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Antipirates attacked for pirating NFL game

The Web fulminates when it is revealed that executives from VEVO--vehement music industry antipirates--played a pirated stream of an NFL playoff game at a party. VEVO claims it left its Wi-Fi unsupervised. Have we heard that argument before?

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When the happily married have affairs, they tend to argue it didn't mean anything. When the happily connected are accused of piracy, they claim someone else must have used their Wi-Fi.

Somewhere in the midst of arguments like these lies a concealed truth: human beings are not what they claim to be.

Please, therefore, consider the troubling--and very human--emotions that surround the revelations that, at a Sundance party hosted by VEVO, there played on several screens an illegal stream of an NFL playoff game.

It so happened that a very nice man from TechCrunch was there, and he was kind enough to film it so that no one would think he was pirating the truth. (Although, some will argue, in a way he was pirating the pirated game.)

Should you not be aware of VEVO, it's very much like a Hulu for music videos. I wasn't aware people still watched music videos, but this site is backed by Sony and Universal. These are companies that don't feel warmly toward pirates. Indeed VEVO itself got terribly upset when a 16-year-old boy created a site that turned VEVO's YouTube videos into easy-to-use files.

Naturally, then, it might seem a touch odd of VEVO to be pirating a football game. Naturally, VEVO executives seem to have felt a slightly eggy odor around their nostrils.

The company's response some might find charming. On the VEVO blog, its CEO Rio Caraeff offered these words: "A guest of our lounge asked for an NFL game to be aired. We said no. There was a laptop hooked up to that fed into the large TV screens around the bar. Unfortunately, the laptop was easily accessible to the public."

You know what's coming, don't you? Yes, the "someone else must have done it, because the laptop wasn't secure" argument. Moreover, Caraeff claimed this touch of piracy was a mere blip, as, once the shocked, stunned, appalled executives saw what was happening, they went to their laptop and switched the screen to VEVO videos.

The nice man from TechCrunch finds this argument a little suspicious. He believes that this was no mere blip.

The pleasant thing for VEVO is that no one can prove who was behind the pirating. The slightly less pleasant thing for the company is that its argument resembles that of so many who have been sued by the entertainment industry: "Well, yes, it happened. But it wasn't me."

Sometimes, people pirate music and film because those who own the rights make it far too hard to access and even pay for these things. Sometimes, too, executives find themselves defending their positions, even though they know--in their own personal behavior--they are sinners too.

How many gay politicians all over the world support radically antigay stances because they feel it covers up their own--politically inconvenient--sexuality?

How many times do we hear of policemen who are only too happy to stop people for speeding five miles an hour over the limit and then are themselves caught drunk driving?

With delightful timing, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Wellesley College pored over the statistics of recent years and declared there to be no evidence that BitTorrent piracy affects U.S. box office returns.

Could it be that a bad movie is just a bad movie, one that no one will bother to pay for?

Could it also be that a bad argument is a bad argument, and that entertainment companies need to find slightly better ones in order to convince people of their sheer righteousness?