I remember reading recently about how to use the web to never miss a TV show and having managed to miss a couple of the surprisingly few TV shows I watch, I wondered if someone offered them via BitTorrent (they didn’t). Not so long ago I mentioned my idea for building my own PVR (or something similar), using an old machine of mine. I haven’t got there yet, but I was thinking it would be nice to record the shows I watch, whether I was watching them or not and then offer them up via torrent for anyone who did miss them. Then the nagging thought of copyright theft and piracy stormed to the forefront and questions about the legalities of the situation reared their ugly head.
Now, I have no wish to do someone out of their livelihood, I have no desire to destroy an industry and make it impossible to bring through new talent. I doubt my, or anyone else’s efforts, could do all that, but neither do I wish to be taken to court over copyright infringement, which is decidedly more likely. So, could I record a TV show then host a torrent for other people to download? I imagine a situation where I would only host it for a relatively short period of time, until the next show, for example, possibly a whole 30 days. Now, there are some legal issues with recording and storing things on tape for any duration (I think technically you are only allowed to store a TV show for 30 days and watch it once before you have to erase it). It’s considerably harder to police that though, short of dropping in to people’s houses to see what they have there, the manpower costs would kill you and it wouldn’t be worth it. Neither are you sharing it particularly, you may lend the tape to a friend who missed it, but you’re not making it available to people all around the world to get in a few hours. Nor are you making copies of the tape for them (which is what a fully downloaded copy amounts to).
This is where the copyright waters become a little murky. For soap operas or continually running series you may be alright. They’re not about to release Eastenders or Coronation Street on DVD (with three episodes a week they’d be releasing one every fortnight). More and more TV shows, both one-offs and series, are being released on DVD however (says the man who recently bought both Pride and Prejudice and North and South). In that instance there is a distinct argument that you could be impacting sales and, therefore, liable for any loss of earnings. The same could be said about books. There seems to be no problem with loaning people your books to read, but scan all the content and stick it online for anyone to read and you’re in trouble. The time involved in converting a book into electronic form is fairly high, which tends to discourage this practice anyway, but the same isn’t true about other media forms (and may well not be should e-books and e-paper take off).
I guess I need to look into this a little more.