When my Google News Alert for Rifftrax hit my mailbox early this morning, it contained something bothersome: a new listing for a torrent of the Rifftrax commentary for The Matrix. Why is this so troublesome? Well, as the traffic through this blog increases, I think it’s a good time for a quick primer on torrent etiquette for MSTies.
Torrents, in and of themselves, are not illegal – of course. Is it okay to download MST3K episodes? Yes and no. You can find, basically, the entire series via torrent sites, such as MySpleen. Most commonly, you’ll find low-quality .avi files of entire episodes, similar to what you find on Go. What’s unique about MySpleen, as well as the cumbersome eDonkey, is that you can find fan-made DVDs, suitable for burning, of episodes yet to be released to DVD by Rhino or Shout! Factory (thanks to the DAP). The Brains have always encouraged their fans to “keep circulating the tapes,” and this is clearly the 21st-century way of doing so. So, yes, they’re cool with it.
However, pretty much everyone involved agrees, the episodes currently available for purchase, i.e. released by Rhino/Shout! Factory, are off-limits for free downloading. This goes double for Rifftrax commentaries – do not download them from anywhere but Rifftrax.com, and don’t acquire Rhino- or Shout! Factory-released episodes in any form other than that of the official product.
So, “Why?” you ask? It’s a fair question. Why the hell should you listen to me, or any other MSTies? Well, first and foremost, it’s illegal to download commercially available products. But, personally, I don’t think that’s the most important reason. Basically, if everyone started downloading Rifftrax, Film Crew DVDs, and Rhino/Shout! Factory episodes – they’d stop making them. If something isn’t being bought and, thus, isn’t making money – bye-bye.
So, support Mike, Kevin, Bill and, yes, even Jim Mallon – buy when you can, and download when it’s not available for purchase. Help make the world a better place for robot puppets and CGI toasters. Okay, I’m shutting up. But first, here are some places to practice safe MSTing:
- The Film Crew
- Cinematic Titanic
- Amazon / eBay
- MST3K Videos (for purchasing fan-made DVDs)
- MySpleen (for downloading fan-made DVDs)
UPDATE: Now edited to better reflect the current MST3K universe, circa 2008.