Stephen Fry Admits He’s a BitTorrent Pirate

Opinion

Stephen Fry, a highly respected actor, comedian, writer, presenter and author yesterday admitted to downloading TV shows for free using BitTorrent. Speaking at the iTunes Festival in London last night, Fry told the audience that he's grabbed episodes of 24 and the series finale of House, starring his former comedy partner Hugh Laurie.

FryIn Britain – and increasingly around the world – Stephen Fry is a much loved man. His contribution to the entertainment industry over many years has been colossal, with many of his fans in awe of his amazing mind and outstanding wit.

A self-proclaimed Internet and digital addict, Fry claims to have owned the second ever Mac sold in the UK and has joked that he has owned every smart phone available today. Indeed, he recently wowed Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson by showing him a pretty unusual use for his iPhone. Fry even has more than 500,000 Twitter followers.

So, unlike many who speak about Internet issues, there is a good chance that Stephen Fry actually knows what he’s talking about. Yesterday, to an audience gathered for the iTunes Festival in London’s Camden Town, he was a little more honest than most would’ve expected on the issue of illicit downloading, even if just hours before he revealed that he was finding his appearance unnerving, admitting, “I haven’t the least idea what I’m going to say.”

But it came good in the end. In a speech about copyright and the future of music introduced by Stuff’s editor-in-chief Tom Dunmore, Fry poured scorn on the music industry for attacking the public in file-sharing cases. “Making an example of ordinary people is the stupidest thing the record industry can do,” he said.

Noting a problem that was earlier outlined here on TorrentFreak, Fry said the Digital Britain report did not represent the views of the public, but those of “industry insiders” instead.

While Fry is pragmatic about the piracy situation, he’s not a supporter of large-scale infringers, described by him as those who download on an “industrial scale”. When asked how he felt about his own media output being pirated, Fry said: “I’m against cynical bootlegging but I work in a very molly coddled, overpaid business.”

But unsurprisingly for a clued-up digital native in 2009, there are some kinds of piracy that Fry isn’t completely against. He told the audience at London’s Roundhouse that he is a BitTorrent user himself and has grabbed episodes of 24 using the protocol.

Interestingly, he went on to reveal that he had also downloaded the season finale of House, the hit US show which stars the comedian most known for partnering Fry, Hugh Laurie.

However – and drawing a somewhat interesting analogy – Fry said that in the end, illegal downloaders may well feel a little guilty over grabbing something without paying for it. “Most of us feel guilt when we masturbate,” he said, “even though we live in 2009.”

Appearing a little concerned that his slightly pro-piracy stance might be misinterpreted, Fry then appeared on his beloved Twitter. “Well, finished my bit. Hope I’m not misunderstood. Such a pity if I get misrepresented as a ‘help yourself and be a pirate’ advocate.”

Not at all Stephen. The fact is there could be as many as 6 million people in the UK doing exactly as you are doing, largely because there still isn’t an attractive, workable, widespread and convenient legal alternative. You set the example. You buy lots of media and download too, which proves that participating in one doesn’t exclude you from the other.

Pirates are customers too. Even famous ones.

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