The genie’s not getting back in its bottle

have an extremely interesting article about downloading TV programmes. It references Battlestar Galactica, which aired in the UK 3 months before the US. The programme had been captured and loaded up on the web within a few hours of being broadcast, where many US-based viewers would download. According to the rhetoric from the entertainment industry, this should have damaged the US viewing figures? Not at all:

While you might assume the SciFi Channel saw a significant drop-off in viewership as a result of this piracy, it appears to have had the reverse effect: the series is so good that the few tens of thousands of people who watched downloaded versions told their friends to tune in on January 14th, and see for themselves.

The BBC may have been subject to a similar effect after the first episode of Doctor Who got leaked; the first screening drew far higher figures than was expected.

But media companies continue to try and clamp down on this, tying things up with DRM and lawsuits. Control is the aim, with content only allowed to be experienced in the way the controllers want it to be – offical channels, this edit, this way only of seeing or hearing. No creativity allowed here, at least not by anyone who does not attmept to joint he club. So the crackdown on filesharing sites, or on the technology that allows the files to spread. It’s an arms race…and the entertainment companies are not sure of a victory.

The BBC have 2 stories about how the genie is still out, roaming out of its bottle and never looking like it will go back in. The first is of a predictable example – The Revenge of the Sith has and is available on the internet for download. It appears that this is a leak from Lucasfilm, not a copy taken from a screening.

The second is less predictable – the pirated streaming of football games. There’s a strange situation (to me anyway) of football matches not been shown live on TV on a Saturday afternoon, because it may harm attendence figures. So they are recorded and shown later. But they are often shown live abroad. Some enterprising fans capture the overseas feed and stream it live across the web for people to watch – and charge for the priveledge. The FA and Premier League have been shutting down sites that offer the stream but are now talkign about lawsuits. I think they’re missing a trick – people are willing to pay for this, so why not join in and offer it? But then again they would be guaranteed the £1.5bn in revenue from broadcasting rights.

As Mindjack suggestes, there’s no going back – we need to work witht he technology and not against it.

Update: I write that, and then I find this from Wired – the ‘personalisation’ of DVDs. So, you buy a DVD, you get fingerprinted at the store and an RFID tag is updated, and then going forward only you can unlock the content via a player which accepts the same kind of identification. So no lending it out to friends, so watching ti anywhere else except on a player that reads the tag, no inheriting you fathers wnormous collection of DVDs inthe futur – once you’re gone, no-one else can touch them!

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