Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Game of Thorns

Game of Thrones

Perhaps I am not following him as carefully as I should, but the first time I heard the USA ambassador to Australia say something meaningful was when he criticized Aussies for downloading Game of Thrones en masse. As in, downloading without paying via bit-torrent: as Torrent Freak’s numbers show, Australia is ranked #3 in the world when it comes to downloading this series; per capita, Australia is the capital of the known universe.
I find it amazing that of all the things to criticize Australia for, Mr Ambassador chose the piracy of a popular TV show. A popular TV show that during its first two seasons was aired only to cable subscribers and only after a huge delay. What, don’t we have other slightly more burning issues to deal with, like asylum seekers or global warming?
It's also amazing the ambassador is fluent in the latest statistics published by a website called Torrent Freak. In other words, if one was wondering in whose pockets the American government is and could not be bothered to ask Kim Dotcom for an answer, Game of Thrones and the American ambassador to Australia provided us with an answer.
It is important to note the reasoning behind the ambassador's plea. While in past years Aussies were unable to legally watch Game of Thrones without significant delays, this year (season 3) things are different. First, Foxtel made sure to air the episode within a few hours of their American broadcast. That's pretty respectable, it has to be said. And second, iTunes is offering the episodes to Australians at the same time as Foxtel, asking $35 for the season's ten episodes. Who could ask for anything more?
Well, I do. First of all, the Foxtel option is quite expensive. Assuming one is not interested in anything else this cable provider airs, then the cost of watching Game of Thrones translates to about $100 a month (and that's without installation costs). Not the best value for money ever. Then there is the matter of the money going into Murdoch's coffers, one of the last places I'd like my money to go to.
As for iTunes. Well, there are some good reasons why I never bought into the iTunes idea and waited for Spotify to come along before I opened my wallet for online music. iTunes is pretty limited: all videos are DRMed, and can only be watched on an Apple device or on a Windows PC with iTunes installed. Want to watch your stuff on an Android device or a Linux PC? Want to avoid installing the mess that is iTunes on a Windows PC? Well, you're out of luck. In other words, iTunes ties you down to the Apple environment, and there is no reason for one to do so voluntarily. However, the true iTunes killer arrived in the news today, when we were told that Foxtel applied the monopoly rights granted to it by HBO to prevent iTunes from airing Game of Thrones without delay (see here). Yes, that will give us a good reason to stop downloading!
Indeed, it seems as if the studios will do everything possible to encourage piracy. Take Warner, for example: it chose to take its contents away from services such as Netflix in order to run its own Internet channel. The logic is obvious: who would want to subscribe to a central repository of videos when one could subscribe separately to each studio's separate channel? I suggest we learn from Warner and split Spotify apart, too.
This is a clear case of dumb & dumber. The only question is which of these two the American ambassador chose to associate himself with. As for Australia, it will continue to download for all the good reasons it has been repeatedly provided with.

Image by Cyol Ternyan, Creative Commons license

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