London, United Kingdom – 2013, May – An astounding 4.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the premier of the third season of the Game of Thrones, but they weren’t the only viewers watching the show. According to Torrent Freak, approximately 1 million additional viewers also downloaded the show through torrents with up to 160,000 people sharing downloads simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, most of the torrent download requests came from people in the U.S. and U.K.
The reaction of HBO came as a surprise to many. Rather than denounce the illegal downloads, Michael Lombardo, the network’s programming president, made the statement that the incredible number of downloads of the show was actually “a compliment of sorts.” He is also quoted as saying that downloads of prior seasons “certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales.”
Additionally, a study published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre concluded that pirated music does not harm legitimate music sales, and after studying a sample of 16,000 Europeans, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies stated that freely streamed music may actually result in boosted sales figures for the music industry.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) expressed doubt about the legitimacy of the research of both organisations and said that, “The findings seem disconnected from commercial reality.” Regardless of whether the research findings are right or wrong, the piracy of movies, music and intellectual property is illegal, and, in general, most can agree that people are entitled to own the products of their labors.
Shireen Smith, founder of Azrights, best-selling author and an intellectual property and social media specialist, has stated, “The Internet is a wonderful tool that impacts many aspects of society, business and law. Whilst I understand that it’s important for the Internet to be “free,” that does not necessarily mean that everything on it is supposed to be free.”
The U.K. has already taken steps to try to limit piracy and copyright infringement. In 2012, the government established the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which grants owners of trademarked and copyrighted goods the right to request that Google take down sites that are pirating their property. A record number of takedown requests, 51.3 million, were received in 2012 alone. Firms like Azrights that specialise in intellectual rights as it pertains to online businesses and social networking may be especially impacted as the law is clarified and new methods of enforcement are developed.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the actor who plays Jamie Lannister in Game of thrones, gave a very accurate description of Internet piracy when he said, “At the end of the day it’s stealing. I know it doesn’t feel like it but it is and it’s not right.”