2011's Top Ten Pirated TV Shows

When everyone illegally downloads TV, movies, and music, isn't it time for a different business model?

Dexter: The top illegally downloaded TV series in the world.

Dexter: The top illegally downloaded TV series in the world.

According to Torrent Freak, the online news site that covers file-sharing and related issues, the top ten illegally downloaded TV shows in 2011 were:

1 Dexter 2 Game of Thrones 3 The Big Bang Theory 4 House 5 How I Met Your Mother 6 Glee 7 The Walking Dead 8 Terra Nova 9 True Blood 10 Breaking Bad

Who's pirating all these TV shows? Is it college students? Your kids? How about everyone? The YouHaveDownloaded site, which claims to track 20 percent of all public BitTorrent downloads, opened its doors we discovered that--surprise!--it's easy to see who's downloading what.

For example, the government of France, which recently passed the strictest anti-piracy laws in Europe, has been found with its hands in the illegal download cookie jar. Indeed, illegal downloads have been tracked to Nicolas Sarkozy's, the French president, home. Shame on you Sarkozy, after you personally went to all that trouble to get that law passed!

Don't get too smug Americans. The Recording Industry of America (RIAA), champion of digital rights management (DRM) and the Big Brother-like Stop Online Privacy Act, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have also been illegally downloading TV shows, movies and music tracks.

So, when everyone is breaking the law, including the very people who are demanding these laws, maybe it's time to re-think the entire situation. Torrent Freak has also found, you see, that when people have legal access to TV episodes online, piracy declines. When people can watch TV shows over the Internet on Hulu and Netflix they don't bother to illegally download them. In places where they can't get their U.S. TV-shows, such as say France, people keep illegally downloading them.

The moral is easy to read. If you don't want people stealing content, give them a legal, easy way to get it. Prohibition, be it of alcohol, drugs, or TV shows, doesn't work. Instead the laws are ignored and treated with contempt. The RIAA and its SOPA friends should take a long, hard look at history.

Instead of trying to block piracy they should be focusing on how to monetize their content in the 21st century where media can be easily copied and redistributed. There's nothing hard about it. Look at Apple.

First, Apple made it possible to legally and affordably download music with the iTunes stores. Remember when everyone and their dog was illegally downloading music with Napster? I do. Today, a lot of music is still "stolen," but a lot of it is also bought from online music retailers.

The RIAA still claims that online music thief has lead to "$12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers. Of course, that result is from a study they commissioned from the Institute for Policy Innovation, so it's worth as much as any other research where you pay to get the result you want.

Even the RIAA admits though that legal music digital sales are closing the distance with physical unit sales (PDF Link). The bottom line is that despite the RIAA's continued hysteria about the damage digital piracy has caused, the music industry has moved from making its money from physical albums and CDs to a variety of digital formats. And, when you consider all of those, the music industry isn't doing badly at all.

So, may I make a modest suggestion? Instead of fighting human nature, and losing, why not embrace the future and make money from it? After all, as TuneCore, a digital music distributor CEO and founder Jeff Price recently pointed out, Apple's iCloud and iTunes Match has created a model "that allows people to make money off of pirated music."

You see when you put "your" music on the iCloud--no matter from where--you pay Apple $24.99 a year for the convenience. Apple, in turn, splits that money with the music labels. Suddenly, you're paying for that copy of The Doors' LA Woman that you downloaded in 2000 from God knows where via Napster. You win, because you can play your music on any Apple device anywhere and the labels win because they're finally making some money from your illegal copy.

When it comes to video, we don't need a new service like iCloud. Hulu and Netflix already give the studios and networks a way to make money from their content. Instead of trying to pass crap like SOPA and annoying users, they should be fully embracing Internet TV. If they were only to do that, they'd make both their watchers and their stockholders happy. Is that such a bad thing? I don't think so and I think Dexter would agree too.

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