I received a phone call today asking me to write about the Game of Thrones HBO piracy lawsuits, but there are none.
Last year, HBO sent thousands of DMCA copyright infringement notices to internet users who were caught downloading or viewing the Game of Thrones episodes without an HBO subscription. As reported by Ernesto @Torrentfreak.com, HBO teamed up with IP-Echelon (an anti-piracy company), which was tasked with sending DMCA warning notices. [I referred to them as *WARNING* notices intentionally; you’ll see why soon.] These warning notices told accused internet users to remove any downloaded Game of Thrones episodes downloaded using bittorrent, and even instructed them ‘with a bit of wit’ to get a HBO subscription.
I received many phone calls from internet users who received these IP Echelon notices. However, unlike the DMCA settlement demand notices that accused internet users receive when they are caught downloading music (Chris Sabec from Rightscorp, a.k.a. Digital Rights Corp. sends these) or movies (Carl Crowell from Rights Enforcement sends these), the IP Echelon DMCA warning letters do not ask for money. They are merely, “Hey you, cut it out! Stop pirating my client’s TV episodes, delete what you did, and get a subscription” notices.
Obviously these notices should not be ignored. Home Box Office, Inc. (“HBO”) would be a formidable opponent if they started suing accused defendants in federal courts for copyright infringement. They have deep pockets, they have unlimited resources, and they likely have name brand recognition and respect from every federal judge in every federal court.
My opinion about IP Echelon and the HBO Game of Thrones DMCA notices.
Believe it or not, I believe HBO is going about this the right way. Instead of suing individual downloaders who are caught viewing or downloading the various Game of Thrones episodes, HBO and IP Echelon are focusing their efforts on REDUCING THE AVAILABILITY OF THE UNLICENSED VIDEOS. This means that they are taking steps to remove bittorrent trackers so that when someone clicks on a bittorrent file, the bittorrent tracker is dead (meaning, no bittorrent swarm and thus no infringement).
IP Echelon is also sending copyright infringement notices using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (these are the “DMCA” notices) which they are having the various ISPs forward to subscribers who are “caught” downloading the Game of Thrones episodes.
“Caught,” but not punished.
By doing this, HBO successfully reduced the piracy of their Game of Thrones episodes, and they kept their fans loyal.
In sum, they are 1) monitoring and policing the availability of their content on piracy peer-to-peer networks, and 2) they are contacting individual downloaders warning them to acquire their copyrighted content the lawful way, e.g., purchasing an HBO subscription.
Great, but HBO was still missing the boat. HBO continued to cause their own piracy problems by allowing only Cable TV subscribers to access their content.
My biggest complaint against HBO: Failure to make content available to paying customers
For a while, my biggest critique of HBO was that they were not making their copyrighted content available to those who wanted to legitimately purchase a HBO subscription. Why? Because their “HBO GO” streaming add-on service was only available to those fans who paid a monthly Cable TV subscription.
“Cordcutters” (meaning, those who opted to “cut” their cable TV subscription) were outcasted. And as a result of not having a cable TV subscription, HBO inadvertently exacerbated their Game of Thrones piracy problem by preventing those who wanted to legitimately purchase access to watch the Game of Thrones episodes from doing so. In other words, no access = those would-be customers had no choice except to either not watch the series, or to turn to piracy.
HBO created criminals out of their fans by being loyal to the cable companies over their own customers. This was likely a smart business decision (cable companies pay HBO huge licensing fees for their content), but a wrong decision if they wanted to stop the piracy of their videos.
HBO responds to our complaints and makes content available on Amazon, Hulu
HBO definitely has my respect, especially because they were flexible enough to notice that they were alienating their fans by allowing them to only connect through a Cable TV subscription.
HBO not only noticed that they were causing their own piracy problem, they took steps to fix it by making their content available to Amazon Prime Video customers, and to Hulu customers.
Thus, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can add-on an HBO subscription for $14.99/month.
If you are a Hulu subscriber, you can also watch HBO as an add-on for the same $14.99/month.
Is $14.99/month a fair price for an HBO add-on subscription?
$14.99/month is more than an entire Netflix subscription, and last I checked, it is more than a Hulu subscription. Is it worth it to pay an additional $14.99/month just to have access to HBO shows?
It depends on each person.
In the end, the “market” will decide whether this is too much or too little to ask for to obtain a monthly subscription to HBO’s exclusive content. If people pay, then it will stay at this price (or increase, if there is enough demand). If people do not pay, then HBO will lower their price until they convert the would-be pirates into customers.
In Summary, HBO is doing things right.
The point is that HBO is taking steps to not only eliminate the availability of pirated content, and not only are they contacting the subscribers through their IP Echelon partner and instructing them to stop pirating their copyrighted content, but they are also taking smart steps to make their content available to those who wish to purchase their content.
NOTE: HBO will never get rid of piracy 100%, as this is nearly impossible and there will always be those internet users who will pirate copyrighted content, even when the paid version is almost free. [Case in point: Many Android apps are free, and the paid versions are $1.99 for a lifetime license to that app. Yet, there are still those users who will go out of their way to install the pirated version of that $1.99 paid app.] No doubt, HBO viewers will also always have this problem.
At the very minimum, however, I believe with every fiber of my being that HBO is handling their piracy problem the right way, and for this, HBO has my full support and respect.
…Do I need to hire you if I receive an IP Echelon DMCA notice?
Absolutely NOT. There is nothing that our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC needs to do for you to handle your HBO IP-Echelon DMCA notice.
1) The IP Echelon DMCA notices are not copyright infringement lawsuits.
2) The IP Echelon DMCA notices are not settlement demand letters.
3) The IP Echelon DMCA notices are not affiliated with your ISP, and thus no response to your ISP is requested or required.
4) HBO is not suing internet users for copyright infringement… at least not yet.
In sum, there is nothing that you need me to do for you if you received an IP Echelon DMCA notice. The notice is merely a warning letter telling you to stop downloading their client’s copyrighted content illegally, and to find legal ways to obtain their content if you want to continue watching it.
IF THIS CHANGES, and HBO sues defendants for copyright infringement, you can be sure I would be screaming about this from the hilltops. IF HBO starts asking for money settlements in their DMCA notices, you can be sure I would write about it. However, for now, select a legal method of viewing HBO’s exclusive content, and enjoy the shows.
[CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: If you have a question for an attorney about the IP Echelon DMCA notices, you can e-mail us at info[at]cashmanlawfirm.com, you can set up a free and confidential phone consultation to speak to us about your notice, or you can call/SMS us at 713-364-3476 (this is our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC’s number].
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