April 4, 2005 7:19 AM PDT

Impatient TV viewers turn to BitTorrent

Some Australians are turning to file-sharing networks for new episodes of their favorite American television shows.

According to a new report, the popularity in Australia of one peer-to-peer application--BitTorrent--is driven in part by local television networks that have adopted a strategy of being slow to air current episodes of popular TV shows.

Alex Malik, a former general counsel for the Australian Recording Industry Association, generated the report. Malik believes that by delaying the broadcast of these programs, Australian TV programmers have increased the domestic demand for the shows. "As a result, impatient viewers have increasingly turned to BitTorrent to download their favorite shows," he said.

Online forums dedicated to discussions about popular TV shows, Malik said, revealed that one in three of the conversations touches on where and how to pirate TV programs on the Web. Although it is hard to quantify the number of people illegally downloading shows through BitTorrent, Malik said, a "substantial" number of people are doing it.

"It's difficult to put a number on it because not a lot of people talk about (online pirating) especially since it's illegal. It's similar to illegal music file sharing...Not a lot of people admit to it, but there is a substantial amount happening," he said.

Malik's research showed that Australians have to wait an average of eight months to see first-run episodes of popular programs from overseas. For instance, it takes an average of four months to watch the latest episodes of top-rated shows like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives."

Malik said local networks also delayed the telecast of top programs during Australia's summer so as "not to waste successful programs" during a period of low viewership.

"These delays provide a window of opportunity for viewers to upload TV programs after their American broadcast date, thereby making them available to viewers outside of the U.S., and viewers within the U.S. who may have missed the program."

To download these shows, all consumers require is a broadband connection and BitTorrent software. While download quality is variable depending on its source, BitTorrent users have found the quality to be satisfactory, the report said.

"While there are no accurate Australian BitTorrent usage figures, anecdotal evidence and reports from online forums suggest that Australians are downloading TV programs in large quantities," Malik added.

A previous survey released by Web monitoring company Envisional found Australia to be the second largest downloader of online pirated TV programs in the world (15.6 percent), second to the United Kingdom (18.5 percent) and ahead of the United States (7.3 percent).

The report said that increased bandwidth, technological advances and a high demand of U.S.-based TV shows are some of the reasons for the boom in online piracy. The report also said that around 70 percent of the piracy occurs through BitTorrent.

Recently, there has been an effort to clamp down on the use of BitTorrent technology to aid copyright infringement.

The Australian recording industry has targeted Perth-based Internet service provider Swiftel, which allegedly owns and operates computer infrastructure that hosts Web pages using BitTorrent file-sharing software. In March, the Australia-based Music Industry Piracy Investigations Unit took Swiftel to court. The hearing is set to resume Thursday.

Kristyn Maslog-Levis of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

8 comments

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what else is "new"?
cnet, you are a bit late with this "News" - like a couple of years. don't you follow the p2p news sites which have been all over this in recent months, and years?
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Same story on UK...
Seriously, if I recall correctly, there was an almost exactly worded story about UK (where people also get new shows later).
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
Link Flag
Illegal ?
The problem is that they define this as "illegal" but it is mearly a high tech method to share tapes made from off the air, which ( currently ) are a legal thing to do ( unless they overturn the Betamax decision, as they are trying to do ).
Posted by Sir Geek (114 comments )
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why is it "illegal" to record broadcasts?
I don't get it. I can tape a broadcast program, or I can TIVO it, but if I download it is "illegal"? How? Why is downloading any different from taping?
Posted by (274 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The technicalities that disguish the two
The key technicality here is when and where the copying is taking place.

The Betamax decision protects "time-shifting" and making copies for personal use. Sharing tapes isn't a problem in this case as long as the your copy was made under fair use, because when you're sharing it, you're not making another copy. Thus, if you want to watch the tape again, you must get it back from who you lend it to.

Downloading, is by defintion, making a copy. It's only legal to make copies of stuff you already own, or have legally copied, for your own personal use, and if you're downloading, you're making a illegal copy, and the person who made it available is violating the law by using their copy for a non-personal use.

In the case of TV broadcasts, it probably shouldn't matter, since you have legal ways of recording them anyway, but by the law, it is a different matter.
Posted by (282 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, I don't get it either.
Many of these downloaded programs come from broadcast channels, which are FREE to anyone with a TV and antenna. You don't have to pay a dime (no subscription necessary). You can record them with a VCR, a DVD Recorder, a Tivo, or a TV tuner on your computer. But the moment you download an episode, it is illegal? What's wrong with this picture?

How hypocritical!
Posted by Sorcerer8605 (1 comment )
Link Flag
What do they expect
People wouldn't do this if everything was released at the same
time all over the world and the whole "region" thing was
discarded. As for software piracy just lower the prices to
reasonable amounts which are the same all over the world.
Posted by Filip Remplakowski (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just Like Anime Fansubs...
...and other television programs shared over the net, as long as people figure out how to transmit TV signals into their PCs, this is going to happen no matter what, unless stations decide to encrypt their TV shows :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
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