Torrent Freak has reported that Game of Thrones has beaten Breaking Bad as the number one pirated entertainment title for 2013. According to Torrent Freak, Game of Thrones was illegally downloaded 5.9 million times, as reported by Bit Torrent. The show has won the honor of illegal downloads two years in a row, with its season finale handily beating its competition. Bit Torrent reports that more than half of the downloads occurred during the early weeks of the shows’ launch in 2013, and that the figure exceeded the usual number of U.S. viewers. Breaking Bad came in second place, with 4.2 million downloads.
Bit Torrent is a set of rules created by Bram Cohen to facilitate sharing massive files from one point to another across the Internet, or from one computer to another. Currently there are legal battles occurring over the pirating or owning copies of titles without compensation of copyrighted material.
Game of Thrones, however, is winning the battle of most downloads and breaking records. The television show broke its own record by being downloaded over 170,000 times simultaneously. Data collected by Torrent Freak indicated that the season finale had been downloaded one million times in 24 hours. There were over 128,000 shares (seeders) of the complete title being executed, while over 42,000 were being downloaded (leechers).
Most of the leechers were found in Australia, followed by the U.S., then Canada and finally the U.K. Of note is that Australia has the smallest population, but the largest number of illegal downloads. This has brought about the negative attention of The U.S. Ambassador to Australia, John Berry. Mr. Berry filed an official complaint, which has had little effect on the situation.
But who wins when Game of Thrones beats Breaking Bad in a competition of illegal downloads? According to HBO, they do. Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming, says that illegal downloads are a compliment to the show and does little to hinder DVD sales. Likewise, the show’s director, David Petrarca, points out that the unauthorized downloads actually help the show by creating a buzz within the Games of Thrones culture. Petrarca says this breathes life into the show and keeps it sustainable.
HBO may prefer the exclusivity of their programming over the fallout of piracy of the content. While an individual can illegally download the HBO show, they will not license it at any price to companies like Netflix who are reported to have over 40 million customers. By keeping a tight rein on the content, HBO may be fueling the piracy and creating its own black market. HBO wants to remedy this to some degree by increasing the availability of the show throughout the world. In 2013, HBO increased its territories to 176 and may plan further expansion.
The actors were somewhat reserved over the recent news of the piracy record. Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, stated that while it is a compliment to be pirated at such high numbers, it is a back-handed compliment and felt HBO would not be too happy over the statistics. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the character Jaime Lannister, stated he had mixed feelings about the reports. He said that ultimately it is stealing; even though many do not see it as such, it is still wrong. Some argue that when any television show like Game of Thrones beats Breaking Bad in a competition of piracy, the losers are likely the owners and stakeholders of the media content.
By Anthony Clark