House MacKenzie: Strong (Internet connection) and Free (television shows)

Television shows and Internet piracy. It’s the modern dilemma many television show enthusiasts face everyday – to download illegally or not to download illegally? According to US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich, Australians should stop doing it, especially when it comes to his beloved Game of Thrones. First off, I would like to personally thank Mr Bleich. Had it not been for his unintentional reverse psychology – my rebellious side always reacts to overbearing parenting – I wouldn’t have spent the past few weeks watching every episode to find out exactly what has made this show so popular. Had he not made such a fuss about it, my curiosity wouldn’t have got the better of me. But thanks to Mr Bleich, I have now fallen in love with the show and many of its male cast members, particularly Kit Harington (am I right ladies?!).

While Ambassador Bleich argues that piracy could kill his favourite television show and others too, my argument in support of piracy is simple: it’s free and I can watch it when it suits me. While I’m not condoning illegal behaviour (and as the daughter of a lawyer, I’ve been raised not to), as a poor university student who is currently tens of thousands of dollars in debt, what other option do I have? I could purchase the first two seasons on DVD for about $90 and pay for Foxtel to catch up on season 3. Or I could watch them all online for free. I know Ambassador Bleich would much rather it be the former, however I am not alone in my blatant disregard for technicalities over it being illegal.

There are plenty of arguments in favour of pirating our favourite television shows. Such as what do we do when television shows aren’t even available in our own country? I for one would absolutely love to reignite my love for Arrested Development when the new season returns in a few days after seven years of being off air. I have been teased and taunted for months with news of its return and the posters have been flooding my Facebook wall and Tumblr dashboard. But after a few minutes of searching the web, I have been left disappointed – Australia will not be getting the new season, well at least not right away. The only countries that will be viewing the new episodes the day they air via Netflix are the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Latin America and the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). So what’s a girl to do? I could wait out the few months by watching re-runs of the first few seasons while simultaneously listening to Gob Bluth’s theme song – “the Final Countdown” – in vein hope that it will at some point air here. Or I can watch them online within hours of its release in the US. I’m sorry to disappoint Mr Bleich, but I will not let some petty political and legal technicality get between the Bluth family and me!

I could go on and on about this topic and argue until I’m blue in the face, but at the end of the day, who are the real losers when it comes to piracy? While Mr Bleich argues that, “downloading content illegally is not a victimless crime…as artists like the Game of Thrones crew can only do their work if they can be paid for it,” US film director David Petrarca believes that the survival of a show is influenced more by creating buzz around it rather than the ratings. There have been many reports over the past year  that indicates that the top pirated and illegally downloaded shows and movies also have the highest box office and television ratings. If anything, they should be flattered. No one is going to waste their time or their precious Internet data on downloading a horrible TV show or movie. Trust me.

But the question that remains is what lies ahead for the future of foreign produced television programs here in Australia? Will they fall victim to the Joffrey Baratheon-esque ways of the pirates where perhaps not even the fierceness of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons can save them? Will the buzz generated from the illegal downloading of pirated content be enough to sustain the industry or will the concept of media convergence be more important now than ever?

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here on my iron throne (desk chair) with my direwolf pup (okay, he’s a cavoodle) awaiting the next instalment of Game of Thrones.

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