Last night's Panorama on downloading and the Digital Economy Bill was predictably shrill and ill-informed. The sight of Jo Whiley practically dancing with the bloke from the BPI during a presentation on why downloading was bad, m'kay, was particularly sick-making. The most interesting bit for me, though, was the fact that screen shots of YouTube kept popping up as examples of naughty digital activity. This is not unjustified, but it didn't acknowledge the fact that BBC programmes routinely use clips gathered from YouTube, which were put there by people other than the original rights holders. Meanwhile, in programmes like Screenwipe, I've seen clips clearly sourced from Divx/XviD files of the sort used in BitTorrenting. So, is the BBC's Internet connection going to be cut off?
Maybe I'm old-fashioned. I don't download things that are commercially available. If I want something and it can be bought, I buy it. However, I do share and download an awful lot of commercially-unavailable archive TV, some of which will never be released due to rights tangles or the fact that I'm the only person who wants to watch it. What I'm doing is technically an infringement, but it's not taking any money away from the content producers, and it's creating an awareness of the material. If companies want to stop people like me downloading, they should make their archives available at reasonable prices. It's the same argument I've used since the record industry got humpty about Napster a decade ago. Indeed, some unofficially-shared material has gone on to be a great success when finally released on DVD or CD, largely because of the increased audience who became aware of it through file-sharing.
I gave up on the programme before the end, but the upshot of it seemed to be that if you download illegal stuff, you will be visited by a fat IT man called Keith. Isn't that deterrent enough?