If you check out the CRACKED forums, youíll notice a lot of heated debate about "Sin," the proprietor of the defunct tv-links domain, having his site shut down and being sued for copyright infringement. In case you hadnít guessed or are pretending not to be an accomplice, tv-links used to post links to thousands of hours of up-to-date TV shows and movies, all for your viewing pleasure (and a tidy advertising profit). First of all, if you donít want to look suspicious, donít name yourself Sin. It can only refer to a base act of human corruption or the world-devouring monster from Final Fantasy X, and neither association is going to help your public image much. Secondly, as that forums thread proves, there is a lot of controversy among Internet citizens about the ethics of the case, all of it centered around complex metaphors that donít hold much water. The debate goes something like this:
Sin is aiding and abetting the crime of copyright infringement, and is therefore suable. Heís like a drug dealer. He may not make the drugs, but he sells them.
No, Sin only linked videos posted by others. Heís like a guy who tells you where you can go to get drugs, but you donít get them from him.
But he made money off the service. Heís like a guy who you pay to tell you where the best place in the city to get drugs is.
But, no! Wait, he's...wait for it...he's like...a guy that...makes videos, but then he shows the videos...no he just describes the videos...but then he makes a filesharing linksite.
From these arguments, only two reasonable conclusions can be drawn:
1. The new season of Heroes is as addictive as crack cocaine.
2. Gang members are missing out on the huge profit-making potential of ďguy you pay to tell you where to find a drug dealer.Ē
As neither are very helpful, Iím going to try my best to put this whole thing in perspective. Shocking revelation after the jump.
Yes, what tv-links did is wrong.
Maybe or maybe not technically illegal, but "wrong" in the sense that you felt the little thrill of piracy every time you loaded up that episode of The Office you missed last night, or that episode of Weeds, even though you donít have Shotime.
And yes, the outcome of this lawsuit will set important precedents about cases like this; cases where, itís true, the culprit did little more than give directions to a place where one may commit a crime. As one Forums poster named Rambo put it: "This is like arresting the guy at the gas station who gave directions to a bank robber." And in some sense thatís true, although Iím not sure I should trust the opinion of a man who kills people with a bow and arrow.
But the key point here that the RIAA and those who make TV should be gathering is that Sin ran a successful site off of linked television shows. He made money off it. For a long time. Because he provided something people want. Fighting trends like that is whatís killing the music industry, and youíll fare no better. Itís time to shift some paradigms, folks. Either that, or start suing Youtube and Google video, who essentially do the exact same thing, just with a more circuitous user interface.
I, the lone anonymous consumer, want to be able to watch South Park on my computer, and you, the massive multinational corporation, want me to not be able to do that. I hate to break it to you, but for once, I am going to get what I want one way or another. Youíd just better make sure that ďor anotherĒ involves a modest subscription fee or some Google Ads on NBC.com.
As both a public service and an illustration of my point, here is a link to the Digg comments about all this, which contain literally tens of links to still operating tv-links-esque compiler sites. So metaphorically I'm giving you directions to a store that sells maps to places where you can find people who will tell you where to get drugs. If CRACKED gets raided tomorrow, you'll know why.
Rabid debate to follow below.