Au revoir, HBO

Apologies in advance any tortured, legalistic syntax.

My Internet service at home was interrupted for a day because HBO alleged that I had violated their copyright by using Bittorrent to download the series “Big Love.”

More precisely, as I found out in a letter several days after the fact, I’d — according to Mediacom and HBO — failed to respond to a DMCA takedown notice. Here’s the legalistic part: If it had been the case that I had ever had infringing video files on my hard drive, the torrent and AVI files in question would have been removed weeks ago. So any alleged ‘second offense’ was pure bullshit, and was either a deliberate falsehood, or the result of incompetence on the part of whatever company was monitoring the torrents for HBO. If they couldn’t detect the absence of a violation, how can they be trusted to detect the presence of one?

I don’t intend to try and justify violation of copyright. While I stipulate that I do not admit ever having done so, if I had, or if I ever do so in the future, I do not justify it as a completely moral thing to do. I’m not pure. Neither are media conglomerates. Neither are you. We all do the best we can, but we’re human. Except corporations, who, though granted all the rights of personhood, are not. That has caused a lot of woe in the world, but let’s not get into that now…

I will readily acknowledge that such actions would be to some extent thievery. Unlike the example everyone gives of stealing a car, though, it is a theft that doesn’t deprive the owner of the object stolen. They still have what they possessed, and they have lost something hypothetical: there’s no guarantee that the person violating copyright would ever purchase the item. And I do pay for software and digital media that I value, even when I could easily acquire it for free.

But I will never willingly give HBO any more money. I’ve dropped HBO from our cable because a few series aside, e.g. Big Love, there’s rarely anything worth watching on HBO. For another, while it gives their lawyers something to do to justify their ridiculous fees, such violations as the one they allege are in a very big gray area. During the time when the alleged violation occurred, I was in fact a paid subscriber to HBO, and could have watched “Big Love,” either during its scheduled broadcast or via On Demand.

That made a hypothetical bittorrent download more a matter of time-shifting material I was fully authorized to view. Not any sort of theft or copyright violation.

It points out a fundamental thing that is counterproductive about harrassing your potential and existing customers: Any material damage incurred by unauthorized downloads is in the end going to be swamped by the damage you cause in loss of goodwill from your actual and potential customers.

As for Mediacom, it makes switching to DSL more attractive. I’d lose some bandwidth but DSL costs half as much, and Mediacom hasn’t been all that great over the years. Qwest are sociopathic corprorate scum just as Mediacom is, but at least it has yet to deny me service even as they charge me for it.

2 thoughts on “Au revoir, HBO”

  1. Your case is a perfect example of how companies like these have completely failed to notice a paradigm shift among their consumers. I’ve been saying for years that if they switched over to a system where your account fees would be based upon your level of data usage and content creators were payed by providers based upon views of their content etc, then everyone would start making money again, you would just have a more level playing field with less Time-Warner/Mediacom/ClearChannel type organizations.

  2. you know, as much as i hate the corporate shits that send lawyers after people like this, HBO is one of the few places that makes television into an art form. i wouldn’t even say its “a few” series, it’s more like almost everything they do. to me, my money is well spent supporting them and Showtime for original programming alone. i wish there was a way around it, but that’s that.

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