With a variety of legal ways to stream TV, movies and sports from the Internet for free, why would someone skirt the law and use a borderline illegal method?
Well, for starters, they want it all for free.
These are a couple of reasons people choose to sail the dubious path of piracy.
Inland 360 interviewed three people who have tested the online seas of Internet piracy. Not all returned unscathed.
Pirate No. 1 — A thirst for “True Blood”
At first Tom (not his real name) was buying episodes of “True Blood” on iTunes. Then he decided to try BitTorrent.
Torrents are a popular, usually free, method for sharing large files like movies, music, books and games online. They are very unpopular with copyright enforcers. By no means are all files on torrent sites illegal, but downloading a TV show or movie from one of these sites will almost always be illegal because the people sharing the content don’t have the rights to it.
Torrents work by downloading small bits of files from many different Web sources at the same time. Someone uploads a file, making it available for other people to download. Computers downloading the file then become a kind of portal for other computers downloading. Tom would download the file and then leave his computer on so others could upload. This is called being a seeder. The more seeders there are, the faster the download.
This went on for a couple of years, until one day when Tom’s Internet service was turned off and he had a message to call his provider.
“I knew right away,” Tom says.
The provider told him they’d learned someone at his household was downloading “True Blood.” They asked him to delete it from his computer.
“Ever since then I’ve been scared to use it,” Tom says of BitTorrent. “At least it wasn’t porn.”
Pirate No. 2 — The leech
In torrent circles, the opposite of a seeder is a leecher. As soon as a download is complete, leechers end the torrent stream so that no one else can get the material from their computer.
“That’s what will get you caught, helping to distribute that,” says Jack (not his real name). “It’s frowned upon in the torrent community.”
In the past, Jack used torrent sites like kickass.to to see the latest episodes of weekly TV programs like “Walking Dead.” The show would appear on the site minutes after it finished airing on the East Coast. Torrent downloads can take several hours, but sometimes the episode would download before the show aired on the West Coast.
Sports are the main thing Jack streams online. The website firstrowus1.eu streams sporting events from around the world, including the U.S.
“That’s about the only way I’ve found to reliably watch live sports,” he says. However, sometimes the games he watches might be in Russian or Portuguese, and the more people watching, the lower the quality. “You definitely get what you pay for.”
Pop up ads are a problem, so Jack uses a strong ad-block app. One thing Jack pays for is the best anti-virus software he can get, because viruses lurk in the realms of free content.
Pirate No. 3 — No regrets
Roman (not his real name) came of age in the era of Napster. Getting entertainment for free is like a birthright. However, he pays for satellite TV and the NFL Sunday Ticket.
“I like the NFL experience,” he explains.
He started using streaming sites like First Row Sports to watch games when away from his TV or when a game was not being broadcast.
“Essentially, I’m watching it on someone else’s computer,” he says about the way programming is shared. “The way I look at it, it’s like I’m sitting in their room watching it.”
He notes that sites like First Row Sports andThe Pirate Bay, a peer-to-peer torrenting site, have taken on overseas domain names, likely in an attempt to skirt U.S. copyright-infringement laws. His biggest fear about the sites was accidentally clicking on one of the ads they are inundated with.
“I’ve never worried about it or felt bad about it, ever. I’ve never seen anybody getting in trouble,” he says.
He sees online streaming as the evolution of entertainment and believes more and more programming will become available a la carte.
“It’s pushing companies in a way to market to their target demographic better.”
A word from an Internet service provider
Internet Service Providers will be contacted by groups working to protect copyrighted creative content like movies, TV and music.
“They use the BitTorrent networks and others to find material out there,” says Kevin Owen, owner of First Step Internet in Moscow. “They’ll notify us that a user at this location at this time was sharing. We’ll get those notifications from time to time. We have to respond to those. We let them know we have informed the user or taken some action to protect that copyright. We contact the user, ask them to remove the material and not put it up again. If they put it up, we’ll take further action.”