Ask LH: Will I Be Fined For Torrenting Season Six Of Game Of Thrones?

Dear Lifehacker, The next season of Game Of Thrones kicks off this Monday and it's one of my favourite shows. Unfortunately, I've had to cancel my $50 subscription to Foxtel due to financial difficulties. I know plenty of Australians watch the show for free by using sites like The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents. How likely am I to get fined if I do the same? And does buying the Blu-ray at a later date absolve me of wrongdoing? Thanks, Eye-Patch Contemplator

Dear EC,

[Note: The usual caveats about receiving advice from legal professionals apply: if you want a definitive answer, talk to a lawyer!]

As you're doubtlessly aware, Game Of Thrones is one of the most pirated shows in the world with Australians among the worst offenders. This has understandably caused anger at both HBO and its distribution partner Foxtel who aren't in the habit of giving away content for free.

In 2014, Foxtel's head of corporate communications, Bruce Meagher, publicly attacked pirates for downloading Game Of Thrones. He made the familiar "sports car" argument that we've seen from anti-pirate groups time and time again. In short: just because you can't afford something doesn't give you the right to steal it.

While most pirates would argue otherwise, rights holders consider unauthorised downloads of their content to be unmitigated theft. Federal law is a little murky on the issue however; mainly because torrent sites didn't exist at the time most of the legislation was written. This is one of the reasons content holders have been pursuing suspected offenders with lawyers instead of leaving it to the police to sort out.

While online piracy is obviously wrong, getting ISPs to cooperate has been surprisingly difficult. In a landmark judgement in April last year, the Federal Court ordered several internet service providers to hand over the identities of customers to the makers of Dallas Buyers Club who were suspected of illegally downloading the movie. However, the case was eventually thrown out after the rights holders failed to come up with a suitable penalty for offenders.

So where does this leave Australia's Game Of Thrones pirates? For the time being, it seems Foxtel isn't interested in going after individual pirates in court. Instead, they're looking to get file-sharing sites blocked outright in Australia. Over the past few months, a range of rights holders -- including Foxtel -- have filed legal actions in Federal Court under Australia's tough new anti-piracy laws. The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents have both been targeted in separate court applications from the film and music industries.

If these companies get their way, users who attempt to access these sites will receive a message informing them that the content has been blocked by an order of the Federal Court. Hearings for the Foxtel and Village Roadshow applications are scheduled in May, while the music labels' application is due to be heard in June.

With all that said, there are no guarantees that Foxtel won't come after individual pirates eventually. Rights holders often take their sweet time to launch a case against alleged pirates -- the "naughty list" for Dallas Buyers Club related to suspicious activity from a year prior, for example. In other words, just because HBO/Foxtel aren't making gung-ho declarations right now doesn't mean they aren't actively monitoring IP addresses that pirate their shows.

As to your second question, not really. Foxtel doesn't receive a cent when you purchase Game Of Thrones on Blu-ray. While it's the right thing to do morally, Foxtel is unlikely to care.

In short, there is currently no legislation in place that would result in a fine for downloading Game Of Thrones. But this is set to change very soon -- and your past download history could potentially come back to haunt you.

Incidentally, if you can't afford to pay Foxtel $50 a month, there are cheaper, legal ways to watch Game Of Thrones in Australia. Click here for a rundown of all the options.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    If you are really worried, get a friend to give you a copy that they have downloaded.

    Also, use more obscure torrent sites and use something like peerguardian if you must torrent.


      Peer guardian is just a gimmick and people simply believe it works when it does nothing. If they wanted to catch you...they would!

        Yeah, I don't torrent anymore. Zero risk acquisition here.

    Still trying to figure out how to download a sports car.
    I'll continue watching GOT my way until the highway robbery stops.

      Yeah, same here. I've gotten up to handbag, but there's a ways to go from handbag to sports car.

      Same. I would happily pay to watch GOT but the only legal way of watching it when it comes out is pay $30 a month for Foxtel Go with LQ streaming. Not a chance.

    "In short, there is currently no legislation in place that would result in a fine for downloading Game Of Thrones. But this is set to change very soon — and your past download history could potentially come back to haunt you."

    I'd love to know more about this upcoming legislation! Anyone have a link?

    Please pass this along to the person who asked the question

    Free 3 months of Foxtel from Telstra, every channel, no install fee, contract, or cancellation fee. They don't even ask for a CC number when ordering. Just got mine hooked up the other day and it'll be perfect for watching Game of Thrones Season 6 for absolutely free.

    You also get Foxtel Anytime on your iQ2 box, and can watch GoT S1-5 for free with an internet connection, 3 months free Presto, and 3 months free Foxtel Go

      thanks for the tip, I just got this. As an existing Telstra Cable customer, it was a no-brainer.

    Knowing that many people object to the ‘auto theft’ analogy when it comes to TV and movies piracy, I’ll suggest another way to look at it. It should be accepted that many AAA game titles sell for upwards of $100+ when they launch, but eventually come down in price. The “pirate now, buy later” excuse is a kin to saying, “I’ll pirate a game when it’s out, because I don’t want to wait to play it, but will buy it at EB Games when it’s cheaper or buy it from Steam when it’s there.” TV and movies come in the same, “non-tangible/ infinitely reproducible” format that video games do, which makes this a much closer comparison. The initially high launch prices are often there to recoup the initial high costs of making the games to ensure some kind of return and those who really want to play them first should understand that they’re paying a premium to do so. TV is no different in needing to claw back their costs (Game of Thrones is said to cost around $6 million an episode to produce, thus have a similar premium, but prices come down even faster than video games when a season becomes available on iTunes or Google Play, etc. 10 weeks later. Games developers work very hard to bring us the games we love as evidenced by stories of Team Bondi and Activision and other devs working 10-12 hour days to meet launch deadlines. Their work should be rewarded appropriately (i.e. watch now/ pay now), not taken, so they can keep on doing great work; and so, too, should the thousands of people (camera crews, sound mixers, carpenters, artists, etc.) who work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring TV and movies to us.

      Most people would agree that the people who make the game/film/TV show/album that they pirate deserve to be paid appropriately for their troubles, the problem is the industries that supply the products don't adapt to change.

      Legally, there isn't a service available that is as good as torrenting, where you can download for offline use, watch without adverts or trailers, and get all your content in one place.

      This is why I compare piracy to Uber. It offers a much better service than the legal alternative, and definitely represents what the future should be.

      As soon as companies provide a legal alternative to KAT or TPB that offers the same level of service, I'm sure piracy would plummet.

      My impression from being on the internet is that the pirate now / buy later argument is mainly bullshit. Also the owner of the material has the right to charge for the material at any time.

      I'll steal this car and buy it when it's depreciated.

    If HBO offered their streaming service here, they would have a massive uptake, I think the majority of people are willing to pay for the content, but pay a fair price. Foxtel is far too expensive for the limited content it offers

      While this would work for me, I honestly believe a large amount of people would still chose the free option because they can.

      However I think the industry needs to accept a certain level of piracy and lets hope it works out where they can still make these shows. The best show on TV is Black Sails and you read comments where people mention pirating it and it makes you mad. The show needs support from legitimate viewers. While GOT is successful enough, it's the smaller shows where it counts. The current distribution systems however are too stuck in the past. If only someone put in place a fast delivery service that'd allow progress... oh wait someone did and Turnbull destroyed it. I guess we're stuck in a country where the infrastructure to deliver good services won't exist and they'll be going after us for trying to compensate.

        "However I think the industry needs to accept a certain level of piracy"

        This is exactly what is not happening. For some reason content distributors think they have a foolproof business model where they can get every user to pay on their terms. Retail deals with pilferage and spoilage losses. Hell even offices deal with employees taking stationery. Yet these middlemen (and being honest that's all content distributors are) think the world will be forced into their one size fits all business model.

        The quicker these dinosaurs go extinct the better.

    The Dallas Buyers Club case showed that content providers can access download records for torrents and commercial services are recording that information. That the data can be used to act against downloaders long after the download occurred- many months in that case. But ISPs are now required to keep IP data for at least two years, so even two years later now for all ISPs

    Judge Justice Perram in the Dallas Buyers Club case did not dispute that there was an economic loss to rights holders or that they shouldn't also be able to claim the legal costs from downloaders. He also said the rights holders were entitled to get the details of the ISP customers rejecting the ISP's arguments against it.

    The DBC proved:
    - Identification of downloaders by IP can happen.
    - downloaders are up for damages and costs.

    What was in dispute and not settled was the costs to downloaders.

    The DBC downloaders dodged a bullet because the way the rights holders pursued that particular case with the speculative invoicing that the judge rejected. There is nothing stopping another company going after downloaders and potentially getting costs larger than Judge Perram was considering.

    I think you would have to have rocks in your head to still be torrenting.

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