NBC allows free copies of its shows online

News: You know that the (copyright) times are changing when NBC is now allowing download copies of some of its most popular shows (instead of just watching them online). It’s part of “NBC Direct” (beta) and it’s all free. I’m assuming the free video downloads contain no DRM, but I haven’t verified that yet.

If you go to this menu, you’ll see that over 20 NBC shows are downloadable, including 30 Rock, Law & Order SVU, The Office, ER, and Heroes.

Analysis: The speed with which the video market is evolving is dizzying. Last year, I never would have expected NBC to allow free downloads of its shows. Presumably, by allowing the free downloads NBC has licensed at least a user to collect the episodes for personal use on her computer, if not also some other noncommercial re-uses. I don’t see a specific statement by NBC on terms of use, though.

The free downloading of NBC shows is also a little surprising, given the rather hard-line copyright position expressed by Rick Cotton in this NYT debate.  I wonder what the difference, as a practical matter, between NBC allowing copying of its free broadcast shows and third parties doing it on their own with their own devices for those very same shows.  If the market for free TV shows eventually adopts a free download practice, then the “piracy” rhetoric seems hollow.  (Movies are different since they are not usually free, either online or offline.)

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