The ongoing feud between MSG Networks and Time Warner Cable means many New Yorkers can’t watch the Knicks, even if they are paying for cable. And while you can shell out extra for NBA League pass, which is supposed to let you watch every game online, Knicks games are blacked out on that service when the team is playing at home.
It’s enough to drive a respected venture capitalist to open piracy. Last night Union Square Ventures Fred Wilson, who pays for both Time Warner and NBA League Pass already, asked his legions of Twitter followers for help finding a way to watch the game. Shortly thereafter he tweeted out the picture below with the comment, “thanks everyone for your help on streaming the knicks game.#screwcable“
Peter Kafka of All Things D pointed out that by proving how easy it is to pirate live sports, one of the big tickets items the cable companies are selling, Mr. Wilson was unintentionally giving ammunition to the media companies behind the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), legislation that Mr. Wilson has been fighting so hard against.
But can it really be called piracy when you have a paying consumer who is making every effort to give his money to the cable companies and the NBA?
As Mr. Wilson wrote on his blog, “I’ve long believed that piracy is largely a business model problem not a human behavior problem. If you give people a legal way to consume the content they want, they will pay for it. But when you make it impossible to legally consume the content they want, they will pirate it. That’s what happened last night and that is what will happen every night there is a Knicks game on TV for as long as MSG and Time Warner Cable continue to figure out how to screw their customers.”
Perhaps there will emerge a class of online privateers, who engage in piracy as a last resort, but stand for internet freedom and rational copyright law. And lingering question: did Mr. Wilson pay for this pirated stream, or was it free and ad supported?