Monday, 5 September 2011

Why we need legal downloads?

I've been thinking recently about illegal downloads... part of this has been inspired by Demand 5's inability to put the only soap I watch ('Neighbours') up on their website in a reasonable amount of time. This tardiness on their part has resulted in huge numbers of comments appearing under various episodes (episode 6205 being a good example, but that link will stop working in time, as Demand 5 take down the episodes after 30 days) about the poor service from Demand 5 and about how the videos were available on YouTube. Having waited until gone 7pm one evening, for the latest episode, I decided to look at YouTube. Not only are the UK episodes available there, but so are the Australian ones, all without the adverts!

However, I only looked at YouTube because I couldn't legally watch 'Neighbours' in a reasonable amount of time. (In fact, the episode that finally inspired me to look at YouTube took two days to appear!) I can't watch 'Neighbours' on Channel 11 - the Australian TV channel that produces 'Neighbours' - without spoofing my IP address, because I'm in the UK . So I can wait for Demand 5 to get their act together, or go to YouTube.

I did something similar after talking to a friend about 'House MD'. This TV show is owned by Fox, and is broadcast in the US some months before it is shown in the UK. Again, I can't download the programme from Fox without spoofing my IP address. But I can run a search using Google (other search engines are available) and find any number of sites offering me downloads of 'House MD', either for free (providing I'm willing to comply with any conditions the site imposes) or for a small fee. TorrentFreak report  that, when Fox stopped uploading their TV shows the day after they aired, the number of people illegally downloading shows from BitTorrent more than doubled. ToreentFrek went on to state, "If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they turn to pirated alternatives." So I am not alone in looking for legal downloads in preference to the illegal ones - despite the illegal downloads being easy to find if I choose to look for them.

In an attempt to make illegal downloads harder to access, BT were ordered to block access to illegal download sites. But this ruling is doomed to fail, as the block will only apply to specific IP addresses therefore all the download people need to do is move to another address. Given that Newzbin2 - the site specifically targeted in the court ruling - has already gone into administration, been sold and moved to the Seychelles which, among other things, meant they avoided being prosecuted by the Motion Picture Association, is changing their IP address really going to be that much of a problem?

Surely the better way would be to make these downloads available legally? Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America is reported as saying, "Illegal music download sites will never be eradicated" Equally, it has been reported that the "all-digital singles market is booming - single sales are up 10% so far in 2011 (on top of a 10% improvement the year before)".

As one of my mate's said, "Where is the Spotify for films? Why can't I pay £10 a month and download all the films and videos I want?" I think he has a valid marketing strategy which, for many of us, would stop us checking out the illegal downloads.

The Legacy of 9/11

As 11th September approaches, I thought it'd be a good time to remember the top five (if I can think of five!) people, or groups of people, who, through they actions, have had the most impact on the lives of ordinary people.

Number one has to be the men who flew plans into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, while a fourth plan was going towards Washington before passengers tried to take control of the 'plane, causing it crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Thanks to this group of terrorists, Great Britain passed the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 while the USA the Department of Homeland Security was created to coordinate domestic anti-terrorism efforts. There is also the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, plus the ongoing prejudice against anybody who looks as if they might be able to locate Pakistan on a map, or who have any interest in Islam.

Number two is the "Tylenol Murderer" who, in 1982, injected poison into extra-strength Tylenol capsules, killing seven people. This resulted in all medicines being sold in tablets, rather than capsules, and in the nearly impossible to open anti-tamper packets we now have to wrestle with. This person, or people, have been mimicked in other areas, including where manufacturers have been blackmailed by people claiming to have injected various substances into jars of food, in particular baby food (including Shirley Ybarra in 2009). This has resulted in almost all jars of food having an annoying plastic wrap round the edge of the jar, plus many other anti-tamper measures that now mean it's nearly impossible to open a packet of food without needing a sharp knife, scissors and a pair of pliers and without tipping the food down yourself.

Number three is, in my opinion, Richard Reid, otherwise known as the Shoe Bomber who, in 2001, attempted to blow up American Airlines Flight 63. Thanks to Reid, anybody travelling through many of the world's international airports will have to take off their shoes, and allow them to be x-rayed.

Number four are the IRA who placed bombs in rubbish bins on various British railway stations. This resulted in their being no rubbish bins on platforms or trains for years which, in turn, meant these places were awash with litter. Fortunately, with the coming of the Good Friday Agreement this piece of nonsense is fading, and most stations have rubbish bins of one form or another. Several railway companies have also become aware of the fact that most people will put rubbish in a bin if one is available, and either have bins on their trains or, on longer journeys, members of staff walk through the trains, collecting rubbish.

As I can't think of another single person or group, number five has to be the media for .... well, there are so many things, but I'm going to select "the way they report crime". There are various measures of crime which all tend to indicate that actual levels of crime are falling. But fear of crime is on the increase, such that people's fear of crime no longer reflects the risk they are actually experiencing. Crime, and the fear of crime, has resulted in everything from lockable windows, through doors with five security points, to secure flats with CCTV so residents can see who is at the door before releasing it. In many cases, these security measures do help both to ensure people's safety, and to make them feel safe. But the fear of crime has resulted in many people being too scared to leave their home - including the 42%, reported in the Daily Mirror, who are "too afraid of yobs to leave home at night" and there are people, both in the USA and the UK, who have died when security bars have meant they can't escape from a house.