Saturday, June 25, 2005

Digital rights: where to draw the line?

Assuming I'm paying for cable TV, and all of the series in question are aired on the networks I'm paying for, which of the following are legal? Should any be illegal? Are any immoral?

  • I watch every episode of Series X as they are broadcast.
  • I watch most episodes of Series X as they are broadcast, but occasionally I'll record an episode if I can't make the normal broadcast time, and watch it later.
  • I have a Tivo, and record every episode of Series X. I watch all of the episodes some time after they are broadcast.
  • I have a Tivo, and record every episode of Series X. I watch all of the episodes some time after they are broadcast. Sometimes I'll watch episodes of Series Y while my Tivo is recording episodes of Series X
  • I have two Tivos (or one multi-tuner Tivo), and I record every episode of Series X and Series Y. The two series are only broadcast at the same time, so there's no practical way I could've watch both series without "time-shifting".
  • I accidentally deleted an episode before watching it:
    • I borrow a tape of the episode a friend recorded from TV so I can watch the episode.
    • I borrow a DVD a friend burned from his Tivo so I can watch the episode.
    • A friend emails the episode to me.
    • A friend gives me the password to his personal website where he's put up a copy of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where he's put up a copy of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copy of the episode I can download.
    • Google tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copy of the episode I can download.
    • Google tells me about a .torrent for the episode so I can download it.
  • I forget to tell my Tivo to record an episode:
    • I borrow a tape of the episode a friend recorded from TV so I can watch the episode.
    • I borrow a DVD a friend burned from his Tivo so I can watch the episode.
    • A friend emails the episode to me.
    • A friend gives me the password to his personal website where he's put up a copy of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where he's put up a copy of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copy of the episode I can download.
    • Google tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copy of the episode I can download.
    • Google tells me about a .torrent for the episode so I can download it.
  • I find out about a new series half-way through the season. The old episodes aren't being aired anymore, so:
    • I borrow a tape of the episodes a friend recorded from TV so I can watch the episode.
    • I borrow a DVD a friend burned from his Tivo so I can watch the episodes.
    • A friend emails the episodes to me.
    • A friend gives me the password to his personal website where he's put up copies of the episodes for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where he's put up a copies of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where someone has put up copies of the episodes I can download.
    • Google tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copies of the episodes I can download.
    • Google tells me about .torrents for the episodes so I can download them.
  • I find out about a series that started before I even had cable. The old episodes aren't being aired anymore, so:
    • I borrow a tape of the episodes a friend recorded from TV so I can watch the episode.
    • I borrow a DVD a friend burned from his Tivo so I can watch the episodes.
    • A friend emails the episodes to me.
    • A friend gives me the password to his personal website where he's put up copies of the episodes for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where he's put up a copies of the episode for me to download.
    • A friend tells me about a public website where someone has put up copies of the episodes I can download.
    • Google tells me about a public website where someone has put up a copies of the episodes I can download.
    • Google tells me about .torrents for the episodes so I can download them.
posted Saturday, June 25, 2005
Don't know, no, and no. Enough with the panicked grasping, and attempts to glue sand in place with brutal laws. The sand-dunes are a-moving.

If the assumptions and technological limitations you build your business model on (without really realizing it) change, that's just tough.  
  Blogger Chris Thiessen on June 26, 2005
It would be -really- useful to have some answers for this.

In the UK, AFAIK, it's legal to tape something from TV, as long as you destroy/record over it within 6 months.

wtf?  
  Anonymous u24 on August 19, 2005
I'm a third year American law student, so my answers would be only accurate to varying degrees. But if it'd help, let me know and I'll try and run down the list.  
  Blogger LeperColony on August 24, 2005
At least some local cable companies here (and a phone company that offers legal satellite) also offer PVR's (Personal Video Recorders). If the cable company can do that, why shouldn't it be legal to record things off TV for personal use?

I would expect that companies making these shows would only really need to get upset if people are selling illegal bootlegs.  
  Anonymous Em on September 08, 2005
So much for a free world.
So much for sharing.
So much for co-development.
So much for equality.
So much for knowledge distribution.
So much to do.
But only when the greed of capitalism will bend against the thirst for knowledge.  
  Anonymous Anonymous on September 18, 2005
All of them are legal, all of them are moral.

They're legal because laws say whats illegal, if there is no law, then its legal.
No copyright holder would sue you for this, they are afraid of losing and codifying that fair use into law just like Betamax vs MPAA did. So you might think you're in the grey area but you're in the white.

Why would they be immoral?  
  Anonymous Anonymous on October 08, 2005
Hi!
This is one of the most valid set of questions that I have EVER seen raised about the existing copyright laws and the exact nature of their applicability.
Wow.  
  Blogger Bunty Gill on December 24, 2005
With this one:

I find out about a series that started before I even had cable. The old episodes aren't being aired anymore

Because you never paid for the show, the most moral and legal option is to buy or rent it. I don't know the legal position of borrowing a commercial DVD that your friend legally bought. I think the morality would depend on the legality for that part. I also wonder if there is a distinction between borrowing the content that they legally recorded. They may only have the right to record for personal use, but not sharing.
If the show is not available commercially, I think it's illegal, but I think that it would be pretty morally acceptable.
I've heard that downloading anime fansubs is leagal in the US up until the point that a US company licenses it at which point you're supposed to get rid of the fan subs and optionally purchase the released version when it comes out.

Lots of interesting factors any way you look at the issues. ^_^  
  Anonymous Paul on February 25, 2006