Monday, March 05, 2012

Ahoy, Matey (Or Why Television Cannot Be Pirated)

 I pirated this picture!

Quick: when I say piracy, what is the first thing to come to mind?

Is it...

...a.) Johnny Depp and a scurvy ridden band of miscreants fighting magical creatures while cracking wise?

...b.) Somalian thugs attacking Mitt Romney's yacht during a pleasure cruise to the Seychelles?

...c.) A 42-year old mother of three sitting at her laptop watching Grey's Anatomy?

I'll admit up front that I am taking somewhat of a Devil's Advocate position here.  I am not hard and fast on piracy as it is defined today (which would be as "c" in case you were wondering), and I understand that simply applying 30 to 250 year old legal standards to today is not always apples to apples.  It is, however, still fruit to fruit. And while I do not believe this to be a settled issue or think that my argument is anything like the last word, I do, however, strongly believe there are instances where downloading content is legal and moral.  It is not only of no harm to rights holders in many cases, it's actually beneficial to them in the long run.  It's not all instances, nor maybe is it even most.  But it is also nothing like as cut and dried as when I hear someone say it's never okay.

While some courts have held people to be in violation of the law for downloading, very few, if any, of these rulings have been over the downloading of television content as I am about to describe it.  And these types of rulings have been varied and inconsistent in any case, with none of these recent attempts at solving this legal issue going so far as to contradict and/or outweigh the long established Supreme Court legal precedent regarding television.

I should also admit upfront that I am not a lawyer or a scholar.  I do not believe I know for a fact that everything I am about to cite is the God's honest truth from on high.  I could be misinterpreting case law wildly, in which case I would expect nothing less than for Justice John Roberts to leave me a comment below letting me know where I have gone wrong (or at least for "NotKevinSmith69" to tear me a new one). But like any self important pundit, I am making this argument in good faith and to the best of my abilities.  I am making what I consider to be a moral argument rather than a purely legal one, but I am using legal guidelines from the Supreme Court and several founding fathers to guide and support my position.  I do understand there have been attempts to reverse and rework the precepts I will cite here, but at the moment there is long established precedent still in force regarding the recording and subsequent use of televised content.
I will use two guidelines.  One is the ruling on use and misuse of copyrighted material as settled by the Supreme Court during the VCR days (and then later affirmed during the recent DVR battles), which is:

The Supreme Court, reversing a 1981 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of  Appeals, held that home taping did not infringe on the copyright law unless the copied material was used for a "commercial or profit-making purpose." 

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the five-member majority, concluded that noncommercial home taping fell within the so-called "fair use" exception to copyright laws. The doctrine permitted the limited use of copyrighted materials.

Stevens focused part of his opinion on the legality of "time-shifting," or the recording of programs for later viewing. "Time-shifting," he said, "merely enables a viewer to see such a work which he had been invited to witness in its entirety free of charge."

The key legal points underlying everything I am about to argue come from that ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the recording and using or sharing of copyrighted material is legal so long as there is no attempt to use the material for commercial purposes.  Also, television was held to be an entirely free product.  The first part of the ruling is the main point and is important, but that last bit in bold is especially relevant today, as there has been a big P.R. push recently to shame people into believing television isn't free; that it is rather part of an implicit contract between the networks and the viewer for them to provide content in exchange for you watching commercials and/or purchasing DVDs. As you can see from the Supreme Court ruling, this argument is total bullshit.

What concerns me and prompted me to write this is that it feels as if increasingly the industry's flacks are able to sit back while people who should know better, such as television critics and other media members, are now helping them to spread this bogus view of an implicit contract between viewers and content providers. This diatribe began as ridiculously long comment that I was inspired to write after reading a piece on this subject by my favorite television writer, Todd VanDerWerf from the AV Club. I don't mention this because I want to single out Todd, however, because his opinion was almost dead on balls accurate.  When I wrote this I wasn't really addressing Todd's concerns at all; I was merely spouting off on a general shift I have noticed among TV writers regarding the issue of "piracy." Reading Todd's piece (while admittedly home recuperating from surgery and slightly hopped up on meds) merely produced some sort of internal tipping point that made me want to spout off.  But I wasn't spouting off at Todd, who made many valid points that I agree with and will be making myself here in just a moment.  I was simply spouting off in general, as the internet makes it all to easy to do.

So this piece began with my hijacking a message board and spouting off at the world in general, as so often happens when we are home alone and bummed out.  But the points I want to make are more specifically directed not at the world or the media conglomerates who are trying to hold back the ocean with a cheese grater, but rather at what I see as the increasing number of television critics and observers who have now begun to buy into this "implicit contract" argument regarding commercials and DVD sales that is being argued so vociferously by those media conglomerates.  These massive companies want to alter copyright law so that it protects not the content itself or society as a whole, as it was intended for, but so that it creates new limitations for consumers so as to artificially create new markets for themselves. They want copyright law to be a business tool that increases their bottom line rather than a legal standard that benefits society.   But the Supreme Court has so far never bought into this argument, and neither should you.

Which brings me to my second bit of Supreme Court-ese, which is this point articulated by Justice Stephen Breyer when addressing the intentions of copyright law, which intentions Justice Breyer believed James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Congress and the Supreme Court had long ago established the purpose of:

Congress and the Court have both made it clear in the past that copyright is for the benefit of the public, and not solely to grant rights to authors. The granting of monopolies to authors is the method by which the public might benefit, but not the purpose of copyright law 

In other words, a copyright is not now, nor has it ever been, considered a legal method for copyright holders to make money in perpetuity under any and all circumstances.  It's a temporary covenant for the purpose of enriching society, rather than a permanent stance simply intended to enrich rights holders.  This is the reason that most copyrights were originally not permanent and could only be renewed for a finite period of time.  Early on during the development of copyright protection James Madison wrote that copyright law was necessary but only "in certain cases... with caution and guarded with strictness against abuse".

Madison and Jefferson were concerned with the stifling of free expression, and they felt that copyright law could be used to keep important ideas out of public discourse by limiting their availability. They felt that content creators certainly deserved compensation for their work, but they were concerned that there was a point where compensation could override the public interest.

Of course, neither Jefferson nor Madison were talking about The Real Housewives of Colonial Virginia. But no distinction was made between art, serious thought or frivolous entertainment, of which there has always been an abundant supply.  Just because there was no television back then, or just because you might wrongly believe there was no pure, mindless entertainment during colonial times, that doesn't mean that the founding fathers were attempting to protect only "important" content.  It was the public's place to make those distinctions, which was the entire reason behind why content should be widely available to all. It was up to each and every individual to judge the merits of content for themselves, rather than for a central authority to decide that one thing was important and should be easily accessible, while another thing was drivel and should therefore be more difficult to access. This was part and parcel with all the precepts of freedom and democracy which they believed in, and so they believed in erring on the side of caution. Copyrights of any kind should be granted with consideration and limited scope so as to benefit society first, rights holders second.

It's only been with the rise of the type of big money associated with modern entertainment content (the type of big money that can influence elections) that the laws have been altered to expand and extend copyrights for the benefits not of society but of rights holders.  There is no Philosophical Copyright Lobby attempting to preserve centuries old legal philosophy on copyright law, but there are numerous media lobbies which have been successfully chip-chip-chipping away at that long established copyright law.  Legal scholars as diverse as Justice Breyer and Justice Alito, however, have found grave problems with this modern viewing of copyright law and the changes that view has produced.  And while those concerns are still being played out in the Congress and the courts of this country, to this day the protections offered to televised content are still very limited and much different than that of any other type of content.  The more modern business oriented interpretations of copyright law that the media companies would like to promote as the norm do not apply to most television.  The Supreme Court ruling from the 80's was basically affirmed in the 2000's in the Cablevision DVR suit, and so the rights for television viewers are much greater than many would have you believe. Despite the continued expansion of copyright law, television is still considered, for the most part, free and covered under the original ruling by the Court that gave viewers the right to record and use televised content for all but commercial purposes.

All of this is why I consider television to be, for the most part, unpirate-able (ahh, blogging, where you can make up your own words willy-nilly). But as I began this all with Todd's article, let's now talk about what he actually talked about, which was the one type of television that I do believe to be protected.

I do consider the downloading of a show from, say, HBO, a pay-only network, to be against these rules as established by the Supreme Court, which is why I have rarely done it.  If there is one form of television that is not free, it's premium cable, which is why I elect instead to subscribe to this type of network when I wish to watch one of its shows, as I have done with HBO itself for nearly 20 years, or as I did with STARZ during the time when it aired Torchwood, or as I even did with IFC just so I could watch the Independent Spirit Awards.  I could have downloaded those shows just as easily as I download Parks and Rec when I miss an episode and forget to DVR it, but I chose not to do so because I did not believe it to be the right thing to do. I do admit that I have downloaded the occasional Deadwood episode when it wasn't available on HBO-on-Demand, but I think that to be a truly venal sin rather than a mortal one, as I am already an HBO subscriber who pays for that content each and every month.

But that's premium cable, which I admit wholeheartedly is different from all other television.  There is a gateway to premium television that exists nowhere else on TV, and that gateway is something the Supreme Court didn't address in its original ruling (what with cable television in its infancy then), but that gateway is a barrier to entry that all the courts in the land have held to be something that legally separates most other content (such as movies, records, computer software, books, etc) from television as defined in those VCR/DVR rulings. Free television is fair game, while anything with a barrier to entry is not.

So, while I can play pretend constitutional scholar and debate the intents of copyright law in its entirety all day long (and, boy, don't you wish I would?), let's get to the damn point here.  The one place I really seem to radically differ from arguments being made by many commenters at the AV Club and elsewhere is on what the definition of "free" TV really means, which I feel I am using correctly as a legal definition that was long ago settled by the courts of this country and articulated by Justice John Paul Stevens in the above excerpt. Anything without that barrier to entry is, by definition, free.  And anything free is not only worth what you paid for it, it's yours to pretty much do with as you please so long as you do not attempt to use it commercially.

But let's move beyond the cherry picking of legal rulings that I feel back me up and get to the nuts and bolts of what the legal and moral realities of the situation are. Because it may seem crazy to you that something a content provider spends millions of dollars to produce, such as House or Lost, is not covered by the same protections as a music recording made in a band's garage for a few thousand dollars. Why would the Supreme Court protect something with so little investment over something so expensive to produce?

The answer lies in that barrier to entry, and with how each type of content is originally distributed.  If, say, Weezer were to break into every house in America and leave everyone a copy of their latest album, no one would think Weezer would have any right to control what people do with that album. Everyone in America would already have free access to that Weezer album anyway thanks to Weezer's own method of distribution, so there would be no harm to Weezer if it were copied and distributed as freely as they originally distributed it.

So it is with televised content.

The point here is that non premium network broadcasts are inherently not covered by any sort of "implied covenant." You are not now, nor have you ever been, required to do anything to receive this type of televised content, which enters your home 24 hours a day without your requesting it. As you are not required to give your consent for it to reach into your home, and as it reaches you through the use of public utilities, there is no legal encumbrance placed on you should you decide to consume it.  It isn't even a requirement or expectation that you have to watch the commercials in order to watch a television show.  Yes, commercials pay for the programming (although not exclusively anymore, as revenue streams have multiplied greatly thanks to that same digital media which media companies are so eager to restrict, while at the same time ad revenues have not dipped commensurately to match lowered average "live" viewing levels), but actually watching the commercials is not a legal requirement to consume, nor has it ever has been.

Perhaps even more important from a moral perspective is that your viewing or not viewing the commercials is not now, nor has it ever been, a factor in a network's revenue because the networks do not directly measure viewing. Even if you felt a moral obligation to repay a content provider for the free television you receive, you could not do so. Whether you watch the commercials or not, if you are not a part of the woeful Nielsen ratings "family" that the networks use to "measure" viewing, the networks and advertisers have no way of accounting for whether you watch their commercials or not.  If you do watch the commercials it doesn't make any money for the networks, and they lose no money if you don't.

This fine point has nothing to do with modern digital technology either, as we have been able to flip during shows for 40 years now.  We can also legally zoom past them during later time shifting, which again was something that was settled as our legal right during the VCR legal battles over 30 years ago. And, of course, long before the remote control or the VCR were invented, commercials were the time for a universal bathroom break in this country.  Not only has watching commercials never been a legal requirement, it's never even been something that networks ever expected you to definitely do while viewing their content.  In fact, only recently has it even been possible to measure commercial viewing through that Nielsen system.  And even now that measurement is of an extremely small subset of viewers which most analysts believe is inaccurate and not representative of viewers as a whole.

A DVR may be more convenient than a VCR, but the legal concept of ignoring commercials hasn't changed from bathroom breaks to remote controls to VCRs to DVRs.  Long established law has been giving the consumer the right to watch or not watch over the air programming in any manner they see fit for decades now, with no restrictions set by the courts other than the fact that you are forbidden to record the content and then use it to make money through sale or rebroadcast.  What is happening now is that copyright holders are trying to change long established copyright standards, and they are trying to change them so as to contradict the original purpose of copyright law in the first place.  They are attempting to change copyright law so that its main purpose is to benefit the copyright holder rather than society, and they are doing so in order to preserve what are alternate and unrelated forms of distribution (such as DVDs, which are on death's doorstep and will likely be dead completely by the time this legal issue is settled definitively one way or the other).

These alternate forms of distribution have nothing to do with the rights of the public when it comes to long established broadcast or copyright law.  In other words, DVDs are a separate thing from broadcast television and not an inherent right imbued upon broadcast rights holders.  DVDs do not take precedent over the original free broadcast and the general public's protection under the fair use doctrine.  DVDs are an add on for rights holders, but they hold no established legal sway over what the Supreme Court ruled regarding viewer rights during the legal battles on this issue during the 80's, and then again just a few years ago in the Cablevision DVR suit.  If content providers wanted to legally protect DVD sales, then content providers would have to forgo free public broadcasting and release their content solely through the sale of DVDs.

Content providers, of course, do not do any such thing. Instead they use the public airwaves (or the cable equivalent, which we all pay for twice, by the way) to freely distribute their content, and so the courts held that anything going out freely over these public airwaves is legally fair game for the public. Television content is, by every definition of the word, free, both legally and morally. You can record these broadcasts and share them to your heart's content according to the Supreme Court. The copyright law, as it was originally intended, is on the side of the public here, not the rights holders.

As I mentioned above in my imaginary example of The Public v. Weezer, the legal question in these types of arguments is always harm. So even though I already think I have put myself in the clear legally and morally thanks to James Madison and the US Supreme Court, let's talk about harm.

If I tape or DVR a television show and do not watch the commercials, or if I flip and do not watch the commercials, or if I go take a piss and do not watch the commercials, is that legal and expected by the copyright holder?  Yes, it is.  This is a fact of their business, and one which they cannot even account for as they do not actually measure how many people watch or how they watch.  Nielsen Ratings are a business tool, not a legal one.  Ratings cannot be used to legally prove anything regarding what each individual end user does or does not do with the end product.  Just because networks have made a pact with advertisers to accept Nielsen ratings, there is no legal ruling that holds the public responsible for that pact. So downloading that same content and watching it without the commercials is effectively the same thing as taping or DVRing as far as harm goes, so long as the content was originally broadcast on what the Supreme Court defined as "free TV."

What rights holders are trying to do now from a legal perspective is reverse this precedent and claim that once the airing of a show ends, you can only watch it for free if you previously recorded it yourself (and you should be aware they attempted and failed to prevent you from being able to actually legally record things yourself when both the VCR and DVR were invented, and the Supreme Court shot them down both times).

This new argument the rights holders are making flies in the face of established law and is morally null.  As I said, they have options to protect themselves from public use of their product under the fair use doctrine by not releasing their product for free in the first place.  But they choose not to take advantage of that protection.  They'd rather that new laws and new protections be enacted in order to allow them to double dip from the public well with their bucket of product.  They want to make money off the public airwaves first, then have their content restricted so as to make money again in the form of alternate means of distribution, such as DVDs.

Why don't I just bend over right now and eliminate the middle man?

Pirating other stuff is entirely different.  When I talk about "fair use" as defined by the Supreme Court, I'm not talking about movies or even premium cable, both of which are not broadcast for free into every home in America.  Movies are not remotely free at any time, at least until they air for free over the TV "airwaves," and so I find the pirating of movies to be wrong, and the courts have backed that opinion up.  I've done it a few times, as I am no saint, but I haven't done it often, nor do I think I had any right to do it the few times I did. I'm not about to make any excuses or complex arguments to justify my pirating a copy of Generic Movie I'm Not About Name For Fear of an MPAA Letter. There was at least some harm when I downloaded that movie, because the only legal way it was available to me was either by my going to a theater or renting or buying the DVD. My downloading a movie directly cost someone else money. That is the very definition of the word "harm," and that is an entirely different category from free television.

Pay cable, as I mentioned before, is much the same, although when I say "pay cable," I am not talking about "basic cable."  As the industry itself does for profit, you have to separate cable into tiers, with basic cable essentially being considered the same as broadcast television, as both broadcast networks and basic cable networks are using publicly paid for and/or subsidized utilities to broadcast directly into your home without your consent.  On top of that, basic cable networks actually receive our money in a direct way that the broadcast networks do not.  The basic cable nets receive our money through cable fees that we must pay whether we watch their shows or not.  While HBO and it's like also use a publicly subsidized utility in order to reach our televisions, they only actually reach us directly if we consent.  And, unlike the basic cable networks, true pay cable networks like HBO do not receive a fee from us unless we specifically volunteer it.

Meanwhile, TNT or USA or the other basic cable nets get money from cable companies on a "per subscriber" basis, and that cost is then passed along to each and every cable customer whether or not an individual subscriber wants those networks or not.  So if the broadcast nets are legally pirate-able according to the Supreme Court, then the basic cable nets are doubly so.  Not only do they broadcast ostensibly "for free," according to the Supreme Court's definition, but then they reach into our pockets without our consent via the cable companies.

These basic cable fees are anathema to capitalism, by the way.  TNT doesn't have to be a good business and appeal to me in order to attract my custom, because I have to pay for TNT's existence whether I watch TNT or not.  If I want six cable networks, I am forced to pay for sixty.

So if I want to download Rizzoli & Isles, fuck TNT.  

(Incidentally, this is why all the networks and cable and satellite companies are fighting "a la carte" programming like it was the devil himself coming for them.  Allowing consumers to pick and choose which networks they want to come into their homes, and therefore which networks would receive their money, puts the basic cable networks one step closer to their broadcast ancestors, and they are in no way interested in that ever happening.  They do not want anything like real competition or consumer choice. So they not only do not want you to record and share the programming they stream into your home "for free," they want you to pay for that "free" programming whether or not you ever watch it.  This is a big reason why media conglomerates trying to take the moral high ground on television piracy or any other argument is laughable, and why media commentators can cry me a river when they talk about piracy and television .)

(Also, I wouldn't download or watch Rizzoli & Isles unless my nuts were on fire and the show were water.)

So basic cable shows also fall under the same established laws that were defined after the invention of the VCR.  They are streaming into my house "for free" under the Supreme Court's definition, so there is no reason we cannot tape or DVR those shows just like we would a broadcast show, skipping the commercials upon time shifting them, just as our Supreme Court has held that we have the complete legal right to do so.

So how does this play into piracy?  Well, all of these examples and arguments and rants are to point up how there is no financial link between our watching television and media companies making money.  This sounds nonsensical on its face, but I didn't invent the television industry.  I neither forced them to broadcast for free, nor did I compel them to generate income by using an advertising system that is completely divorced from whether or not I view those advertisements.  But since my viewing or not viewing anything they send into my home for free has zero effect on them positively or negatively, then my downloading a show the next day is not materially different from a legal  or moral perspective when it comes to harm. There is no extra penalty paid by these networks from my downloading their show rather than watching it live or via time shifting, so there is no legal, moral or logical reason for me not download a free TV show whenever I see fit.

They broadcast free to the world in a manner that allows for the legal recording of their programs and the elimination of their commercials, as said right was defined by the Supreme Court, and then they receive remunerations based on a jury rigged system that cuts out the consumers as a factor.

It's their world, folks, and we are only living in it.

Despite all of this blather, I actually do not download much or often, and I almost never download anything not available to me for free in the first place.  About the only time I ever do download television and consider it to be perhaps immoral and/or possibly illegal is when a show such as Sherlock or Dr. Who airs in England six months before it airs here and I do not want to wait.  I know this doesn't happen with Dr. Who anymore; it's just an example.  But, yes, I admit that I cannot help myself and I have downloaded those shows prior to their American TV debuts.  It's technically not right to do so, as the show has yet to air for free in my living room,  but I can again make the same argument that there is no real harm here.  I merely downloaded early something I could later see over the air. And it is still true that whether or not I download it early or wait and watch it on BBC America, my viewing is still not being counted either way.  Nothing is lost by the BBC if I download it, nor is anything gained if I wait and watch on BBC America, because they do not count my viewing.

Again, I'm getting off on a tangent here just as I should be wrapping it up.  But it's a blog, so what the fuck...

The rights holder here, the BBC, does have to share at least some small portion of the blame.  They know I want to see this program that they fully intend to air for free, and yet they bizarrely refuse to air it when it is already available widely and easily elsewhere.  If they gave me a way to watch it in a timely manner, I would. But they don't.

Again, I'm not saying this type of downloading is definitely moral or legal (or that it's definitely not), but I am saying that the content provider must assume at least some responsibility for pushing me to download that which I would be perfectly willing to watch on their network if they would only make it available to me, and make it available in its entirety. As it is available in such a form on about six gajillion sites on the internet, I think it behooves them to get off their collective asses and make it legally available to consumers who want it legally.

In the end, despite my vociferous arguments here, I don't actually download much at all.  I don't need to because I use a perfectly legal and socially accepted device called a DVR that allows me to watch my shows whenever I want without commercial interruption, which, in case you haven't understood it yet, is effectively the exact same thing as downloading.

But there is one last (at long last!), most important point to make, which is this: despite the sheafs and sheafs I just subjected you to, I am strongly in favor of protecting the rights of content creators, and I desperately would like to give at least some small measure of compensation to rights holders who produce the things that I enjoy.  I want to ensure that the people who make the product I want to see can continue to make more product.  In fact, I would be more than happy to watch the damn commercials that the networks so desperately wish I would watch should these networks ever begin to actually count my viewing directly rather than through an outmoded and inaccurate statistical modeling system. I still would not be legally bound to watch those commercials, mind you, but I would be more than happy to do so were I to know it would aid the rights holders of the shows that I enjoy. I would actually forgo my established legal right to record a show and skip the commercials during my time shifting if content providers would simply give me a reason to do so that was in my interest as well as theirs. Protecting rights holders that I appreciate would be in my interest, and I would be thrilled to reward them by altering my viewing patterns if I knew my viewing were actually helping those rights holders.  

But content providers are so lazy and/or dunderheaded (or so used to being part of a crushing monopoly that no longer exists) that they don't even take advantage of this commonly held position.  They actually sacrifice revenue for reasons having nothing to with their legal rights, expecting me to sacrifice my legal rights to no purpose.

I cannot stress enough that I am talking about television here, which is a unique from of media content.  As I have gone on at nauseating length about herein, it has long been established legal precedent that television programs being transmitted over public utilities and into homes without the consent of consumers is considered legally free. Consumers are free to watch it or not in any manner they see fit, and they have long been legally able to record it and share it so long as they do not profit from it commercially.  As I am old enough to remember the birth of the VCR and it's attendant legal battles, and as I understand that a digital file is simply an advanced from of the videotape (as was determined by the Supreme Court during the DVR legal fight), I feel no legal or moral compunctions about downloading certain and specific types of content under the conditions I have outlined here.

Rights holders have the right to protect themselves from people recording and selling their content, and they always have.  They have no right, and never have, however, to prevent viewers from recording and sharing free material that the rights holders themselves make available for free.


  1. Fuckin' A, Bubba. If you don't have to pay for something, it's free. If the networks aren't even counting you, it's doesn't hurt them when you bypass them completely. And if they think I should buy a DVD set in order to see something they already provided me for free... well, I think Rooney Mara should be waiting for me when I go to bed tonight; that doesn't mean either one of those things is realistic.

    Next thing you know, they will attempt to shut down the public library because they let you check out DVDs for free.

  2. Incidentally, I never did get to the "benefit to rights holders" argument, but I was more tired after writing that than you likely were reading it. So here is a quick hit:

    I own something like 30 or 40 box sets, which far exceeds the number of television episodes I have ever downloaded. When I like something enough to seek it out online, I usually then spend more than I would have otherwise by paying for it elsewhere. Had I not downloaded some Dr. Who to find out what all the hullabaloo was about (it was unavailable to me at that time via any legal means), I would not then have sought it out on Netflix a few years later. And then I'd never have bought the first two seasons on DVD, and have the next four seasons on my to buy list.

    That's an argument I didn't even bother with in this piece. I downloaded six episodes of the show five years ago, and that led to my becoming a devoted fan and cash cow for them. Suffice it to say that there are a lot cogent arguments out there for how piracy is actually making money for the television industry, and that it's helped fuel, at least in part,the economic boom that's seen an explosive expansion of the number of stations out there making money. Some will argue it's merely revenue neutral, but almost no one not in the industry's employ think it's anything like the destructive force claimed by studio flacks.

    But that's another argument for another day when I'm not tap-tap-tapping on my phone.