I don’t encourage illegal downloading of television shows, but I understand the reality of it. Despite the growing technologies, DVRs, and access to television shows on Hulu and Netflix, downloading television not only allows for more convenient viewing (no commercials on any device), but it’s necessary for people who want to participate in the culture of a television show but either can’t afford it or refuse to pony up the cash for cable plus premium channels. My cable bill is higher than my electricity bill, and there are plenty of people who can’t afford both. Should they excluded from participation? On the other hand, it is illegal, and by not paying for it, you’re doing a disservice to the very shows that you love the most.
In theory, I am firmly against illegal downloading; in practice, if you’re already paying $120 for cable, shouldn’t you be able to download a show and watch it commercial free on your goddamn IPad while you’re on a cross-country flight without having to pay for it again on iTunes? What if you really need a screenshot for that recap you’re writing, which is meant to encourage more viewership?
But this is not about that debate. It’s about the people who make those shows available. Like the folks who make GIFs (with the exception of the brilliant Chet Manley), they are a nameless, faceless entity who are afforded little credit and no appreciation. Why do they do it? How do they do it? Who are they? Is it worth risking their ass? I’ve always wondered this.
Over on Torrentfreak, they caught up with a guy who goes by the name ANoN, who is the founder of a TV Release group, PERCEPTiON, that releases hundreds of television shows to places like The Pirates Bay. If you download from a P2P network, it’s likely that you’ve downloaded one of his uploads. So why do they engage in a time-consuming activity for no money or no credit? Why does he do it? Simply because it “provides us with a way to share quality TV releases with people around the world.” Fair enough.
“A typical day in our lives is centered around chatting about what is being aired tonight and who should record it. I personally prefer to start recording ten minutes before a show is announced. This recording is done with a HDTV tuner/recorder from a terrestrial broadcast,” ANoN explains.
“After recording it’s time to remove commercials. Using some software we remove the commercials from the recording so we have a clean episode/show. This one is called ‘original’ or ‘master’ and if it’s bugged (drops or any fail) any rip from this original will be flawed too.
“After checking comes the compression. We are a P2P group but we keep x264 Scene rules for encoding (PDTV, HDTV and 720p HDTV). Compressing on x264 takes a long time even if it’s done on a good workstation. Speed to releasing is not our priority though, quality comes first.
“After compressing it’s time to create the directory for the release, name it, and add an .nfo file with information about the release. A lot of groups use automated scripts to do this packing process, we prefer to do it manually to avoid any fail. At this point the next thing is to move the release to a secure location from where to seed it. After all this we upload the torrent on various public torrent sites.”
That sounds like a very odd “typical day,” but clearly these people do it out of a love and passion for television and a desire to spread that appreciation around.
Is he afraid of getting caught? Apparently, guys like ANoN use some precautions (they don’t use their personal computers, for instance) but he won’t divulge any more details. The important thing, he notes, is not to make money off of it, because it’s both not in the spirit of sharing, and because it makes it more dangerous (from a legal standpoint, really, this is not true: There are no degrees of illegality. If he was making thousands of dollars off of this it’d be just as illegal as downloading Spongebob Squarepants episodes for kids with cancer).
ANoN is not worried about the future of torrenting, either.
“Users are always downloading and no one can stop it. This is how the Internet works. So one way or another every time that anything related with downloading on Internet is shut down the effect is that there will be another five different systems to download. People will not stop downloading and making it forbidden is not the way.”
It’s undoubtedly true, and until consumers are offered the ability to watch the shows we want to watch at reasonable price on the device we want to watch it on, torrenting will undoubtedly continue, to the detriment, unfortunately, of the very shows we want to support the most.