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Television John Doyle: You want Game of Thrones? Pay for it – downloading is theft

There are several side effects to the return of Game of Thrones. One is the pleasure viewers take in it. Another is abuse heaped on me for not being a total fan of the series. And a third is theft.

According to a recent report in The Guardian, "The prospect of the return of Game of Thrones has prompted a huge surge in Internet piracy, with fans making more than 100,000 illegal downloads per day of episodes of the show."

It's the most pirated show in the world, with more than seven million episodes downloaded between February of last year and April of this year. The countries where the illegal downloading takes place makes for an interesting list. Brazil was the No. 1 country, followed by France, the United States, Canada and Britain.

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What's striking is that, apart from Brazil, illegal downloading is very much a First World thing.

Me, I don't get it. And, mainly it's a matter of being puzzled by seemingly nice, sophisticated Canadians not getting it. I have had readers write to me and explain how, using VPN software to make them appear to be British or U.S. residents, they're watching series not available here. They want me to write about and review these shows. Seriously. I have been invited to participate in an illegal racket because people watching TV illegally want more information about what to watch.

This is mad. As a BBC report put it recently, "Media piracy has even become fertile new territory for organized crime rings that previously dealt in drugs and prostitution." So, you with your software allowing you to watch or download some show you won't pay to see, you are part of a criminal element you should be embarrassed to be associated with.

Now, there's a school of thought that believes illegally downloading Game of Thrones (or The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, the second and third most-pirated series) is fighting social injustice. Cable companies charge to watch and, if you're poor, you are striking a blow against the 1 per cent by doing illicit downloading, copying and sharing. Good luck with that attitude.

Another school of thought believes that the piracy problem would be solved if the best and coolest of series were simply more widely available and distributed quickly. These same people believe that piracy is also a sort of branding exercise for a channel like HBO. Making the watching of content seem illicit makes it more desirable and increases demand for HBO. Again, good luck with that logic.

In part, the issue has actually driven some broadcasters and cable channels to make their shows more easily accessible. HBO has made it much easier to watch its series online. With payment, of course. In Canada, the existence of both shomi and CraveTV has meant that dozens of shows not previously available can be accessed with ease, as long as you pay.

There is simply less need for piracy now. Which makes it all the more enraging that some middle-class, well-off Canadians still indulge in it. It's theft, pure and simple. You're not a cool pirate dude if you do it. It's greed. People who mock politicians caught fiddling their expenses and who sneer at greed are often greedy to watch content made by creative people without paying for it. It's all the same. It's greed.

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You want to see Game of Thrones? Pay for it.

Also airing Tuesday

Mr. D (CBC, 9:30 p.m.) reaches its season finale after a strong batch of episodes. Apart, that is, from the dream-sequence one. An injection of more absurdist humour and bite has made this a very watchable, often subversive comedy.

Justified (SuperChannel, 10 p.m.) is at its second-last episode. Tonight's, Collateral, has Ava (Joelle Carter) on the run with a bundle of money and Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) looking for her. It has been a so-so finale season for the show – much less laconic and more intensely focused on tangled betrayals and elaborate scams. Me, I've long had the feeling that Ava (and Carter has been brilliant) would be the last one standing.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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