Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Surf the Channel

While teaching about Information Law & Ethics recently, some students in my class asked about this website, Surf the Channel. I hadn't heard of it before, so I did a little research into it. It looks to be an interesting model. It's an advertising-driven Sweden-based site, and they claim that they exist for fun, not for profit. All they provide is links to embedded videos that are hosted somewhere else on the web. You pick a channel, such as Movies, TV, Sports, etc. and there is a huge list of videos hosted by other people, many of which appear to be tudou.com, which seems to be something along the lines of a Chinese YouTube.

To make sure I fully researched the topic, I watched Evan Almighty. It had Chinese subtitles and was split into three sections. It had a few buffering problems, but that wasn't too difficult to deal with. It was a good show, by the way. I had been planning to watch it with a free Redbox code, but this saved me the trip.

After talking to my class about what I found, the question came up whether it is illegal to watch the movies or TV shows that are posted there. Surf the Channel disclaims responsibility, since they just link to content that other people have hosted, so we have some gray area there, but it is pretty clear that the content hosting sites are in the wrong for providing copyrighted content that they don't own. So what about watching copyrighted content, through streaming video that you don't download and re-share yourself? I basically told my class that the MPAA and RIAA are going to go after the low hanging fruit of people providing illegal content before they start going after the consumers, which will be much more difficult to track or prove anything. But watch at your own risk.

If you want to try a similar site for watching videos, where they have actually licensed the content they are showing, you might try out Joost. I haven't actually tried it myself yet, so I'd be interested to hear anyone's opinion of it. For streaming music, I recommend Pandora.


Anonymous said...

i am a genius i found out a way to watch the stc movies after its shut down witha little luck a little hacking into the stc server main frame and a little help haha suckas the web site is down and i can still use it and you cant

Anonymous said...

you're a dick :/
the film industry makes enough money from the opening weekend, i dont think the occasional kids who watch a film for free on the web will affect much the balance.
Plus if you take in consideration that it's a loophole law jurisdiction wise, there isn't anything that can be done against the spectators...by the way, when was the last time you thought to yourself, "wow that looks like/ was a great film, i'm gonna buy it on DVDs/ go watch it at the cinema" ?
It doesnt happen often anymore nowadays, actually most of the time, it feels like you were ripped off because the film was just too god awful...
So please don't spread fear in the heart of your students, making them feel as if it is wrong to watch a film just because the industry will loose a couple of quids...

robmba said...

Well, I'm half tempted to moderate out the language in your comment here, but I'll leave it all intact knowing that everyone that reads what you say will take your anonymous comments in the context of your inability to make a coherent argument without resorting to foul language.

The unfortunate part is that I happen to agree with your argument. If you'd have read and understood my post completely and maybe even some of my other writing on the subject of copyright, I think you'd find that we're on the same side. You notice that I admitted to the entire world that I watched a movie on the site. I have watched several others since then using STC.

The copyright system is entirely broken.

That said, I'm not going to tell students in a university course that it's okay to pirate movies in any way, shape, or form.

Feel free to sit there on the other side of the ocean hiding under your anonymous blanket, calling people names without fear of reprisal, and downloading movies without paying for them, while I'm actually studying ways to change the law and make it easier for people to legally share their creations.

College student said...

I do not believe STC actually breakes any laws. As you said, they are not hosting anything, they are just providing a link help in order to send you to the correct website to watch the movies. Moraly I guess its on shaky ground but legally it should be fine. Atleast in the countries like Norway and Sweden. ( Im from Norway and been taking law classes touching on the subject). I think its a great way to distibute movies and tv shows and I think its the future. They should realise that people wont go and buy movies anymore and the younger generation has realised that its easier to use the computer to watch tv shows than to wait for it to come on TV. I think more legal sites like "holu" should get out there. I can survive 3 commercials when watching a show, just dont over do it. Ive switched my major from law to IT student and I love it. Ive never had a better time in school.

robmba said...

It may be that STC is in the clear, but what about the sites that actually do host the content? I agree that it is a great way to distribute movies and TV shows. It's especially great for old TV shows that you wouldn't be able to watch otherwise.

Just because it's great doesn't make it legal. I was just talking today with someone about the glory days of Napster. Those were good times, although illegal.

Maybe STC is completely legal. I've just seen few coherent arguments on either side. When we have people like the first two commenters above running around making a bad name for those trying to reform copyright, it doesn't help the cause much.

Michael,Scotland said...

Hi Rob,

After reading your blog it reminded me of a case involving the closure of TV Links in the UK in 2008. You may have read this already, but here's a thought-provoking article from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2007/oct/20/tvlinksshutdownforlinking

Hope you find it useful.


Michael, Scotland said...

..it wouldn't let me paste the url for some reason. Search for "TV Links shut down for linking The Guardian" in your search engine.

soIsays said...

I wanted to leave a quick word about tudou.com. Though it is similar to YouTube, and people can post their own personal videos on it, most of the content (from all the articles I've read, about 92%) are posted by actual employees of tudou.com. Tudou is different than most sites because they actually pay to stream the shows & movies hosted by their site. In China more people watch tudou.com than regular television, hence their having so many shows & movies. However because they pay for the right to show these items, this is the reason you cannot find every movie or television show on their site. Now, whether our country considers it illegal for us to watch tudou.com may be another story, but tudou.com isn't like Pirate Bay or exactly like YouTube. ...Just for inquiring minds =)