A fellow unhappy with the cost and quality of the $49 pay-per-view Parker fight paid the promoters for the broadcast on his televion at home, then live-streamed the view of his television to what ended up being about 20,000 online viewers.
Not unnaturally the fight’s promoter, Dean Lonergan, is unhappy to be losing out on that $1 million.
Now, it’s true that not all of those 20,000 or so would have stumped up the $49 otherwise (they may have watched it instead at the pub, or not bothered to watch the fight at all) so Lonergan was never going to get that whole million.
And it’s true that with easy video apps on mobile phones -- and the rise of the likes of easy-streaming apps like Periscope, and other websites regularly re-streaming other broadcaster’s property – that streaming and rebroadcasting other live events, either truly live or by videoing your television or computer – of just by pinching someone else’s stream -- is just going to keep getting easier and easier.
And it’s also true that the host broadcaster, Sky, has adopted several very effective methods by which to really piss off its customers and destroy whatever loyalty they might otherwise feel to the broadcaster.
But … none of this makes the theft any more justifiable, does it? Indeed, with the inexorable rise of all this exciting new technology, it makes it even more important to get the morality of it right.
It’s not a new argument; it’s the same old argument about intellectual property we’ve had any times before, with some folf thinking that because theft of someone else’s property is becoming easier, that this somehow makes it justifiable. As if a new fashionable style of clothing were to justify pickpocketing simply because it made the pockets more vulnerable.
Ease does not justify theft.
In all senses that you care to examine, the fight, the broadcast and the production of the broadcast are the property of the broadcaster and promoter. It’s their fight, their broadcast, their product – and they have to pay all the bills to make it happen, and earn enough to make it happen again. They are entitled to sell it on whatever terms they care to, including prohibitions against rebroadcast. (Terms to which anyone paying their fee has agreed.)
The dickhead who violated this agreement sees himself as a “Robin Hood,” robbing from the rich broadcaster to distribute their product to the sporting poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to watch.
It may have been expensive and overpriced. But it’s their fight, their broadcast, their product. So it’s their call how they choose to price it. (“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana,” says Bill Gates, that of sporting events in particular. And with only a small local audience on which to draw, the promoter needs to be able to earn enough from those few punters to pay for the purse and everything needed to make the whole product happen)
It may be that Sky sucks. (In fact, it’s true that they do.) But it’s their fight, their broadcast, their product. Don’t like it? Then don’t do business with them.
It may be too that many of those who did watch the re-streamed broadcast couldn’t have afforded to watch it otherwise. That may be true, though I doubt it. But so what? It’s neither their fight, their broadcast, nor their product. It’s not up to them to set any terms whatsoever, because it’s just not theirs. It’s the property of broadcaster and promoter.
And taking away or reducing their profit reduces the likelihood of future broadcasts and promotions. (As Ludwig Von Mises observed: “Without copyright protection, musicians, authors, and composers are in the position of having to bear all the costs of production while the benefits go to others.”)
As technology changes we do need to resurrect the public morality that publicly rejects theft. Today’s one of those days in that battle.