Sunday, November 28, 2004

"BroadCatching" is catching on

Engadget posted this How-To on using RSS ("really simple syndication") and BitTorrent to automatically download your favorite TV shows to your PC as a sort of ersatz TiVo. If you have a broadband connection and no TiVo or you have one but missed a particular show, you can set up your PC to look for these shows on various torrent web sites, then download the shows automatically in the background. It's not exactly like a TiVo or a true DVR: you can't pause live TV with this method, and you have to hope that someone else out there is a fan of your show and has gone to the trouble of saving it and making it available for others to download. And it's still unclear if it's entirely legal to do this -- some people argue that this method of sharing TV shows isn't any different than recording them to VHS and giving the tape to a friend. But according to this comment thread on Engadget and this one on it's illegal in Canada to upload shows when you're not the rightsholder and Paramount is sending out cease & desist letters to broadband users who are sharing their programs, like Enterprise. I tend to think that "broadcatching" falls under the fair use rules the courts have allowed, but I'm sure today's lawyers and courts will see things differently. So try this at your own risk.

I haven't set up any automatic downloads of shows, since I do have a DVR, but I've downloaded a few odd episodes of shows that I forgot to record. And I can see one potential use: catching US TV shows when I'm traveling overseas. Anytime I go away for more than a few days, I come home to hours of TV on my DVR, and I have to catch up on those shows before I can watch the new ones. I don't like to get more than a week behind on any of my regular shows, so I feel pressured to watch all that TV all at once or in a big hurry. I'd love to have the ability to download my shows using my hotel's broadband connection and watch them instead of the outdated American shows you get overseas or, in the case of Tokyo, barely any English-language TV at all. I admit that I watch too much TV as it is, and when I'm traveling I'd rather explore the foreign city than sit in my room watching TV. But if I want to relax after a long workday, I'd much rather see a new episode of a familiar show than an old one of a show I never watch. Broadcatching gives me a DVR-like option when I'm on the road.

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