Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

an open letter to Sky Sports from an Australian F1 fan


I am an Australian who loves F1. I attend the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne each year and am there for every minute of every session. Practice 1 on Friday is my favourite session of the year. As the Australian Grand Prix has been the first race of the season for many years, I get to see the new driver / team combinations for the first time live, rather than on tv, which is very exciting.

The broadcast of F1 in Australia is very poor. The current UK broadcast is presented in Australia in a significantly reduced form on free to air (FTA). The practice sessions and the extended pre-qualifying, pre-race and post-race programs are not broadcast at all, even on the local pay tv equivalent of Sky, Foxtel.

The moronic Australian commentators talk over the UK commentary team during the qualifying and race broadcasts, which I find extremely annoying, and which reduces the time we are able to hear the original commentary. I consider the FTA F1 broadcast in Australia to be unwatchable.

Nonetheless, I usually watch every session of every race throughout the year. I do this by watching pirated recordings of UK television broadcasts from the BBC and Sky, downloaded via bittorrent. If I could buy it I would, but I can’t so in order to watch it I have to steal it.

I prefer the current Sky broadcast to the BBC one, although David Coulthard (on the BBC) is good, because Martin Brundle (on Sky) has become an outstanding broadcaster and Damon Hill always has some sharp observations to make.

I particularly like Damon because he won the first F1 Grand Prix I saw live, the 1995 Australian Grand Prix (the final race in Adelaide). Every time I see him I remember him spraying champagne on me (I was below the podium on the pit straight for the victory celebrations).

I remember the psychotic shriek of the Renault V10 in his Williams, and the catastrophic sounding explosion of each down-shift of the early sequential gearboxes. I remember standing up against the fence (those days are long gone) at the braking point at the end of the long straight as he came towards me at 330kph. Respect.

I was very disappointed, therefore, to learn that Sky Sports has recently initiated a thorough defense of its intellectual property by shutting down torrenting of its F1 broadcasts across many sites. The very organised (free) membership site I have been using, which specialises in UK tv, has explained that it has been forced to remove the Sky Sports F1 torrents due to a DMCA copyright complaint from Sky. It now only has torrents for the BBC / Setanta (Irish sports broadcaster) broadcasts of the practice, qualifying and races.

Finding Sky F1 torrents has consequently become very difficult, though they are still available via other torrent sites. Unfortunately their metadata and annotations are poor, and it is often unclear which broadcast you are downloading. They also usually only include the track sessions, not the extended previews that I enjoy. As a result I am now mostly watching the BBC ones from UK tv site.

You are obviously aware of the popularity of torrents of your F1 broadcasts. You are presumably trying to protect your UK income and want to prevent UK consumers from watching F1 for free when they should be paying for it. This is entirely understandable.

Unfortunately you have also blocked your world-wide audience. Do you know how big the international market is for your F1 broadcasts? Do you have any data on how many bittorrent users outside the UK are viewing your F1 shows? Do you realise that many people cannot legally view your content but want to be able to?

I’m writing this on behalf of the many millions of people around the English speaking world who are in a similar position to me. I’m not a thoughtless content pirate. I am a serious F1 fan who is willing to pay to watch the sport as it deserves to be seen.

As a committed fan, with a strong interest in the technical aspect of the sport, I want to see every session in sequence to gain as complete an understanding of the comparative strengths of the drivers and teams as possible. F1 is much more than a Sunday race – the 3 day program needs to be observed in full to best understand the race.

The ways in which people watch tv are changing. Apart from news and current affairs programs, I rarely watch FTA broadcasts. I have a HD digital receiver plugged into my computer, with which I record shows to watch at more convenient times (and so I can skip the advertisements).

I watch some tv via streaming services from the publicly owned Australian channels ABC and SBS, which offer BBC iPlayer style streaming services. I watch some tv from Hulu and ITV by using the Hola browser plugin (which circumvents the geographical blocking of such services).

I watch most tv via bittorrent. My taste is varied and eclectic, and no FTA or pay tv broadcaster in Australia can meet my needs. I don’t want to buy an expensive package from Foxtel, most of which is rubbish I will never watch.

I want tv to be unbundled so I can buy subscriptions to individual programs or series. I would be willing to pay for HBO favourites like True Blood and many others as well as F1. The established tv business model, which requires subscribing to a bundle that is bloated with content I don’t want and restricts access to content with irrelevant geographical boundaries, is antiquated and unacceptable.

Content producers need to change how they sell their products, and they need to connect directly with consumers. I want to be able to buy F1 direct from its producer, Sky Sports F1, not from an intermediary like an Australian network. I want to buy F1 as an individual product, not part of a larger package. And I want to buy it, irrespective of my geographical location, through the internet.

I am a middle class urban dweller with discretionary income to spend, who has high speed internet access and who already watches a lot of tv via web streaming. I don’t need a set-top box or any other physical infrastructure. Sky Sports F1 already offers all its F1 broadcasts streamed from its website. You could easily sell me a subscription to watch F1 via your website, either as a season pass or as individual weekend passes.

You have also recently begun to offer a new pay as you go service to access Sky Sports online via Now TV, where customers can stream all 6 Sky Sports channels for 24 hours for £9.99. But this 24 hour window doesn’t really work with the F1 schedule. However, I would pay the same amount to access only the F1 channel for a 3 day GP weekend. £9.99 a race sounds like a reasonable deal. That’s nearly £200 for a 20 race season if you’re paying for individual races.

Offer a discount for an annual season pass, say £150, and you have an offer that millions of English speaking consumers around the world would be willing to pay for. It’s about AU$215 at the current exchange rate. I already spend AU$50 per month on high speed broadband. I would happily pay that to watch every session of every race live.

Watching F1 entirely by bittorrent creates a delay of several hours as the broadcast has to be edited, encoded and seeded by someone before I can download it. I currently forgo timeliness for completeness, and ignore the live FTA broadcast of the race on Sundays (I’m usually still watching practice 3 and qualifying at that time).

Consequently, I often see the race results on the internet before seeing the race, which can be frustrating, but it’s currently inevitable. Being able to watch all the sessions live via the internet, rather than waiting hours to download torrents, is highly valuable to me. Seeing the race live and experiencing the surprise of the result is worth paying for.

BSkyB is majority owned by News Corp, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who is renowned for his free market philosophy. I consider it a fundamental market failure that I cannot buy a subscription to watch the complete F1 broadcast. You are losing money because of your antiquated business model.

You can’t blame pirates for your failure to sell your product on the free market. You are not losing any money from the torrents of your shows that I view, because you currently don’t allow me to pay you for them. I’m not making a selfish choice about whether to pay for your content. I literally can’t pay for it.

Consumers who pirate content are essentially a market correction. We’re fixing a failure in the market by pointing out where value is not being exploited. You should be listening to us rather than trying to punish us. I am a consumer with money to spend. I want to spend it on your product. Why won’t you sell it to me?


  1. Do you not see anything hypocritical about your principled stance on protection of your own copyright and downloading copyrighted broadcasts of the F1? I could argue that I would like to publish all of your reviews on my own website surrounded by ads but since you wont let me I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway. You have no given me a way to purchase your content to profit from financially and as a result I must steal it.

    You know the answer as to why they wont sell it to you. If a superior product was available online less people would watch the inferior television version. Thus reducing the price obtained to license the footage to an Australia network. The number of people who watch F1 on their laptops is currently not small enough to shift the market. Eventually it will be but this will take time. I download thing as well so I’m not saint. How is you downloading the F1 and breeching copyright any different from someone taking your photos or posts without attribution?

    • I assume you’re trying to start an argument. I have no business model and do not charge for access to my content. I encourage you to view it and do not seek to restrict access to it.

      You could try to profit from my content but I doubt you would achieve very much. As I give it away I am sure readers would prefer to view it on a site (mine) without ads rather than one with ads. Paying a licence to republish content is entirely different to paying a fee to view content.

      As a citizen journalist I create content and publish it as a non-commercial hobby. I expect that when my work is republished that my moral rights are respected and that I will be correctly attributed or credited as the creator of the work as per my creative commons copyright licence.

      This is entirely different to seeking access to view content that is a commercial product, such as Sky’s F1 broadcasts. This is about access to view, not attribution for reuse. No comparison is possible. I have indicated to Sky my goodwill and willingness to pay for their product. They can choose to accept my money or not.

      I doubt broadcasters like the Sky Sports F1 channel have an accurate understanding of how many people in different countries are viewing their content. If they do they are not sharing this knowledge. As a consumer, I have no idea if they can compare licencing their show to various national broadcasters vs selling it directly to individual consumers.

      The point is that geographical boundaries restricting access to content are over. The future of media is in selling content direct to consumers regardless of their location.

  2. Obviously there are differences between commercial broadcasts and your own content. I just find it interesting that you selectively apply the copyright act to your dealings. i.e You want people to respect your copyright but don’t respect the copyright of others.

    I think it’s fine to agree with some laws and break others I’m just surprised that’s the position you are taking. Not trying to start a fight.

    • You (deliberately) misinterpret me again. I respect Sky’s copyright and have offered to pay them to view their content. Your continued insistence on seeing commercial rights and moral rights as the same thing is pointless.

  3. Offering to pay for something that’s not for sale is not really much of an offer.
    You do not respect their copyright. They have the distribution rights for Australia and you deliberately subvert then. You are breeching copyright. Moral rights are a form of copyright, i.e they are found in the copyright act. Although moral rights are more about appeasing European sensibilities in world wide copyright treaties. They have never really been part of Australian law and are always written out in contracts.
    You’re picking and choosing when the law should apply to you. That’s fine. I download stuff too but I know I’m stealing, I certainly don’t admit it and I don’t expect other people to respect my copyright while I’m simultaneously ignoring others. But I’ve read a few more of your posts now and I’ve begun to understand that you are never wrong or incorrect.

    • You’re increasingly wrong about copyright law. Moral rights are a part of the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (see section 190). They are not always written out of contracts.

      • Brian have you ever read a contract for a writer in this country? Moral rights are indeed part of our copyright law but almost always in contracts there will be a clause that starts with something along the lines of “I waive all moral or other similar rights….” This is because if a program or article is edited or put in a different context when exported media companies don’t want to worry about being sued by writers for things they can’t control. There is basically zero case law on moral rights as they are a relatively new additions to the act. If you insist on moral rights you will never publish a book, write a tv episode or publish a syndicated article in this country. So with respect you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I see this is not so much a blog about fitzroy but the rantings of an unemployed angry man. So I’ll leave you too it. Best of luck with your future copyright infringement.

        • I have worked in publishing for many years including in roles managing permissions, copyrights and contracts. Contractual conditions vary. You were wrong previously when claiming that moral rights did not exist in Australian copyright law. They do. You’re wrong again in claiming that authors cannot get books published without waiving moral rights. What are your credentials in relation to copyright and publishing? None I suspect. Back to cray cray land you go…

  4. I never suggested that moral rights are not part of Australian Copyright law. In fact I specifically said they were part of the act . I will admit that perhaps when it comes to books moral rights are more likely to be retained in some circumstances as books are not frequently altered without the authors approval but I can almost guarantee that that damages are limited to monetary damages in such situations. In television and film they are instantly excluded in standard contracts. I don’t feel the need to outline my credentials. Good luck finding a job in publishing, after admitting that you steal copyrighted material on the internet.

    • Read your own word from above: ‘moral rights … have never really been part of Australian law and are always written out in contracts’. False and false. I can only assume you refuse to establish credentials in the area of copyright management because you have none.

  5. You are really clutching at straws I said:
    ” Moral rights are a form of copyright, i.e they are found in the copyright act. Although moral rights are more about appeasing European sensibilities in world wide copyright treaties. They have never really been part of Australian law and are always written out in contracts.”

    I was talking about their practical application. Obviously I was not suggesting that they do not exist, I had just stated they were part of the act in the preceding sentence.

    Moral rights were only added to the copyright Act in 2000. The first moral rights case was decided by the federal magistrates court in 2006. They are included in the act to satisfy international treaties and are rarely litigated or tested. Why? Because they are almost always contracted out. You deal with websites, it’s a bit different when you’re dealing with writers who get paid.

    • You don’t know who I ‘deal with’ or what my experience is. How arrogant of you to assume without any evidence the limits of my experience. I have not only dealt with websites in my publishing career.

      Your claim to authority is entirely unsubstantiated and your knowledge of contracts regarding creative content is spurious. Ask freelance photographers and the agencies that manage their portfolios about moral rights. They don’t give up moral rights because if they did they would not be able to establish a reputation based on their work.

      Fiction and academic authors don’t give up moral rights and this is not an issue in book publishing. I know because I managed such contracts for years.

      So tell me an industry segment in Australia where you can demonstrate that giving up moral rights is common. I doubt you can because you’ve been talking nonsense from your first comment.

      You get one more comment only before I block you. You can try to prove your case or simply continue to demonstrate your stupidity. Think wisely if you’re capable of it.

  6. You evidently don’t think moral rights are important. However, the Guardian recently changed their policy on acknowledging and attributing user generated content as a result of my advice to them –

    • Hi Brian,
      Your squabbles with Graham make a great read. I believe he has some valid points which you have failed to acknowledge.
      I particularly enjoyed your lack of response to this…
      “They have the distribution rights for Australia and you deliberately subvert then. You are breeching copyright.”

      Furthermore, you cannot claimed you were the reason for The Guardian changing their policy. The weak link you posted is merely your own content and only refers to the online FAQ! Quite an exaggeration I say.

      • My actions can reasonably be interpreted as the cause of The Guardian changing their attribution policy for user generated content. They had none, I gave them my opinion about that, then they made one.

  7. Sky F1 is the best. They’ve obviously got lots of cash to spend on production.
    If I could pay to download the race, equivalent to bittorent, I would.

    Sky, like so many corporations, is more interested in bottom line, shareholders and self preservation to be bothered with a few 100,000 web watchers like me.

    This is why, if I can find it, I’m gonna get it. Any which way.

  8. Did you get any response from Sky? I am British having recently moved here and Ten’s coverage is killing me! Killing me!

    • I sympathise. Australian tv is shit! Of course I got no response from Sky. I was half expecting a nasty cease and desist ‘remove your post or we will sue you’ letter but I didn’t even get that.

      It’s easier now to get the Sky programs via streaming than torrents. Do a search for ‘Sky F1 stream’ and you will find websites that host a live stream of the Sky F1 HD channel. They’re pirates and it’s illegal so they’re all spam advertising supported, so you’ll need to ensure you have Adblocker plus installed in your browser before you visit them to block the endless ads. Avoid the one with the Chinese logo as that is unreliable and drops out, but the other one that is easy to find is quite reliable.

      If you use the time converter on the site (from race location time to your local time) then you will know when to tune in to watch, including the qualifying and race preview shows. If you prefer the BBC you can install the free Hola geo-unblocking plugin, manually install the BBC script (not included by default) and watch the BBC iPlayer.

  9. If no one conceives and pushes for change then nothing changes, history is not free of examples of unjust laws which people have disobeyed in order to move society forwards .It is stupid to suggest that because something is law it is automatically right.

    Today’s issue stems from the broadcasters and studios themselves as they are unwillilng to change their distribution models because operating on a geographical basis enables them to maximise their profits but this is to the detriment of the consumers.

    The internet makes geography irrelevant yet broadcasters and stuios are applying artificial geographical demarcations to the web. If they did as the author suggested and provided unrestricted content which could be purchased globally it would not be an infringement of copyright laws and would eliminate the need for piracy altogether.

    It is laziness and short-sightedness that keeps these organisations sticking to this stale model. Do they realise how many hours people spend on the internet per day? Surely this is an opportunity that must be tapped into? I bet by far the most indulged in crime world wide is pircay – so much so that no-one gets arrested for this other than the providers of the copyrighted material.

    Piracy will never go away, In the UK recently ISP’s have been forced to block certain movie streaming and music websites, yet it takes less than 5 minutes to find a workaround using a standard search engine. Unless VPN and proxy’s are banned and search engines are preventeed from returning relevant information it makes the whole exercise redundant and needlessly repressive.

    • There’s no point. Many people are not going to waste money buying Foxtel just to get the Sky F1 channel. I want to buy F1 coverage direct from Sky. We don’t need no stinking intermediaries!

  10. I agree with the original post… and feel exactly the same.
    I stream all the sessions and watch quali and the race on One (Ten).
    Would gladly pay to have full access to the SkySports F1 coverage if I could.

  11. Interesting read, I agree we need access to sky f1, even if it costs I would pay… In the meantime what is the best way to stream sky f1

  12. Hey guys. I’ve found shows streaming of the practice sessions. Hope this works for you too. Good luck

  13. As of yesterday (or the day before) –

    I was just writing how this is a step in the right direction, but that was because I had misread the part that says they’ll be stripping free to air channels of live races, or even delayed broadcasts. Highlight packages in my eyes don’t cut it, despite them being a potential boon for particularly uneventful grand prix (let’s be honest, there’s no escaping their existence).

    In short, long live streaming, as paytv remains a too expensive/unpalatable option for a great number of people. I’d like to think I’d jump at the option (if it existed) to pay ~$10 per grand prix weekend for the privilege to access the sky sports broadcast, but that’s never going to happen, as it’s too unprofitable.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

You own the copyright of your comment. By submitting your comment you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.