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Want to piss off your radio audience? Talk about P2P file sharing

Heard on the radio

Man, my student Jacob Margolis got himself into a deep tub of digital hot water the other day over at KPCC-FM public radio in Pasadena, CA. Jacob took my telecommunications history class up at UC Santa Cruz and now he’s an intern down there. His crime? Explaining the mechanics of P2P file downloading on one of KPCC’s cool new local programs, the Madeleine Brand Show.

The show topic was How do you watch television?

“What if you can’t afford TiVO or Apple TV or you simply don’t want to pay for it?” Brand asked. “There is a way, and it’s an illegal way, and who better to get the skinny on illegal downloads than our intern Jacob Margolis.”

Who indeed? I can second this endorsement, and Jacob got right to it.

“Let me stop you right there and say that I do not download any of these things illegally,” Margolis began. But he acknowledged that he knows lots of students who can’t afford cable TV subscriptions and video on demand fees (which are indeed expensive).

So “what do you do?” he continued. “You need a broadband connection, go to a torrent website like and you can download the torrent file.”

Jacob showed Madeleine the site.

“I see Dexter there, and, oh, it looks like the Fifth Season, and that hasn’t even aired yet!” she exclaimed. “Wow, looking at all the offerings here, the networks must just be furious.”

“They are,” Margolis replied, but they’ve “kind of hit back” with and other legit online video sites. “And a lot of people go online and watch there.”

“Legally,” Madeleine emphasized.

“Legally,” Margolis agreed.

The sanctimonious responses to this perfectly factual and non-endorsing examination of the issue (which ended with tips on where to view legal content) can be read at the bottom of the podcast page.

Here’s my favorite; note the veiled threat in paragraph three:

Everyone should know that Internet piracy doesn’t only hurt the rich studios and fat-cat producers, directors, writers–the “above the line” people. It hurts all the “little” people who work on a film or TV show; the Set Dresser who is picking up all the furniture for the sets of Mad Men, the Prop Maker who is building the village scenery for Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom, the greens-man who is digging and planting rice paddies on the hillside of New Zealand to make it look like Japan, they all rely on residuals from sales of DVDs and LEGAL Internet downloads, etc. This is money they will never see in their bank accounts, but it is money that directly funds their health insurance accounts. Every time you steal a film or TV show from the Internet, you are stealing someone’s healthcare. Perhaps a family will eventually loose a child for lack of funds.

It might also be interesting to note that the Russian mafia runs most of the illegal download sites. So you see, Identity Theft is a close cousin to Internet Piracy. Is it worth risking that just to be able to watch a TV show for free?

Madeline, your show is in its first week of airing. You are based in Los Angeles, one significant center for production of film and TV content. Your inclusion of such information shows a serious lack of judgment at best, and at worst a profound lack of understanding as to the ramifications of the content of your fledgling show. I suggest you could do some educating of yourself and your audience as to the REAL harm of Internet piracy. Every major studio has a piracy crimes department who would gladly speak with you about the topic. I suggest you start with Paramount Pictures.

That’s right Madeleine and Jacob, shame on you for not following the Motion Picture Association of America’s party line on P2P file downloading right down to the last dot, failing to roll out big content’s bogus statistics on job losses due to file sharing, and not posting a picture of a homeless child or two to boot.

Anyway, one thing is for sure. If you want to get your radio audience’s attention, illegal file sharing is the topic to air.

PS: I like Dexter too.

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