Tales of True Crime

I committed a crime today.

I copied a program from my DVR to a DVD. Later I’ll rip the video and put it on my hard drive. Would that be two offenses or just an extension of the first?

Anyway, I’m sure many people would say that what I’ve done is not an illegal act. After all, the copy is for my personal use and I have no intention of selling or giving the recording to anyone. Wasn’t that issue settled by the courts decades ago?

Besides, in my defense, I did try to buy the show. I checked the store section of the network’s web site, as well as Amazon, iTunes and a variety of other outlets for this kind of material.

I even wrote the network, asking if they were planning on offering the program in the future. The only response was a form message thanking me for my interest in their products and saying the title “was not on our release schedule”.

Although I certainly don’t believe what I’ve done is a crime, I suspect the MPAA (and maybe the copyright owners) would disagree with my logic. Those lobbying groups for the video and music industries are working hard to stop anyone from using media in any way except the way they prescribe. Want that disk on your iPad? Pay us again.

However, beyond all that, my flirting with criminal activity is one small example of how the content owners have caused many of their own problems in the digital age, screaming to anyone who will listen (usually the people they’ve bribed) about the billions they’re losing from piracy.*

In an age when many networks are promoting the digital version during the program (“Download tonight’s episode on iTunes!”), and digital distribution costs a fraction of what’s being charged, it’s hard to understand why this particular program isn’t available, now weeks after it’s initial broadcast.

Now, I’m not one of those who feels a “smug sense of entitlement” to illegally download anything ever produced. Like the vast majority of consumers, I’m only asking for access to media when and where I want for a fair price.

In many ways, the convoluted and antiquated business models of the media distributors are cultivating the piracy proclivity in their customers.

*A claim that’s been challenged multiple times, including this good analysis.