Archive for the ‘Downloading’ Category

On demand shopping

It seems to me that it should be easier to shop for media in this age of Amazon, Downloading films and music, print on demand, and so on. That would be because a supplier doesn’t need to keep physical stock if someone wants an obscure film, CD, book, etcetera. The publisher could just print it, or download it on demand.

Conspiracy to defraud?

I think that copyright matters, and is important. Creators ought to be legally able to give their work away freely, as so many do for the betterment of humankind, and to set certain conditions on how their work is used. And I think creators ought to be able to release their work under traditional copyright and have legal recourse against those who are illegally profiting from it.

There have been a couple of cases here relating to sites which offered links to TV and video content: Anton Vickerman and Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer.  I have to admit that I find these prosecutions to be disturbing.  Although, I do find solace in this comment:

“This was not a case brought using copyright law. The interest groups involved couldn’t present a case of copyright infringement and instead decided to press for the use of the common law offence of ‘conspiracy to defraud’,” said UK Pirate party leader Loz Kaye. “This is one of the most controversial crimes in English law – it criminalises conduct by two or more people that would not be criminal when performed by an individual.

The offence was notoriously used in the 1970s to prevent people sharing film cassettes as the TV and film industry believed video was a threat to their existence.”

Since I do talk a lot about downloading material, but usually for my own personal use. I also talk about feeling somewhat guilty that I can’t pay more than my fair share for the material I download–although I am more than covered under the UK TV licensing scheme.  I can add in that these people were doing this for profit, and I’m just linking back to official sites where the material can be found.

I will also add that I do not like downloading via Torrent, but would prefer if archived material were better available.  Although, if someone is inclined to go that route, it is far more available than I would like.

Graham Linehan, writer of the sitcoms The IT Crowd, Black Books and Father Ted,  said the prosecution itself – not just the potential extradition – was a cause for alarm.

“It just seems to me that people like Richard are being punished for being able to navigate the modern world,” said Linehan. “The internet has changed everything, they’re doing what comes naturally in these new, uncharted waters and suddenly they’re getting their collars felt by people who still have Hotmail addresses.

And then [there’s] the sheer shocking arbitrary nature of it all … to be told that you could face up to 10 years for sharing links? When I heard that Nora Ephron died, I shared on Twitter a link to the full version of When Harry Met Sally on YouTube. Am I a criminal now? Why? Why not?”

The strange this is that US authorities become concerned about a site linking to content often still within copyright. To sell a counterfeit CD or DVD of a copyrighted work is an offence, as is deliberately uploading such a work to the internet. On the other hand, they are now hitting people who link to copyrighted material. The whole thing makes absolutely no sense on its face.

Additionally, the prosecutions are happening for events happening outside of the US with no direct connection to US territory.

I can add in that Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, launched a petition against the O’Dwyer extradition attempt. Naturally, I signed it. This is too frightening to not sign.

Read more:

Way to go, Aussies!

Australian ISP iiNet  won a legal victory against the Hollywood studios who wanted to hold the ISP liable for its client’s downloads.  Australia’s highest federal court today found in a unanimous decision that Perth-based iiNet could not be held responsible for the trade of thousands of pirate movies and music files by its customers.

I have to ad that iiNet has a similar attitude toward the illegal download issue as I do–make this materially available at a reasonable price. Stop looking the other way and start providing this to people who don’t have access to this material in their countries,

Nordic Noir

My wife was asking me about when the latest series of the Killing (aka Forbrydelsen, meaning The Crime) was going to appear on BBC Four.  Alas, that is yet to come, but the Radio Times has announced that more Nordic Noir will be hitting the airwaves soon.  The only one of these new series with a definite start date is the Bridge, which is coming to BBC4 on 21 April at 21:00.

On the other hand, the Radio Times mentions a few other series which have made it to the airwaves on both sides of the pond, Lilyhammer, which was put out by Netflix in the US and NRK in Norway, will show up sometime in the future on BBC4.  The plot line is somewhat hackneyed–Criminal gets put in witness protection, but in this case, he finds himself in a totally different culture.  Steven Van Zandt is basically rediong his role as Silvio Dante from the Sopranos.  The series is OK, but a bit of a stretch.  Jonseing Sopranos fans tend to like it though.

The Danish version of the Killing has not officially made it to the US, which is why I mention DRM here.  Also, its relevant since Lillyhammer was “broadcast” by Netflix over its internet streaming service.  Likewise, the US version of the Killing showed up on the US Cable channel AMC.  It was broadcast in the UK on Channel 4.  Although, I gave the US version a pass. Fans of the Danish series felt let down since the US series tried to make it a cliffhanger and not announce whodunit.

Of course, all the networks would prefer that you watch the version officially sanctioned for your locale.  That means people in the US should not have seen the Danish version of the Killing, or they caught it through the grey areas of distribution: buying another region’s DVDs or downloading from the BBC.  Although, the Killing is readily available in the bit-torrent underground, as I found whilst researching this piece.

Of course, buying another region’s DVDs is the best way for the studios to make their money, short of the BBC coming up with a scheme for non-UK residents to get a licence which doesn’t hit the UK licence holders.  Although, there is still the download underground, whether directly from the BBC or via bit-torrent.

It doesn’t take too long for a show to appear as a bit-torrent after it has been broadcast in the UK.  In fact, one episode of  BBC 2’s White Heat didn’t appear immediately after broadcast on BBC iPlayer.  I almost googled (or used a bit-torrent search engine) it to see if it was on bit torrent.  Although, I can come up with more reasons not to want to go the bit torrent route than to do it.

Amusingly enough, BBC world service radio is rebroadcast through Sirius/XM and Vermont Public Radio in the States, which makes me wonder why they aren’t blocking it to US IP addresses.  World Service TV is not available in UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan.  I know it is rebroadcast via cable in the US on Xfinity (at least WDC). Although, I am not sure the situation in other US media markets.

Personally, I prefer to remain within the law rather than skirt it.  Although, I would feel much better if I could make a contribution to the BBC for all their material that I use.  But, I have no television reception meaning I can’t access the material short of satellite or cable–which I am not paying for! Radio reception in my area is poor, and I access that material through the internet while broadcast.  No “live” viewing–no licence necessary!

Somehow, I find DRM blocking the end user from accessing the material as being counterproductive.  The entire idea is to make sure that the rights holder makes money, but if it isn’t reaching as large an audience as possible–are they really making as much money as they could? And while the free market system talks about personal choice, the ultimate person who should be able to choose is the consumer–not the producer.

Snail Races

The BBC has been notoriously bad about keeping Archived material as any true Goon Show, Doctor Who, Goodies, and a host of other British Broadcasting programme aficionados know.  Most of these shows have survived because of others besides the BBC.  But others, such as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s Not Only… But Also were thought to have vanished courtesy of BBC policies.

In the early 1970s the BBC erased most videotapes of the series. This was common television practice at the time, when agreements with actors’ and musicians’ unions limited the number of repeats. The policy of wiping recordings ceased in 1978. When Cook learned the series was to be destroyed, he offered to buy the tapes but was refused because of copyright issues. He suggested he purchase new tapes so that the BBC would have no need to erase the originals, but this was also turned down.

Of the original programmes, eight of the twenty-two complete episodes survive complete. These comprise the first series with the exception of the fifth and seventh episodes, the first and last episodes of the second series, and the Christmas special. Of the 1970 third series, only the various film inserts (usually of outdoor scenes) survive. The BBC recovered some shows by approaching overseas television networks and buying back copies. A compilation of six half-hour programmes, The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also was shown in the 1990s, and released on VHS and DVD.

It seems that we may have to thank comedian Bob Monkhouse and his pack rat tendencies that we may have copies of some of these programmes, not the BBC management. When Monkhouse died, he had 36000 video tapes! Monkhouse had an early home videotape machine and recorded some programmes, including his show: the “Golden Shot”. There are rumours that there are loads of “lost” material in this collection!

But, my point is that the BBC is pretty bad about making sure that archival material is available. The TV show the Goodies has quite a cult following, but only about half the episodes they produced are commercially available. Of course, their entire ITV series happens to be available on DVD!

The reason I call this snail races is that one can find BBC material online and download it (usually by Bittorrent), which defeats the point. First off, the BBC is moaning about its finances. Secondly, there is a demand for this material from people other than Bob Monkhouse. Sure, the more popular programmes are available as DVD, but programmes such as the Last Duel, Howard Goodall’s The Truth about Christmas Carols, The Silence, The Complete Goodies, Colditz, and quite a few other ones are next to impossible to come by through “official channels”. I know that Colditz hasn’t been wiped off the face of the earth.

A determined person can find this material on the internet. The quality is spotty, of course, yet it will do if you are desperate to watch it.

I have to admit that it is annoying in this age when one can buy instant downloads that the BBC hasn’t caught on. Although, judging from the official iPlayer that any attempt to allow for legal downloads would probably be a fiasco. There still has to be a better way.

Especially since Bob Monkhouse is no longer with us.

To BT or not to BT, that is the question

When I say BT, I mean BitTorrent, which is a peer-to-peer, open source file-sharing application effective for distributing very large software and media files. In my case, video files.

My preferred method is to download directly from the BBC site (or in the past ITV and Channel 4), but the problem is that some programmes are no longer available for download. Or they may be at the end of their life for download (e.g., they reran Professor Robert Bartlett’s The Normans, or Dig 1940) where download availability is spotty. The best example is Two Men in a Trench, Tony Pollard’s and Neil Oliver’s battlefield archaeology programme.

Unfortunately, this one is almost totally unavailable through official channels (there is a small flash version of the Battle of Britain Episode), but is available as a download: in particular, bittorrent downloads.

OK,it’s nice to be able to see these programmes, but I’m none too happy with bittorrents. First off, they take forever to download. One episode downloads in no time, while the rest take weeks to download.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to download this material from the BBC even if I had to pay anything from 99p to £1.99. Of course, there is the proviso that I would prefer to download a high quality version without DRM if I am paying more money for the download.

Anyway, the BBC is losing money as this material still shows up in the various download sites not matter how much they hope their DRM will prevent this activity.

Michael Portillo, P2P, and Kiddie Porn?

No, Michael Portillo wasn’t arrested for downloading kiddie porn. I think John Major made the comment that the Conservatives didn’t invent sex in regard to scandals, which I just wanted to say even though it isn’t really relevant to this post. Michael Portillo is an upstanding chap: maybe a touch boring, but upstanding.

This refers to my being a bit of an anoraky train enthusiast (not to the extent of train spotting) and wanting a copy of the complete Great British Railway Journeys presented by Michael Portillo. I had downloaded the series from iPlayer, but found out two episodes were unwatchable after it had expired. One, Todmorden to York, had been available in a signed version, but I find signing distracting. Anyway, 14 of the 20 were downloaded in hi-def and it’s so interesting to know that the ticket he buys in the opening sequence is from Exeter St. David’s to Exeter Central. Also, you get to see all the grafitti on the viaduct in the same opening sequence when you see it in hi-def!

Seriously, I felt that I wanted the whole series complete and in hi-def and it was no longer available through the “official channels”, iplayer and just plain off buying it (Likewise The Truth About Christmas Carols is also history meaning that I have to suffer with a low def version–unless the Beeb rebroadcasts it next year). What does one do in such a circumstance?

One goes to the internet and hopes to find a download, which is possible for some popular programmes (e.g., Torchwood, Doctor Who, Being Human, Hotter than my Daughter, and so on). Less so for the arcane (e.g., The Truth About Christmas Carols and Great British Railway Journeys). Actually, Great British Railway Journeys was available on a torrent site, which is where my story takes me.

It seems that P2P technology is an up and coming area in the Child Pornography world. Pornography (and child pornography) has always been available on the internet. Clever distributors have used P2P as a method for sharing this stuff. Quite possibly, very clever ones could hide their wares under titles such as Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys or some other innocuous title.

US v. Borowy details how the kiddie porn images are red flagged. It also mentions how Borowy used LimeWire (a P2P sharing programme) to download this stuff. Furthermore, the fact that one is using P2P to open up your computer to share files means that you are giving up a privacy right. Not that you aren’t waving a red flag to law enforcement by downloading this stuff anyway. I’d like to think that one could claim innocence if you truly thought you were downloading Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys and found yourself watching something revolting instead.

Common wisdom is that you immediately delete the files with some sort of secure wiping software the moment you realise that you are not watching Michael Portillo and the shock wears off. I am not sure how long a period of grace exists for the shock to wear off, but hope that it doesn’t linger more than a couple of hours, or the time it takes for the heat to secure a search warrant. I do like to say that common wisdom isn’t always good legal advice, but it won’t hurt if you are a truly innocent train enthusiast with a love of Bradshaw’s Railway Time Tables and their applicability to modern Britain..

My point is that most of my clients use P2P file sharing in a more menacing way than just downloading songs in the mistaken belief that they won’t get nabbed. The reality is that these images are red flags to law enforcement. Law enforcement’s software is such that nabbing kiddie porn enthusiasts is akin to catching fish in a well stocked barrel. They have their hands full with people downloading vast quantitites of images. You aren’t really anonymous when you do P2P. For example, bit torrent has the possiblity of obtaining the IP addresses of all current, and possibly previous, participants in a swarm from the torrent’s tracker.

Unlike music file sharing, law enforcement is down on the kiddie porn crowd like flies on shit. So, BEWARE!