am concerned then the signal is yours and if the Big Boys don't like what I say,oh well! Life is much to short to not be doing things that make you happy, expecially now at this time of president dooms office, So lets all do exactly what the (beep) we want. The Matrix Is Alive & Running!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Pippin, 2 Oct 2006 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Forget the ads?

    There is a home video recording act of 1992 that allows the subscriber to own a copy of anything that they have seen or have the capability to see on TV. SO VHS recording are legal. In the 80s there was a squabble over the recording as the industry, much to its dismay, thought they were going to be ripped off by this. However, people still subscribe to TV, like myself, even though they download, like myself. The industry is losing nothing by us downloading. I watch House and then standoff every tuesday and go out and download the episodes right afterwards using Azureus. Where is the loss of money in that? I also own the DVDs to house season 1 and 2 as well as hard copies on my computer which i am entitled to under the same home and video recording act. As long as we are not sharing to someone who has no subscription service then technically the television broadcast companies are not being ripped of in anyway, shape or form.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.