US Ambassador to Australia on Game of Thrones piracy & copyright

Since not everyone is on Facebook, and he’s a US government official, I’m re-posting his whole post here. However, after reading it,if your’s able, you should head over to the original post on Facebook and leave a comment of your own and definitely read the comments that are already there.

Earlier this month, my family and I joined millions of others in watching the premiere of the third season of Game of Thrones.   For those who aren’t already fans, it is a great epic chronicling the devious machinations of rival noble houses fighting for supremacy.  Unfortunately, nearly as epic and devious as the drama, is its unprecedented theft by online viewers around the world. The file-sharing news website TorrentFreak estimated that Game of Thrones was the most-pirated TV series of 2012. One episode was illegally downloaded about 4,280,000 times through public BitTorrent trackers in 2012, which is about equal to the number of that episode’s broadcast viewers.  In other words, about half of that episode’s viewers stole the program from HBO.  As the Ambassador here in Australia, it was especially troubling to find out that Australian fans were some of the worst offenders with among the highest piracy rates of Game of Thrones in the world.  While some people here used to claim that they used pirate sites only because of a delay in getting new episodes here, the show is now available from legitimate sources within hours of its broadcast in the United States.

So because today is the 17th annual UN World Book and Copyright Day, it is worth reflecting on why piracy is not some victimless crime.  A show like Game of Thrones takes a lot of work and talent by many artists to create.  These artists can do this work only if we ensure that they are rewarded for their labors.  Production companies are no different.  Entire industries exist to locate artists, provide them a forum for their works, arrange contracts, record, promote, and sell their works, and free artists from doing other things – like waiting tables and parking cars in Hollywood — by paying them for their efforts.  Here in Australia about 8% of the workforce works in the copyright industries and depends on people obeying the law – not to mention the artists in Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, and Morocco, where the series is filmed, who depend on fans obeying the law.

And yet, it seems that fans often forget all of this.  Anyone might be tempted to download pirated CDs and movies, and illegally share these materials; and there are big businesses that make money by encouraging consumers to illegally upload material as well.  But artists’ livelihoods depend on us rejecting that urge; just as shopkeepers and small businesses depend on people not just stealing products from their shelves.  If the 4 million people who watched Game of Throne legally had been illegal downloaders – the show would be off the air and there would never have been a Season 3.  So to me, Copyright Day is not about government regulations, it is about celebrating and protecting the power of great writers, painters, singers, composers, actors, dancers and other artists to bring us together and enrich our lives.

I realize that fans of Game of Thrones who have used illegal file-sharing sites have reasons.  They will say it was much easier to access through these sites, or that they got frustrated by the delay in the first season, or their parents wouldn’t pay for a subscription, or they will complain about some other issue with copyright laws.  But none of those reasons is an excuse – stealing is stealing.  Buying a book in a store costs more and takes longer than stealing it from your neighbor’s house, but we all know it is the right thing to do and it allows authors to make a living and write more books.

So please celebrate UN World Book and Copyright Day by doing the right thing – Tyrion Lannister will thank you for it.

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