There’s Just One Problem with Comcast’s Rumored Anti-Piracy Plan

Not fully satisfied with the anti-piracy effort known as "six strikes," Comcast is reportedly looking into another approach.

  • Share
  • Read Later

Not fully satisfied with the anti-piracy effort known as “six strikes,” Comcast is reportedly looking into another approach.

When subscribers download pirated movies and TV shows, Comcast wants to have a pop-up window appear, showing where to legally purchase or rent those videos instead, Variety reports. Subscribers would still be able to download their videos through illicit methods; Comcast would simply point out that there’s a legal alternative.

Variety’s unnamed “sources” say Comcast is talking with film and TV studios about the plan. The nation’s largest cable company wants to launch a beta version with a limited number of subscribers and videos, but there’s no timetable yet.

The existing Copyright Alert System, informally known as six strikes, already steers file sharers toward legal sources of video, but in a different way. When users get caught downloading pirated videos, Internet providers send out a series of warnings, along with educational materials on where to purchase content legally. But these alerts happen weeks after the fact. Comcast’s proposed plan would show legal purchase and rental links while the illicit download is in progress, and would link to the specific movie or TV show that the user is trying to pirate. Links could lead to the service provider’s video on demand offerings, or to a third-party service like Amazon.

There’s just one problem with this approach, as pointed out in the comments of Variety‘s story: Often times, the movies and TV shows that people are downloading illegally aren’t available for purchase.

HBO’s Game of Thrones, for example, is currently the most-pirated TV series on BitTorrent, with five million downloads of the season three premiere, according to TorrentFreak. Unless you have an HBO subscription, which itself requires a cable TV subscription–or unless you know someone who’s willing to give you their HBO Go login credentials–you cannot currently watch the third season of Game of Thrones legally. Individual episodes are not available for purchase, and the complete third season won’t go on sale until February 2014.

The unavailability of content is even more pronounced with movies. To protect cinema revenue, studios typically don’t sell their films on DVD or video on demand until some time after the theatrical release. Some studios have experimented with simultaneous home and theater releases, but these are rare occurrences. As such, the most pirated movies are often the ones you can’t watch at home.

On a related note, if Comcast does steer users toward legal video sources, it almost certainly will not mention that those videos come with restrictions. If you buy a video from Amazon, you may only watch it on Amazon-sanctioned devices. If you buy a video from Apple, you may only play that video on Apple devices, or in iTunes on a PC, unless you use a workaround like Plex. To put it another way, the legal alternative isn’t the same as the pirated copy. In some ways, it’s inferior.

All of which makes Comcast’s plan seem a bit hypocritical, at least if it’s trying to prove a point to file sharers about the legal availability of content. Certainly, people do download movies and TV shows that could be purchased just as easily, and maybe a more responsive alert system would deter a handful of those people. But when it comes to the most popular content, it isn’t always available, and it always comes with restrictions. Let’s see Comcast and the film/television industry acknowledge that in a pop-up window.

12 comments
Zyluz1
Zyluz1

you know it isn't illegal if you physically own a copy of the said title your downloading.  say you own mad max beyond thunder dome but you want a copy to take on the go downloading it isn't illegal because you already own it.  Comcast's efforts are a little illegal as well they only time they should be snooping is if they have been given the go ahead by the government to help track or take down a criminal.  I down both seasons of Spartacus and i also have a digital copy i downloaded so if i am not home i can watch it.

KimWillay
KimWillay

My husband used to stay up all night downloading tv shows. 


It turned out he was really masturbating to other men on webcams. 


I wish he would have been watching Game of Thrones.  

Mitzkahdrinnen
Mitzkahdrinnen

Well, I suppose it will illustrate irrefutably that the whole world is on the same non existent schedule and that advertising has to get in on the game of not being an interruption and more of a relevant recontextualized link, ie, the ad inside the pop up for the link to the content 'available or not' has to relate to convert, or the ad company is just going for metrics of the 1 percent that will convert connected with the pop up.  cause unavailable content is strictly based on pre-existing licenses, that whole infrastructure will need to be tuned, which involves structural analysis, which involves thinking, therefore, the chances are good, though not quick 

Mattski
Mattski

Or, you know, you could always try the novel approach of acquiring your content legally...

KobeWild
KobeWild

Comcast is really the worse cable company I ever had to deal with. 

I don't pay a company hundreds of dollars a year and having them sending me  threats.

This "anti-piracy" thing is nothing more than them trying to get even more money by "referrer fees".

I picked a slower internet provider ATT, so I would not have to deal with these butt munchers....

allenwoll
allenwoll

.

Yaaaaawwwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn ! ! ! ! 

BlueBear
BlueBear

There are way too many downloading avenues for Comcast to act like a content cop.  When they mailed me that letter from St. Louis threatening to pull my plug because someone had accessed my wireless to download a movie, I called them and dropped the service.  The rep suggested that I put a security code on my wireless router.  I told her that their problem is they want to sell, sell, sell yet we would all be better off if internet service was freely available to all.

KimWillay
KimWillay

@Mitzkahdrinnen You irrefutably illustrated the lengths some will go to make their comment as pompous as possible. 


Remember the 1% that will convert?


It is less than that percentage if you wish to talk about people who will readily understand your point. 


SIMPLIFY your response just as you wish for advertisers to make theirs more user friendly and more people will wish to talk to you.

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@Mattski Except, you know, when the content you want isn't available for purchase, as described above.

Mattski
Mattski

@newmanjb @Mattski My answer would be, wait until it's available. Illegal is illegal. I don't think "I want it now" is a justification for breaking the law.

Hukklebuk
Hukklebuk

@Mattski @newmanjb  well, here's the problem, lots of us want to give HBO our money to watch GoT and other content via web and mobile devices.  HBO doesn't want our money, but they want us to watch their content.  OK I'll keep my money and login with a set of borrowed credentials from someone in my family. That way I can keep my money and watch the show.

TV and music are the only industries I can think of that run away screaming when people try to hand them money for a modern solution to a problem.  I'd gladly pay 3 bucks an episode for GoT.  Any more than that and I go right back to the other account.