Arrrrr, #Screwcable! Blackout Forces Fred Wilson to Pirate The Knicks. What Would Congress Think?

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 Arrrrr, #Screwcable! Blackout Forces Fred Wilson to Pirate The Knicks. What Would Congress Think?

"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?


  1. Tman says:

    Forced? No, nobody forced Wilson to do *anything*. 
    He chose to break the law. Watching a sporting event is not an inalienable right, and anyone claiming they are *forced* into a life of crime in this way are full of it. 

    1. #screwcable says:

      A ‘life of crime’?  That is the most inane thing I think I’ve read online today.

      Fred Wilson “broke the law” because his other two paid services were choosing to screw him over.  He “broke the law” because despite paying twice for the ability to watch the game, he could not.  

      Don’t be naive.

  2. james lethem says:

    Surely by subscribing to both, he has the licence to watch the sports fixture so what he is actually doing is legal. However if he was to download rather than stream this might be different.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rational copyright law will never exist. As long as copyright exists, someone will be out there lobbying to make it as draconic as possible in order to benefit themselves. The only way that we win is by having *no* copyright whatsoever.