Jun 16 2011 5:09pm

This is Why They Download: An Open Letter to BBC America

In my review of “A Good Man Goes To War,” I mentioned my hampered viewing experience of it. I decided to wait a day or two before writing about it to calm down and see if I felt the same way. I do. I’m not quite as upset anymore, but it bothers me that my enjoyment of this, or any other Doctor Who episodes aired on BBC America, could be ruined by a couple of ill-advised decisions on the part of a network specifically trying to appeal to viewers like me. So, without further ado: An open letter to BBC America.


Dear BBC America,

First, I’d like to thank you for airing Doctor Who in the U.S. After becoming a fan watching the Eccleston episodes on DVD, I was thrilled to know that I could stay current with the series once I’d caught up.

Second, I’d like to thank you for making the decision to air Doctor Who on the same day it airs in the U.K. It was a wise decision because, as you are probably well aware, not doing this meant that fans in he States would simply acquire the episodes by other means, rather than wait the week or two for the new episodes to air. While piracy is obviously illegal, people do it because, in a world that’s smaller every day because of the internet, not doing so often means the episode is spoiled for you long before you have the opportunity to watch it. Your decision to air Doctor Who on the same day as it airs in the U.K. not only prevents piracy, but it also ensures a positive fan viewing experience that can only benefit your network and the worldwide success of the Doctor Who franchise.

Which is why I was extremely puzzled when you decided not to air Doctor Who during Memorial Day weekend this year. Why go to all the trouble of starting to air the episodes along with the U.K. if you’re only going to get off schedule mere weeks later?

Why is this a big deal, you ask?

I am probably the last person in the United States who refuses to download episodes of Doctor Who illegally. As an aspiring creator myself, I understand that doing so contributes to a system that ultimately takes money out of creators’ pockets. I firmly believe that if you enjoy any work of art—be it television, music, or film—you should pay for it, and enjoy it the way it’s intended to be enjoyed to ensure that the artists you love can continue to create the kind of art you love. I don’t believe that to be true only in the case of independent artists, but larger, more mainstream artists as well. Just because something is hugely successful and mainstream, as Doctor Who is, doesn’t mean that stealing work is okay. I say this to you, BBC America, because your decision to skip Memorial Day weekend hurt exactly the kind of fan you should be trying to cultivate. The following thoughts come to mind:

1.) Fans can end up spoiling an episode even if they’re not trying to. After successfully avoiding spoilers for a week, I was spoiled the day before “A Good Man Goes to War” aired.

I came across a piece of Doctor Who fan art created by someone who’d seen the episode (whether it was a British fan, or an American who’d pirated the episode is unclear) under the Doctor Who tag on Tumblr, which I check often. It pretty much spoiled the big reveal in “A Good Man Goes to War” in big letters with a huge photo. Now, should this fan have been more considerate? Of course. (NOTE TO FANS: Don’t spoil until you’re sure everyone’s seen it! Put stuff under a cut, put up a warning, make some kind of effort! Fandom is supposed to be a community, and it sucks when people rain all over other people’s parades.) But it wouldn’t have been an issue at all if the show were airing when it was supposed to. When I complained to people that I’d been spoiled, the first thing EVERYONE said was “This is why I download.”

I shouldn’t have to do something illegal to prevent being spoiled. It isn’t as if I was lazy and had the episode sitting on my DVR for a week without watching it and then expected to remain spoiler-free. If that were the case, I’d take responsibility. However, the episode wasn’t legally available here, and it wasn’t legally available for a really stupid reason. Which leads me to....

2) Holidays are no longer a threat to television shows.

That may have been the case years ago, but with DVR and episodes being available on iTunes and, holidays are less of an impediment to people enjoying a current episode of a show! YOU AIRED A DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ON CHRISTMAS. POSSIBLY THE BIGGEST TRAVELING HOLIDAY THIS COUNTRY OBSERVES. Yet you won’t air an episode during Memorial Day weekend. Why? Because people go away?

Have you been experiencing this economy the way I have? Because no one I know went away for Memorial Day. The word “staycation” was invented for a reason, and it’s what most people did this Memorial Day weekend. But even if people DID go away, they went away on Friday. Doctor Who airs on Saturday, and chances are, they were somewhere with a television. Any fan who would’ve watched it at home would just as likely watch it elsewhere. And if they didn’t, at least they’d be able to watch the playback on their DVR, or download the episode from iTunes or Amazon in a reasonable amount of time.

To add insult to injury....

3) The episodes aired on BBC America are ruined by commercials.

This is not to say that there should be no advertisements at all. I understand that ads are necessary, and I have no problem sitting through them. What I do have a problem with is an extended episode (“A Good Man Goes to War” was 50 minutes long as opposed to the usual 45) being sped-up to accommodate commercials. Not to mention a completely unnecessary recap sequence with an Amy voiceover explaining everything that’s happened up until that point. It’s one thing to have many commercial breaks, it’s another to affect the integrity of the episode itself in order to make them happen. “A Good Man Goes to War” is already a fast-paced episode with a lot going on and a lot of action punctuated by important emotional moments. Had this episode gone any faster, it would’ve sounded like it was being performed by Alvin and The Chipmunks.

So not only was I spoiled, but when I did watch the episode it was difficult to enjoy, because it was going by so fast I couldn’t absorb it. I could see moments that were supposed to be emotionally affecting and would have been had they not been a blur. Up until now, I’d been downloading the Series 6 episodes on iTunes the day after they aired, so I wasn’t aware of the way episodes were aired live. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can’t say it’s a wonder that people look for alternatives.

I’m not trying to justify piracy. However, I am a fan who doesn’t download illegally, and your decision not to air Doctor Who during a holiday weekend ended up punishing me. Obviously, it’s just a television show. I will survive having had a Doctor Who episode spoiled for me. But the fact remains that, if you really want to encourage viewership here in the States, punishing viewers who are doing everything you ask—who are doing their best to meet you halfway—by making unwise decisions, is not the way to go about it.

All I ask is for you consider that when you begin airing Doctor Who Series 6.2 in the fall. Thank you for your attention.


Teresa Jusino

Teresa Jusino can currently be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like,, Newsarama, and Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor or Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in two upcoming sci-fi anthologies.Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

1. dayna
If you're trying to avoid spoilers, checking the Doctor Who tag on Tumblr is an odd thing to do.
2. JoeNotCharles
I waited almost two weeks to watch that episode - just didn't have time - and I avoided spoilers just fine. I can see it being an annoyance, but this seems like an odd thing to get upset enough to need a couple of days to calm down about.
Teresa Jusino
3. TeresaJusino
I checked the Tumblr, because normally people are more respectful about spoilers. :) Also, under normal circumstances, it hasn't been an issue, so I was checking it as a reflex. For weeks it wasn't an issue, so it was odd to even have to think about it that one strange week.
Jenny Thrash
4. Sihaya
dayna, if nothing else, I suspect Teresa's job at includes gathering material for the Weekly Who roundup.
Richard Dickson
5. DailyRich
What kills me about the whole Memorial Day thing is that they aired a Doctor Who marathon all day that Saturday! What better way to hook new viewers than to follow up a day of Who with the newest episode, and the mid-season finale, no less? And not to descend into geek stereotypes, but the people who are going to watch Doctor Who are going to watch it regardless of whether it's a holiday weekend or not.

And yes, the Amy voice-over is pretty ridiculous. I can understand it being there for the first episode or two, but we get it now.
6. N. Mamatas
Christmas Day is not a significant travel day at all. Actually, it's one of the most important days for television, and also for movie theaters, because there's so little travel that day, but plenty of family groups looking to do something together.

Memorial Day isn't a big travel day either, actually.
7. Fred Hurley
Two comments:

1.) If you don't want spoilers, why are you checking a Tumblr tag for Doctor Who when you know there's a big episode that hasn't aired here yet?

2.) Many people still went away. Or had family over. Or went out and enjoyed more local holiday traditions like parades and barbecues. I certainly did, and many of my friend did, too. Yup, I can TiVo it and watch it the next day, but at that point you're just shortening the spoiler window, not eliminating, and it may actually be worse since more people that you see on a daily basis are likely to have caught it "live".

Look, I'm not saying I don't symapthize. That totally stinks. But the BBC was pretty much going to take flak either way. Now, the commercials are a whole different situation. Yeah, I haven't seen the original version (I'll download it from iTunes tonight), but it did feel a bit rushed, like I was missing critical bits that I couldn't quite identify. That was annoying as hell.
8. Nalwin
Welcome to the other side of the coin.

This is how we, in Britain watch all our favourite US shows, it's got better recently but only a few years ago we would be 6 months behind for no apparent reason.

You had to wait a week? That does not seem so bad to me.
Sky Thibedeau
9. SkylarkThibedeau
I miss having to watch the episodes in a jerky stream on the BBC Who website to see them before they aired on Sci-Fi Channel Months later.
10. Kevin J Marks
I wrote about this earlier in the season. BBC America is an odd parody of a TV network, it seems to be run by Englishmen imagining what an American channel is like, thus creating a caricature that serves no-one.
Michelle Morgan
11. goblinbox
They add a regular Amy voice-over to the BBCA broadcasts? Really?

Those Brits really do think we're dumb.
F Shelley
12. FSS
I thought something might be up

Had this episode gone any faster, it would’ve sounded like it was being performed by Alvin and The Chipmunks.

I only caught the speed up in the opening credit song, but it was very obvious then.
F Shelley
13. FSS
Also - in the last episode of series 4, in Bad Wolf Bay, there a scene on Netflix where Rose asks the Doctor what he tried to say the last time she was there, and he wouldn't answer, but the half human Doctor did, and they kiss. That seems to be missing when BBCA shows that episode. Are there scenes cut/altered in every show on BBCA, or was it just that one time?
Ben H
14. dripgrind
When you say the episodes are "sped up" on BBC America, what does that mean exactly? Edited for time? Transmitted at 1.1x the normal speed? Either way, that sounds like it would spoil the experience, and I wouldn't put up with that kind of jiggery-fuckery.

Just download it "illegally". The compulsory licence fee we all pay over here has covered the costs of production, and it's not BBC America loses money if you don't watch it unless you are a Nielsen household. Moffat himself pointed out how stupid it is that ratings are assessed as if it's 1970. If downloading makes you feel bad, why not download and then watch it again when it airs in the US? No harm done, then. Anything to stop you writing passive-aggressive whining open letters which serve mainly to show that you want to be affiliated with "creators".

Also, all those animated gifs are totally a violation of BBC copyright, so you should stop looking at Tumblr if you are such a copyright hardliner.
15. wandering-dreamer
Well, as someone who does frequent DW fansites and such quite a bit I managed to avoid spoilers for AGMGTW (got spoiled on The Almost People though) fairly easily, I just avoided anything that sounded like it might even remotely be a spoiler for a week. Although I did notice the speeding up towards the end, I thought it looked like they suddenly switched from 30 frames per second to 60, hearing that it was sped up would make a lot of sense.
Rachel Howe
16. ellarien
What makes this decision even stranger to me is that it was a holiday weekend in the UK too. (We call it "Spring Bank Holiday.) I'm sorry your experience was spoiled, in all senses.
Chris Meadows
17. Robotech_Master
This is not the first time that a Doctor Who finale has been messed up outside of British airing. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been a major offender. I don't think that there's any reason to expect a non-BBC network to treat Doctor Who with as much care and respect as the BBC does. It hasn't happened yet, and it doesn't look like it's going to happen in the future. There's only one way that people who live outside the UK can be sure that they are getting a quality, unadulterated version of Doctor Who, and you pretty much hit on exactly what it is.

How I long for the days when Doctor Who was shown on American public television, and they would show a whole movie-length serial in one go every Sunday – commercial-free, of course. This was before the BBC had any idea how popular Doctor Who really was overseas, and hence got the bright idea to jack up its licensing fees beyond what public television could afford.
Teresa Jusino
18. TeresaJusino
To everyone asking why I was checking Tumblr if I was avoiding spoilers: I was silly enough to believe that someone wouldn't spoil something as big as that big reveal in a photo. I wasn't looking at message boards where people were actively talking about the episode, or checking the Wikipedia page...I was looking at the Tumblr, where people generally put wordy spoilers behind cuts, and the photos don't give anything away. In fact, I saw ANOTHER photo where a scene was alluded to, but it was done in such a way that, had you not seen the episode, it woudln't mean anything to you. It is possible.

JoeNotCharles @2 - Again, it's not as if I were waiting to watch the episode and expecting to stay spoiler free. You chose to wait that long. I didn't. That's the difference.

N. Mamatas @6 - no, Christmas DAY isn't a big travel day. What I meant was that it's a big travel HOLIDAY. People tend to go away to visit family and are out of town on that day. If they stay in town, they often go visiting somewhere nearby that day. If they're Christian, that is, which I understand isn't everyone. :)

Fred Hurley @7 - shortening the spoiler window is exactly what I'm talking about. A lot can be spoiled in a week, whereas it's easier to shield yourself from spoilers over a weekend.

Nalwin @8 - I hadn't thought about that, but I'm sure that must be just as frustrating! Well, at least you can be proud that you have shows that get us in just as much of a tizzy over here! :)

goblinbox @11 - I don't know that they do that to every episode, but they did it this time. And it was dumb.

dripgrind @14 - I'm not talking about covering production costs or supporting BBC America, I'm talking about ensuring that the show stays popular and supported on as many networks as possible to ensure that they continue the show, which affects the royalties the creators/actors/etc get. It isn't just Neilsen families that are counted anymore. People watching live are counted through their DVR box, too. They're counted differently, but they are counted. iTunes/Amazon streaming is also counted. Basically, everything is counted except illegal downloading. Shows get cancelled here because people who are fans illegally download and aren't counted as viewers when it's important. So much for the shows they "love."

Also, animated GIFs are not an infringement on copyright, because no one is making money off that that would ordinarily go to the creators.

And yes, when I say "sped-up", I mean that it was broadcast at 1.1x the normal speed. I was watching with a friend who'd seen it on Space in Canada the week before, and he didn't notice that anything important had been cut.
Chris Meadows
19. Robotech_Master
Also, animated GIFs are not an infringement on copyright, because no one is making money off that that would ordinarily go to the creators.

Not to argue with the rest of your post, but a copyright infringement is a copyright infringement regardless of whether it's for profit or not. Copyright involves the right to control where your work appears, as well as to make money from it. That's why fan fiction is considered infringement, for example.
Teresa Jusino
20. TeresaJusino
Robotech_Master @19 - yeah, but that's to do with where your work appears - so if someone were to broadcast your episode or reprint your novel somewhere without your consent, you would be entitled to damages. Taking an image and writing a caption and calling it fan art is not the same thing. If anything, that might be copyright infringement w/regard to the photographer who took the production still, and not the production itself.

Fan fiction is different, true, but as long as there's no money being made off of it, it's generally not prosecuted as copyright infringement, as no harm has come to the creator/production because of its existence - and it actually acts as free promotion for the original source material.
21. Pendard
@dipgrind (#14): She means the episodes are transmitted at 1.1x normal speed... at least. I would say 1.2 or 1.3, but I'm no expert. You could spot it instantly, it wasn't even remotely subtle. The dialogue went so fast you can't always tell what people are saying, especially the Doctor himself, who already speaks fast. Vastra, the Victorian Silurian, was also particularly difficult to understand. A lot of the scenes that should have had emotional impact, like Lorna Bucket's death scene or the big reveal at the end happened too quickly to digest. I found myself wishing they had just found 5 minutes they could cut from the episode so they could play the rest at regular speed. In an episode like this, it would almost certainly be something good, but better to miss 5 good minutes than have 50 good minutes turned into 45 bad ones.

The experience of watching it on BBC America definitely makes me want to download it from iTunes when possible and pirate it when not. Whatever you think about her Tumblr experience, or about American fans being spoiled only having to wait a week, Teresa is absolutely right that BBC America is giving fans who are indifferent to piracy incentives to steal an episode with delays and with editing that detracts from the experience. I hit the web to watch "The Almost People" and "A Good Man Goes to War." I don't feel bad about it because I also downloaded them from iTunes and will probably own the DVD by New Year's, but that certainly won't be the case for every pirate. BBC America made a lot of progress thing year encouraging legal use -- it seems strange they would let this sort of thing detract from it.
22. Chip@2MTL
Hello, Teresa! Did I mention that you and myother guests were awesome on the S6 wrap-up podcast Two-minute Time Lord #216?

Just a couple of counterpoints. Anecdotal staycations aside, I think families are generally more likely to be at vacation spots or otherwise off the grid on the Memorial Day weekend than Christmas, where someone's home is a greater possibility. Also, BBC America is typically on a higher tier -- and entirely absent in some markets -- so I really do think they would have lost serious ad revenue had they aired "The Almost People" during the weekend. Perhaps the better solution would have been to air it and "A Good Man Goes to War" back to back the following Saturday?

As for commercials, dripgrind @14 is a little off the mark. Not only did BBC America co-produce (help pay for directly) the first two episodes of the season, but the license fee itself doesn't cover the full cost of Doctor Who. BBC Worldwide funnels money back to the show, and that money comes from licensing, merchandise and -- overseas distribution. In that sense, especially in this time of nasty budget cuts at the BBC, American commercials do help pay for Doctor Who and I'm happy to put up with them. Timed just right, it's like getting a bunch of mini-cliffhangers complete with the scream, just like the old days.

That said, BBC America was pretty hamfisted with the commercials at a couple of points. "The Impossible Astronaut" was too short to justify "limited commercial interruptions" so we got fairly disruptive promotional content, and then there were the problems with "A Good Man Goes to War." I'd hope that this is a communications problem, with BBC America not understanding what they were getting in time to make a more elegant solution. Ironically, that's one of the hazards of day-and-date distribution: a recent Radio Free Skaro podcast with SPACE's Mark Askwith described how tightly the BBC controls access to the transmissions, which are given to BBC America and SPACE at almost the last minute.
Claire de Trafford
23. Booksnhorses
Hi Teresa. I hope someone takes notice of your gripes. We have similar problems over here in Australia but even worse than in the UK (used to live there too). A case in point is Game of Thrones - hasn't even aired over here yet and won't for a few more months. And iTunes obviously won't let us download it because we are in the wrong region. So what is a girl to do? Hopefully the DVD box set will come out soon, because at least'll ship to us over here (I won't even start on my winge about how expensive books are over here!).

We have a ludicrous amount of adverts (and really, REALLY bad adverts, laughably so) here too to add insult to injury. And then networks start wondering why people download illegally? I know that many people like getting stuff for free but I'm not one of them - I just don't want to have to wait months and I've no will power to avoid spoilers. I would happily pay a few dollars or whatever to download legally (and I'd quite happily carry on paying my BBC licence fee to use iPlayer if they'd let me) - it seems that publishers, networks and studios haven't quite caught up with the 21st C, let alone being ahead of the curve. Something needs to change.
Teresa Jusino
24. TeresaJusino
ClairedeT @23 - your points bring up another issue that sticks in my craw (whatever my craw is). I wish that television networks the world over would figure out how to negotiate their worldwide rights all at once so that websites wouldn't have to be filtered by region, etc. I think that eventually it will happen, with technology shaping up the way it is...but we're not there yet.
j p
25. sps49
Maybe you shouldn't bring up piracy so often in your affectionate missive. It is a lot of protesting on your part.

I believe long weekends re the best time to air shows, because many people aren't at work (bigger potential audience). But I don't think anyone who is away from their home is as likely to download or view an episode of anything online, because hotels and Grandma don't have as fast a connection.

I don't watch much Doctor Who, but I do watch Top Gear. I am happy when they use a 80 minute slot to show an episode in it's entirety, and appreciate the effort to deal with the scheduling issues this causes. I will admit that missing some Clarkson snark is not a concern like a plot element is for Dr. Who, but still.. BBCA usually shows new (to us) episodes several times that day. And the next. And more.

Why shows can't premiere worldwide is a puzzler. I understand (and disagree with) DVD region codes, but not wanting viewers to wait for a show getting int'l buzz?

And my first reaction is dayna's @1. It only takes one poster, and don't we all know this by now? :)

I don't want to make light of your distress; I get bent over things, too.
26. Vincent Archer
"I wish that television networks the world over would figure out how to negotiate their worldwide rights all at once so that websites wouldn't have to be filtered by region, etc."

Everyone is still harping on the "inescapable fact" that we're now in a worldwide market, yet some people try to remain oblivious to that.

At this point, I understand the position of russian president Medvedev when he says that we're still mired in a position on IP that's a product of a century ago. And treaties based on an economy in which boat shipping was the only reasonable way to send stuff around are about...

... well, I can't find words for it.

I do know the business theory behind it. The problem with market segmentation is that it requires a monopoly, and the will to work against the economical forces of the market economy. You cannot support the market economy, and support market segmentation, because the entire weight of the marketplace is working against you.

Side note: We're getting the Green Lantern movie here in two months. Two months. It's targeting the exact demographic that is moderately tech-savvy, internet-connected and which WILL have downloaded it in droves during the intermediate weeks.

Any distributor who made that decision deserves the lost sales he's going to suffer...
Ben H
27. dripgrind
Your answers about fanfiction and the use of copyrighted images make it clear that your objection to downloading isn't that it infringes copyright, it's that it denies revenue to the BBC.

So the correct answer is to download the show and watch it on time and at the right speed, then watch it again (or at least play it on your DVR) when it's broadcast in America. That way no harm is done to revenues.

To be honest, if BBC America are stupid enough to play an episode speeded up, they deserve to take a ratings hit on that episode to deter them from doing it again.
28. DarrenJL
"Basically, everything is counted except illegal downloading."

Not really true. More like:

"Basically, a very minute fraction of everything is counted except illegal downloading."
29. Sonni
Well, since I live in a little tropical corner of the world where (i) the BBC is just a cable news channel, (ii) Doctor Who is as familiar as, I dunno, snow, and (iii) even the biggest video stores don't carry the DVDs, my downloading of up-to-date episodes of the the good Doctor's exploits seem a perfectly reasonable option for one in my position.

Do I later buy DVD sets from Amazon (and have them shipped to relatives in the US and then re-shipped to my island home), or buy the same when I get to travel to the nearest first world country in my neck of the woods? Why, it turns out, yes, I do. Do the owners/creators of Doctor Who "earn" from my subsequent purchases? Undoubtedly. But I wonder: If I didn't have the luxury of my purchasing power, indulgent relatives in the US or frequent international travel, would my patronage of bootleg episodes make me an enemy of art? Even if I preach the gospel of how brilliant this show is to friends and geeks alike, in gatherings and on the internet? I guess I must be. Because the complex debate on "copyright vs free access to art" ends with the privileged few taking all the spoils.
30. DarrenJL
"I firmly believe that if you enjoy any work of art—be it television,
music, or film—you should pay for it, and enjoy it the way it’s intended
to be enjoyed to ensure that the artists you love can continue to
create the kind of art you love."

Not a fan of libraries, then?
31. schwing
I don't get it - I'm not paying for the episode when it airs on teevee, and I'm never going to buy any of the things I'd be seeing in the ads, so what am I stealing by downloading, exactly? One less number is "counted"? That's a problem with the people trying to measure viewership, not with me.
Fredrik Coulter
32. fcoulter
While we're still divided up into national markets, it used to be worse. I remember going to the Miami premier of Star Wars (episode four, the first one). It had opened weeks ago in New York.

Interestingly, this is also an example of how poor communications were in the internet free past. There were about five people at that first showing, and three of them were my family. (The audience grew steadily over the next few weeks.) But when it opened in Miami, it was already doing quite well in New York. But no one knew about it way down south.

Luckily, the poor communications also meant that we were living in a spoiler free time period.
33. metheone
-Library Lending is not pirating as each book/dvd/cd etc. is purchased and recorded and all check outs are recorded. Using a lending library is not the same as piracy.
Charles Dunkley
34. cedunkley
Teresa, I've been watching this season via a TV Pass from Amazon. Hearing that they actually sped up the timing of the episode on cable I'm now especially glad that I do not currently have BBCA on cable.

I refuse to download pirated copies of anything as I am an aspiring writer who hopes to be published myself someday and I can't justify doing that.

I stayed away from anything Doctor Who related as much as possible in that extra week since I had heard that the UK had already seen the episode, with the exception of your blog on here. Luckily those who were here from the UK talking about it were respectful enough to not let slip the big reveal.

And it seems that BBC doesn't take into consideration viewers like me who pay Amazon for the show. Its unfortunate that I should have to wait for Amazon to have to wait for BBC America to actually air the eposide here in the US. That seems like an unnecessary extra step in the process of Internet subscriptions.

Personally, I don't understand why other channels like HBO haven't figured out they can make extra revenue by making their shows like Game of Thrones available via such an Internet subscription. The fact that I have to go through a cable company middle man in today's technology age seems like an unncessary burden.
David Thomson
35. ZetaStriker
Anyone who scans tumblr before being knowing all there is to know about the subject deserves to be spoiled, honestly. I've had to make this argument to a friend recently, and had to lie to her to get her to disbelieve a particular Game of Thrones spoiler up until it finally happened at the end of last Sunday's episode.
Sky Thibedeau
36. SkylarkThibedeau
How fan fiction is viewed depends on the Corporation that owns the Intellectual Property and their point of view. Paramount and now CBS realized the fans are free publicity for their Star Trek property and are pretty lenient as long as you don't sell anything. The USS Farragut ( group is a good example. They make classic trek type episodes but don't sell them but they take donations to defray their costs.

NBC-Universal however has been pretty heavy handed in many cases with its interpretation of how fan sites impact their Battlestar Galactica property. Recently all the Battlestar tribute Role Playing Sims in Second Life were taken down by Linden Labs in a DMCA complaint from NBC-U. Fortunately Trekkers who had similar sims intervened and NBC-U saw the publicity value and relented but the damage had been done as the Battlestar Pacifica Roleplay( which had been ongoing for several years was shut down by its owners who had been paying Linden Labs $900 a month to host the game and could no longer charge fees to fly to defray the costs.

Personally I see nothing wrong with fanfiction. Most of it is merely for personal enjoyment and the vast majority is no threat at all to IP owners but is a free advertisement.
Ben Frey
37. BenPatient
I have BBC America on my satellite TV package, but I've stopped recording Doctor Who to my DVR because the experience is so bad. I don't feel bad downloading it from wherever, becuase I already get the channel and the show with a programming package I'm paying for (quite a bit, actually).

I watched last season partially via BBCA, but then I saw someone's ripped version on their computer, straight from the BBC1, and I was like...why are they messing around with this so much?

I had the DVR schedule set to record new episodes this year so that I wouldn't miss when it started back up, and so the first two episodes I saw on BBCA this season. I also DLed them, and wow...completely different experience. They are quite nearly ruining the show! What's all this "inside who" crap, anyway? Just let it play. Cut for commercials. quit messing around.

I bet half the people who 'illegally' DL Doctor Who in the US actually get it with their existing TV package.
38. DarrenJL
@metheone I didn't say libraries were the same as downloading (or rather, uploading). I said her statement "if you enjoy any work of art, you should pay for it" would mean libraries don't cut the moral mustard. You don't pay to borrow a book (or a cd, lp, comic book or dvd...) from a library.

Not really sure what you're getting at with the check outs being recorded, though. Don't think it's the anonymity of file-sharing that upsets IP holders.
Teresa Jusino
39. TeresaJusino
sps49 @25 - but I mean to protest. :) I mean to protest a lot. And I'm doing that by bringing up the one thing that might actually make them listen; something they might actually be worried about.

dripgrind @27 - it's not so much about BBC America having revenue (although them having revenue from a show means they keep a show on), as it is about the creators of the show having revenue. The writers in particular, but everyone involved with the show. Keeping the show on benefits them financially and gives them more power every year the show is on.

schwing @31 - you don't pay for the episode directly, no, but it's paid for by advertising, which you end up paying for every time you buy a product. And people tend to buy products they see advertised at them a lot, which is why advertisers target certain shows for certain products. Television isn't free. It's basically a platform for advertisers. Always has been since Milton Berle and Texaco Star Theater - one of the first television shows ever, and it had a sponsor right in the title! :) Watching a television show on a network live when it's on means it gets counted by the network. The network shows advertisers those numbers, and if the advertisers think they're reaching a lot of people, they continue to back the show, and the show stays on. If you enjoy a show, the best thing to do to ensure it stays on is to watch it live when it's on (that's still how the system works, sadly, until they figure out another model). The second best thing to do is to watch it on DVR within 7 days of airing. The third best thing to do is to watch it on Hulu or download it from iTunes or Amazon. Viewership is counted in that order, with each option being counted a little bit less, because advertisers still spend the most money on broadcast television (again, until they figure out a new business model). But to slightly correct Darren JL @28 - they DO count all of that - they just don't count each one the same way.

But you know what doesn't get counted at all? Pirated episodes. If you're pirating episodes, no one knows you're watching. If enough people pirate, advertisers think a show's not popular, and they revoke their support - then shows get canceled. This is all a very simple run-down, but that's basically how it works. And my whole point is that, by doing certain things, BBC America is practically encouraging people to pirate, which means that if enough people do it, they might have to cancel their cash cow.

Skylark Thibedeau @36 - I run a Caprica fan art/fan fiction site. Originally, I'd wanted to create a fan fiction book with the proceeds going to charity, but when I approached NBCU (through one of the writers on Caprica, with whom I've become friendly), they said no, because - even for charity - profiting at all from a venture like that is a hornet's nest of legal issues re: IP. However, I started the site, which they know about, and there's been nothing, because no one is profiting off of someone else's IP.

The reason they came down hard on the BSG second life characters, in my opinion, is that they had plans for the BSG Online game, and didn't want competition. Which is perfectly reasonable. If you have plans for a game that's going to be coming out, you don't want people playing a BSG game online for free that you didn't create.

No one sues over copyright (or very few people do) when there's nothing to do with money. The whole reason for copyright law is to ensure that the creators and owners of the IP get paid what's due them for what they've created/broadcast. There is such a thing as "fair use" where anyone is allowed to use a certain amount of someone else's IP for critical analysis/discussion, though that certain amount changes depending on who's interpreting the law. But the bottom line is, no one goes after anyone unless there's a hinderance to money being made. Someone creating an animated gif on Tumblr is not keeping Doctor Who from making money. Someone broadcasting an episode via torrent and someone watching it, is.

And fan fiction online doesn't keep the shows from making money either. But if, for example, my Caprica site somehow conflicted with future plans that NBCU had for that property, I'd take it down without a problem, as it would be well within their rights. Sadly, I don't think they have any plans for that property. :(

Lastly, several of you have expressed the fact that you pirate, but then also download legally/buy DVDs/etc. While yes, that does eventually contribute to the creators, etc, the fact is that you're continuing to contribute to a system that would take away from them. It's not a matter of canceling the other thing out. For example, if I were to buy a fake Fendi purse on the street, but then go buy a real Fendi purse, it's not like one purchase cancels out the other. My purchase of the fake keeps the pirate in business long enough to make another sale, and that other sale might be to someone who won't buy a real Fendi.

There's also the other issue that bothers me, which is that technology has made people impatient and needing to have their shows rightnow, no matter what. But that's a discussion for another time. :)
Helen Peters
40. Helen
Please don't be too harsh on the fan who posted the picture. They may well have been from over here. The only reason I knew it was being aired simultaneously in the US as the UK was because I come here and talk with you guys, also that's the only reason I knew you'd have a delay of one week for this particular episode. So if the fan was British they may not have known you were going to be spoiled.

But at least the stupid mid series break will allow you to catch up, otherwise you'd be behind for even longer.
Sky Thibedeau
41. SkylarkThibedeau
Teresa @39. I think you're right it was originally due to Big point's game going into open beta the next week. Sad thing is, the way they are running that game making it harder and harder to play for free and allowing the Colonial faction to outnumber the Cylon 5 to 1 on most servers (making it almost impossible to be a Cylon) they are in fact hurting the franchise in my opinion.
Teresa Jusino
42. TeresaJusino
Helen @40 - well, much in the same way that spoilers travel fast because of the internet, so does fan-related news, like the U.S. having to wait a week. You knew, because you follow news here. Others know, because they follow Twitter, or Tubmlr, or Facebook, or any number of Doctor Who related sites online. I had so many Twitter followers from the UK say stuff to me like "sucks to be you!" when I tweeted about having to wait. :) Of course, when they DID see the episode, they also said things like "I WISH I COULD TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENS!" and "CAN'T WAIT FOR YOU TO WATCH IT SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT!" They had the decency not to spoil. Look at that! It IS possible!

Just because they're in the UK doesn't mean they don't know what 's going on here.

And yes, the stupid mid-series break DOES allow us to catch up, which is great. And at lest I know that Doctor Who fans all over the world will be suffering through the summer in the same way. :)
Marc Gioglio
43. Fuzzix
I think your Purse analogy is a bit off the mark. For many, pirating is more like if you borrow a purse from your friend, then decide to go out and buy one. I know that's how my friends and I viewed it in college. If we liked how a game played, we bought it, if not, we didn't. TV is a different animal though. It doesn't appear to be content driven at all. It is all driven by advertising. IMO, The advertising business model is in decline because technology has outdated it, which is why I appreciate your letter so much. Pirating will always exist. Laziness will always exist. Whoever (Pirates or Broadcasters) does the best job of catering to the lazy will win the viewers.
44. Kevin J Marks
A while back I complained that the BBC's parochial attitude that was making Neil Gaiman furtively obtain Doctor Who - expat fans were being treated like Madame de Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace, only getting the Doctor on DVD, after waiting long enough to die.

They solved this problem for Neil by having him write The Doctor's Wife, so he gets to carry round the series on a flash key. It almost seemed like the BBC got the message, boasting in the New York Times that the US premiere will not be delayed. But that was like the promise to Amelia Pond that they'd be right back, while we pay iTunes or Amazon for the new series, and are left sitting on our suitcase in our nightie and wellies, while nothing downloads for us.

Instead, because they fret archaically about TV ratings, we're supposed to wait 13 hours after the UK sees it, and then, like Rose in Journey's End, we're stuck in a parallel universe with a pale imitation of the Doctor - BBC America's letterboxed, pillarboxed, advertisement-infested, scenes-cut-for-time version that I truly hope Steven Moffat, Russell Davies, Neil Gaiman, and everyone else who worked so hard to imagine these adventures for us, never gets to see. It's like the Dream Lord from Amy's Choice seized control of the Tardis from us.

So what can we do? We can be like River Song in the Impossible Astronaut, and fly the Tardis properly, sweetly warn of spoilers, and get the episode from BitTorrent instead.

If the BBC were smart about this, they'd offer the diehard fans a pay-to-download package that started downloading during the UK première TV showing. If they were even smarter they'd charge a super premium to get access the same time they do the press previews the week before. I know I'd pay.
blog post]
Ben H
45. dripgrind
The creators of the show are going to be compensated for it as long as it rates well, regardless of the level of illegal downloads. And if you download it from a torrent site while using Adblock, the pirates won't make any money off you. So there's no harm done by downloading the show and then "watching" it when it's broadcast legitimately (assuming the way you watch it counts towards the total statistics - otherwise it doesn't matter whether you watch it or not).

The only reason to make a big moral stand about not downloading the episode is to signal how moral and creative you are. Millions of UK households will watch it live and sustain its production. How you watch it is of marginal importance.

If BBC America wants to broadcast episodes in a mangled Benny Hill chase format, you shouldn't encourage them. If you watch it like that (assuming you contribute to their viewing figures), you're telling them it's acceptable, and condemning all the people who aren't tech-savvy enough to use Bittorrent to seeing the show in a shitty format, which will inevitably lead to depressed viewing figures. It would be better for the long term health of the show if you downloaded it illegally when they pull that kind of nonsense.

I watched it on iPlayer, projected onto a wall, so the quality was excellent. But if the BBC ever pulled shit like speeding up episodes instead of scheduling them properly, I'd start evading the licence fee - just like when I had a cable TV provider which overcompressed the video, I cancelled it and switched to another company; just like when a cinema has shitty projection quality, I ask for my money back. TV executives don't give a shit about open letters from nerds, but luckily in the modern age you don't have to support their crappy product to see the show.
Ben H
46. dripgrind
Or to put it more concisely, the question you're asking is: "what if everyone downloaded"?

In the UK, we've already paid, so we're allowed to download through iPlayer.

In the US, if everyone downloaded episodes which were broadcast a week late and at the wrong speed, BBC America would quickly learn not to show them that way.
F Shelley
47. FSS
I had no idea BBCA was showing all the episodes at 1.1 or faster speeds. I only caught it during the opening music of the last episode.

On one of the earlier episode threads, I mentioned that the whole pace of the show felt too fast this year, and thought Moffat and company were trying to speed up the feel of the show for the American audience, with which I disagreed. If the real reason for this is that BBCA is playing all the episodes too fast, then I apologize to Moffat and turn my ire to BBCA. I'd rather (horrors) have the show last 1.5 hours, and have them throw in the Doctor Who Insider stuff at the end each week and have the show played normal speed with no edits than have them ruin episodes the way they have.
Soon Lee
48. SoonLee
"NOTE TO FANS: Don’t spoil until you’re sure everyone’s seen it!"

A laudable sentiment, but not very practical.

New Zealand has just aired "The Rebel Flesh" which makes us about a month behind the original broadcast, and I'm sure there are places around the world that are even further behind.

The choice to not download is a difficult one for me; spoilers are ubiquitous. Me, I avoid (as much as I can) online discussions until I have viewed the episode(s) in question. That's not easy.
49. Sonni
"The whole reason for copyright law is to ensure that the creators and
owners of the IP get paid what's due them for what they've created "

Hmmm... How about this to ponder: The whole reason for copyright law is to ensure that creative works are, after a limited period, made part of the public domain. Ensuring the economic benefits of creators is merely incidental to the foregoing goal.

And as to the alleged impatience and sense of entitlement of us dispicable bootleg patrons, as I've previously noted above, there are countries where Doctor Who episodes are never aired. Given this, my ilk and I should be content to remain oblivious, right? We should have the moral strength to wait it out and hope that, in this small wired world, a platform is created that would allow us paid access to Doctor Who -- which is really just a product, and not, say, art that may be enjoyed without purchase?
50. FredDred

From what I've read online the Canadian channel that aired Journey's End absolutely butchered it. Cutting out 17 minutes of a 63 minute show. The Sci-fi channel in America aired it as a 90 minute show (at least the first broadcast). If you see it as a 60 minute show with commercials, realize that more than a quarter of it is missing.

As for speed up on BBCA. I think that AGMGTW was a few minutes longer than the usual episodes, and either the speedup of the other eps was less noticeable, or they didn't speed up most of the episodes.

The mid-season finale was obviously intended to have a lot of poignant emotional moments. I've noticed that the show really gets the timing of those moments right. Unless some moron speeds them up and blows the careful timing all to hell.

After they gave that episode the Chipmunk treatment, I'm just going to wait for it to come out on Netflix. Watching sped up, edited-down, of otherwise screwed with? No thanks.
Teresa Jusino
51. TeresaJusino
dripgrind @45:

"The only reason to make a big moral stand about not downloading the episode is to signal how moral and creative you are. Millions of UK households will watch it live and sustain its production. How you watch it is of marginal importance."

That would be true if the creators were only interested in revenue from the UK. The fact that they're pushing the show so hard in the US indicates that they're rather appreciative of our advertising dollars and expanding both the success of the property and the cache of the creators to a worldwide audience. You seem to not understand or care how television works in the US, but they do.

Advocating piracy to "teach a network a lesson" is ridiculous precisely because piraters aren't counted. It's not as if they'll say "Well, there are X number of people pirating the show that WOULD watch our show if we did it right, so let's do things right." Better to watch the show, then make your feelings known to the network (which was my intention with this letter). Networks pay attention to numbers, not an absence of numbers, and if you're pirating shows without watching them live, or without getting them in an authorized fashion, networks don't care what you think. All they see is that not that many people watch the show live, and they pull the plug. Piracy isn't a statement, it's a lack of one, much like if you don't go out to vote in an election, you don't have the right to complain about the results.

And people keep bringing up pirating, then watching it live later, and as I said, pirating at all contributes to the system of piracy which also allows for people who won't be as conscientious as you. You're helping other people hurt your show despite your good intentions, is all I'm saying.

And as for countries that don't show the show at all, that's what DVDs are for. And if you have access to to order DVDs, that means you ALSO have Amazon to rent/buy the episodes individually online. There's really no excuse for pirating. At all. Sorry.

And going back to the thing about libraries - when I say people should "pay for art," I don't mean they have to shell out money each time they want to enjoy it. I mean, they should enjoy the art in the authorized ways in which the artist puts it out. Deals have been worked out to ensure that those creators are compensated properly for that access. And yes, there are plenty of artists who give things away for free promotionally, and that's great. It's also up to them. There's a big difference between artists giving things away for free, and art lovers taking them. Piracy, to me, speaks to an underlying disrespect for where the art you love comes from.
52. DarrenJL
You're vacillating between "artist" and "copyright holder". You know those often aren't the same things, right? You say you're not in favour of "shell out money each time they want to enjoy it," but I think you're aware that that IS the push. Licencing, rather than ownership. Renting ebooks or ecomics, so that each time they're read, they have to be re-rented. Expiration dates on downloaded songs. Netflix. And the "limited"ness will only increase. That's capitalism, and that's fine. But it's also an attack on the rights of the consumer to own purchased copies of work.
53. cranscape
First off, sorry you were spoiled but if you use tumblr at all you know no one keeps a spoiler on there. This is a known thing. It is like the wild wild west for spoilers. I am not going anywhere near the tag for The Killing until I have a chance to see yesterday's episode. It is pretty much common sense the teenagers on there won't and have never used a cut tag. You're just lucky Doctor Who is one of the few things you can be spoiled on. UK fans have to tiptoe around all the American shows since we can't keep a secret either. If you want to stay to a place that historically does use cut tags try livejournal. Older age group and 10+ years worth of social reinforcement.

That said -- BBC America were idiots for being off a week. Everyone in my family were ready to sit down and watch it....only for it not to be on. People watch tv on a holiday like that. We even watched a chunk of the marathon they ran.
54. Sonni
"And as for countries that don't show the show at all, that's what DVDs
are for. And if you have access to to order DVDs, that meansyou ALSO have Amazon to rent/buy the episodes individually online. There's really no excuse for pirating. At all. Sorry."

Haha! This part really made me laugh out loud! You obviously have no idea about the limitations on product distribution in third-world countries, specifically on how DVDs are ordered and sold in legit stores or how videos are accessed from various internet based platforms. As to the latter, please note that Amazon does not ship to our neck of the woods. As previously posted, we make do with, among others, complicated re-shipping courtesy of indulgent relatives abroad. Moreover, most videos for "rent" online are only available via US, European and/or other first world internet providers...

So what should we do? Oh, yeah: We should suffer in pop-cultural darkness! No Doctor Who for us South-East Asian "Freaks and Geeks"! (Another great TV show that never made it to our shores.)

Anyway, snarkiness aside, I only really meant to stress the innate disingenousness of invoking copyright law as a defense of business models that technology has rendered both obsolete and limiting. The moral imperative at the heart of copyright law is the democratization of creative works for universal public consumption, and not the producer's (not necessarily creator's) rate of economic return for the same.
Jenny Thrash
55. Sihaya
"Haha! This part really made me laugh out loud! You obviously have no idea about the limitations on product distribution in third-world countries, specifically on how DVDs are ordered and sold in legit stores or how videos are accessed from various internet based platforms."

Heck, first world countries. Have you tried online shopping in South Korea? The laws are positively draconian.
56. DarrenJL
Yes. Yes, I have. And you're absolutely right on the money. All that ActiveX, only to find out you're wasting your time if you're not Korean by blood.
Teresa Jusino
57. TeresaJusino
DarrenJL @52 -

"But it's also an attack on the rights of the consumer to own purchased copies of work."

Just playing Devil's Advocate here, but...who says that anyone has a "right" to enjoy something more than the once? If you go to the movies, you're paying for the privilege of seeing it once. If you want to see it again, you pay again. If you go to a museum to see a famous painting, you pay to get into the museum each time you want to see it (unless it has a free day and you go then). Point being, when did it become a "right" to be able to enjoy something multiple times. Just because that's what we've gotten used to doesn't mean it's a "right." It just means we've been lucky. I'm just curious as to when the idea of owning art in any medium to be enjoyed more than once became a right and not a privilege?

You'd never pay a plumber once, and expect that plumber to continue coming over to fix your plumbing for free multiple times, would you? Why is art different than any other service provided?

cranscape @53 - I'm amazed that in this entire post where I'm primarily taking BBC America to task for their bad decisions, people are latching on to the two teensy times where I tell fans that they just might bear some responsibility, too. :) Which they do. Will everyone always be careful about spoilers. Of course not. Doesn't mean I don't get to call them out on it when they do something stupid. "They're just going to do it anyway" isn't a particularly good defense of inconsiderate behavior. Or, it shouldn't be, anyway.

Sonni @54 - see my comment to Darren JL above. It sounds harsh to say it that way, but watching Doctor Who isn't exactly a human right. While it would be awesome if every single country could see it, it's not immoral or an infringement of their rights if they can't. Let's not get carried away. "Pop-culture darkness" isn't exactly poverty or hunger, is it?

"The moral imperative at the heart of copyright law is the
democratization of creative works for universal public consumption, and not the producer's (not necessarily creator's) rate of economic return for the same."

That's just not true. Copyright law is about both, otherwise there would be no plagarism lawsuits, or lawsuits about showing/giving away work illegally. Copyright is about protecting the creator and/or owner of the intellectual property as much as about democratizing works for public consumption. If you think it's only about consumption, you're wrong.

However, and this is for everyone - the entire point of my post is that BBC America should be working to prevent piracy by being more concerned with the fan experience.

And here's an example of how doing so broadened a BBC property. Spaced, the BBC show created by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes. It was being bootlegged here in the States after it aired in the UK, and it wasn't until 2004 that the creators realized that it had an audience here, when they saw that people were wearing Tim & Daisy shirts at SDCC. So, what did they do? They cleared the music rights they needed to clear for an overseas market, and they made a legal DVD copy of the series available to us here!

(PS - I was introduced to Spaced when it aired - legally - on a now defunct cable chanel called Trio. I recorded the whole series on VHS and watched them over and over. Didn't make copies for other people. Did invite people over to watch and created new Spaced fans that way who ended up getting multi-region DVD players just so they could buy the UK DVDs)

However, you can't correct one side of the problem without also correcting the other. My biggest gripe is, and always has been, with people who have access to it legally and still choose to download. With the people who COULD watch it on BBC America, or wait to watch Doctor Who the next day either on iTunes or Amazon but because they don't have the patience to wait a whole day, would rather steal the episode instead. There's just no reason for that. You have it on television, in online formats, and/or on DVD/Netflix. What more do you want? You can give me examples of difficult situations and third-world countries all you like, but my big problem is with people who have more options than that and choose not to exercise them because they think they have a "right" to watch Doctor Who whenever they want. While stealing is more understandable in certain situations than others (stealing to feed your family, stealing because you're the victim of a system that is actively oppressing you - basically Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread), it's never legal, and it's never morally right. Sure stealing a loaf of bread doesn't mean you should go to jail for 19 years, but the stealing is still wrong, hurtful to the people who baked the bread and lost money on that loaf, and should be avoided if it can be helped. Jean Valjean knew that. I wish folks who think they have a "right" to television shows knew that, too.
William Fettes
58. Wolfmage
I dispute the argument that intellectual property violation is theft. Calling it theft is a dubious rhetorical shortcut to try to invoke the strong moral intuitions that surround theft of truly alienable property, like physical property or a chose in action (money in a bank account), in place of the much weaker normative respect commanded by modern notions of copyright law.

As a matter of legal definitions, legal theft involves both an intention to permanently deprive someone of something, as well as the actual material deprivation that is involved in exercising such an intention. Copyright violation by digital replication is not equivilent to stealing a TV precisely because the act of copying has no effect on the identity or possession of the work itself, and accordingly, the intention limb cannot be satisfied.

The deprivation involved in copyright violation is about collateral rights - which are involved when you monetise a work based on extrinsic tertiary controls embedded in intellectual property law - which is precisely why we have an entirely separate corpus of intellectual property law dealing with these issues. If theft was already sufficiently normatively robust to deal with these issues, we wouldn't need voluminous statutes and case law on the subject to create these more sophisticated controls.

Of course, aside from the general obligation to obey the law, there are lots of sound moral arguments to be made for the respect of copyright holders - and you can definitely make a good case for the necessity of such control to create optimal creative incentives - however, it does require leaving the bombastic theft label behind. In the end, you may even acknowledge that not everyone is going to share the same definition of what is an optimal level of control at a social and individual level.
Teresa Jusino
59. TeresaJusino
Wolfmage @58 - What's funny is that I agree with everything you're saying here except this:

Calling it theft is a dubious rhetorical shortcut to try to invoke the strong moral intuitions that surround theft of truly alienable property,
like physical property or a chose in action (money in a bank account),
in place of the much weaker normative respect commanded by modern
notions of copyright law.


Copyright violation by digital replication is not equivilent to stealing a TV precisely because the act of copying has no effect on the identity
or possession of the work itself, and accordingly, the intention limb
cannot be satisfied.

Piracy is theft precisely because there is a threat to alienable property. Everything that is on television, or legally available online, or sold as a DVD or digital download has been paid for in one way or another, and all parties involved in the creation of those things are compensated according to the deals made for its availability in each medium. Not going through those legally available mediums and pirating means those parties aren't paid for that viewing. It is absolutely theft. There's no grey there. Just because something is easily ignored because the person pirating doesn't actaully see the money exchanging (or not exchanging) hands, doesn't mean it's not happening. That's like covering your eyes and thinking that makes you invisible.
Marc Gioglio
60. Fuzzix
I think this discussion needs a segregation of the person who is pirating the material in the first place, and the person who views said pirated material. If a pirate steals all the inventory from my ship, the pirate has committed theft. If that pirate sells the material to someone else, has that person committed theft? How does the law treat consumers of pirated material when the material is purely physical?

-Breaking off to a personal example here-

I used to have a significant collection of video games and systems. Someone stole nearly 25% of my collection. I had homeowners insurance and worked through insurance which gave me an assessment value of approximately 50% of dollars I spent on it. Meanwhile, I worked with law enforcement and visited all of the local game stores to determine where my stuff went. Finally, we found the store to which the stolen material was sold. The law did not give me any right to the material in the store at all. None. If I wanted it, I would have to pay them whatever they charged to get MY stuff back (which would translate to a significant monetary loss as they have a much higher 'appraisal value' than my insurance). That sucked, but it was the law.

Translating this experience to the BBC issue here (and stop me if I'm wrong):
Me/BBC is the victim of thief/pirate who distibutes to store/fans. The law protected me against the thief but does not prosecute against the store EVER. Should not the law protect BBC against the pirate with no prosecution against the fans EVER? (At least in America as that's where I live.)

Perhaps if fans who merely arive at content through the results of another's piracy are still labelled fans instead of (wrongfully) alienated as pirates, a real crackdown on PIRATES (instead of what has come to be known as piracy) could begin with support from fans and original content providers. I believe this is exactly the sentiment the author is attempting to convey in the open letter, but that message seems to be lost in translation.
61. Cynthia4
I just have to say a few things. First, I am pretty much in line with you on everything in your letter. Except, of course, that I will watch episodes early if I can find them for free online somewhere. I also watch the moment it airs on TV, and I also buy the DVDs, and Netflix them as well. I don't feel bad about this.

I do HATE spoilers. I want to enjoy the episode the way it was meant to be seen the first time I see it. I don't want to know what happens before I get to watch it. It just burns me up. I don't go to discussion forums, I don't use any of the fan sites and other services that have been mentioned fact...I haven't even heard of most of them.

After watching "The Almost People" air in the US, though, my husband went onto his Facebook page and warned me to stay away from mine. Apparently the official Doctor Who page was discussing the reveal in "A Good Man Goes to War" with no spoiler warnings whatsoever! If I had just gone to Facebook to read through my news feed - which I do every couple of days - then I would have had the spoiler blasted right at me with no warning. NOT cool.

I'm glad you mentioned the speeding up of the episodes as well. I didn't realize that is what had happened, but I was wondering why we kept having to use closed captioning to understand the dialogue on the show. After several minutes of "what did he say?" interrupting our show watching, we put it on so that we could actually enjoy the episodes. Wish they would just show the shows like they are meant to be shown. Sure, add in the commercials, but don't butcher them with cuts and sped-up episodes.

Public libraries are, in fact, paid for by those who use them. Your tax dollars at work, folks.
62. TonyE

I don't know where you're watching Dr Who here in Australia but it's aired interruption free (no adverts) on the ABC. Now as for the delays in airing - it would be nice if we got it simultaneously with the UK.

As for the copyright issues - Eric Flint over at Baen Books makes some interesting observations about "piracy" as does the singer/songwriter Janis Ian - they have some quite contrary opinions to Teresa's. Eric Flints are particularly interesting.
63. Sonni
One person can gripe about how BBC America inadequately distributes a TV show in her neck of the woods, but another person shouldn't complain about how the same TV show is not being shown or distributed at all from where he's based? Sheesh! That is so "Javert-ian" in reasoning: pretty one-sided, easily ignoring and dismissing the nuances of context and situation (and one which allows the Valjean-types to rot in jail). And which unfortunately spills over to the "I'm-right-you're-wrong" position on copyright issues.

I appreciate Wolfmage noting and emphasizing that the economic component of IP rights are but collateral rights, and not primary ones. As I earlier argued, copyright law is historically traceable to the adoption of democratic states of a policy guaranteeing that creative works are inevitably brought into the public domain, not just for the free enjoyment of citizens, but to prevent a situation where art and ideas are hoarded, and made stale, by limiting access to the priviledged few.

To argue that collateral economic effects of copyright law is on the same equal footing as the above-stated policy is, again, disingenuous. Not wrong per se, just disingenuous.
64. KirstenZoe
Very well said, I agree with everything in this letter. I hope it actually catches the attention of BBC America. While in the grand scheme of things, no, its not one of the more important things in the universe to be spoiled or have to wait a week to watch an episode, it does nothing but hurt viewership of a show we'd all love to see gain more interest. I love and will continue to watch Doctor Who and many other BBC shows, but that doesn't stop my frustration at how they've been treating US viewers.
Mari Ness
65. MariCats
Coming in very late to make a comment that will almost certainly be unread to nitpick at one point, that I think is important because it's so often misunderstood:

Public libraries aren't free. They're paid for through tax money and fees.

Sure, area residents get to borrow the materials for free with generally very reasonable late fees. But, outside of interlibrary loan agreements, non-residents have to pay some sort of access fee because their taxes have not gone to the library.

In our county, the library tax is even listed as a separate item on the property tax bill. Renters pay the tax through their landlords, who also have to pay the library tax. In other areas, the library tax isn't separated out, but the library is still supported through local property and sales taxes and fees.

So, yes, if you borrow a DVD from a library in your area, you and/or your family/housemates have paid for it. Not very much, but you contributed towards the cost of the library and obtaining materials.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
66. tnh
IMO, you should for your entertainment. I'm not saying you should do it because it's the moral thing to do. Instead, you should do it because the systems that create and deliver your entertainment are more fragile than you understand. It's not like if you break those systems there suddenly won't be any books or games or movies. They'll still exist. There just won't be nearly as many kinds, and they won't be as interesting.

You know the difference between those paperback racks that only have books by one bestselling author per vertical row, and a bookstore with a good diverse selection that has something for everyone? That's the difference between broken and not broken.

The other reason you should do it is because if you like a show, a book, an author, a genre, a musician, a game, whatever, paying for it is the only effective way to get the system to give you more like it.

On libraries and piracy: Using libraries is nothing like piracy. The books in libraries get purchased from the publishers, who pay standard royalties on those sales to the authors. The libraries lend out those copies to the public, who support libraries with their taxes.

Dripgrind @45:
The only reason to make a big moral stand about not downloading the episode is to signal how moral and creative you are.
That's unnecessary. You might not take such a stand for any other reason, but I see no reason to doubt that Teresa J. feels strongly about the issue.

Sonni @49: No. The explicit purpose of U.S. copyright laws is, and always has been, to encourage the production of art and literature by protecting the artist's right to the proceeds from sales of their work for a limited period.

Wolfmage @58, all you're saying is that it isn't theft of goods. That leaves theft of services still on the table.

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