Deep Backward Point

Blog against the machine.

Stop Praying for a Whitewash in Australia

I follow politics– U.S. politics– quite closely. In the two years preceding the 2008 election, you could say I followed it more than anything else.

In politics, broadly speaking, there are two types of people– the partisans and the ideologues. The partisans fundamentally want their party to win, and will give up on smaller points of ideology. The ideologues support a cause, and will oppose everyone opposed to their cause, regardless of party affiliation. Obviously, there is overlap between the groups depending on the cause.

Over a long enough time scale, neither side is obviously right. The partisan can claim to shoot for the 80% good solution instead of waiting for 100%, keeping the big picture in mind, and positing that the only way to effect change is by winning elections. The partisan votes for the team that is mostly like them.

The ideologue favors building movements, affecting public opinion. They may largely vote for a particular party, but this is by providence, not by design. The ideologue may be pure in intentions, but also may have the effect of sabotaging long term gains for ideological purity.

The partisan, on the other hand, may do the opposite. He may sabotage short term gains for electoral success. The mental calculus of the abominable partisan goes something like this: “I hope the economy tanks by November, so the ruling party loses and my party wins.”

And this is where we switch to talking about cricket.

Venkat Ananth, the writer for Yahoo! Cricket, has been beating this particular drum for quite some time now:

Four months ago, when Indian cricket should have been introspecting for its failures in England, the BCCI had two clear options – one, to bite the bullet, conduct a thoroughly honest review of everything wrong with Indian cricket and introduce correctives to fix the inherent systemic flaws; or two, to remain firmly in denial as if they never happened.

He launches in to an epic rant on every popular criticism of BCCI and the Indian cricket establishment. I agree with much of it, disagree with some.

Until he gets to this bit (emphasis added):

Lastly and more importantly, I hope that India gets whitewashed in Australia. Call me unpatriotic (and I’ve defended a lot of that tripe in the past), but quite honestly, that could be the best possible result for Indian cricket’s long-term interest, in my view.

So let me get this straight, dear partisan friend. If India end the series on 2-2, coming from behind to win the last two tests in what would turn out to be the most dramatic series in recent memory, you would be unhappy.

Thank you, I have no further questions.

The thing about partisans is that they need the world to fit their narrative. If the economy tanks by November, Obama is toast. So if you oppose Obama, you may end up hoping the economy doesn’t improve. In 2004, catching Saddam Hussein was viewed as a political victory for George W. Bush. As a partisan opposed to Bush, you may wish Saddam had not been captured. For all the wrong reasons

These are wishes (and people) removed from reality, but they pervade our political process.

The weird thing about Mr. Ananth’s article is that what he ultimately wants is an ideological victory– for the BCCI to change to suit his ideal. And it’s a worthy ideal.

But he’s willing to give up the present. He’s willing to give up on short-term victories, on short-term miracles. He’s willing to give up on the grind. Like a comic book villain, he wishes for short-term devastation, so that he can build a new world order.

If I ever wish for an Indian loss for the greater good, dear reader, I give you the permission to slap me sideways.


What’s Up with Willow TV: Cricket Fans Served Legal Notices for Streaming Pirated Video

This is a developing story (FAQ, Feedback), and continues to be updated as new information is available. If you have received the legal notice below, I would love to talk with you about it. (email, Twitter, Facebook or the comments below) 

A large number of people are showing up on this blog searching for “willow tv” and “legal notices” and “offer of settlement”. Anyone know what’s up?


Ok, here’s the deal. Popular cricket streaming service, Willow TV, is sending out legal notices (below) to (alleged) subscribers of (allegedly) illegal streams. The person is given a choice of either facing legal consequences or subscribing to Willow TV for $14.99 per month or paying $200/pirated-match.


I am not a lawyer. I don’t play one on TV.

  1. Is this legitimate?
    Yes, it is. I’ve had a brief conversation with the Willow CEO on Twitter, instigated by David Mutton (full conversation).
  2. Is there precedent?
    Again, I’m not a lawyer. But this is similar to what the RIAA pulled off against people who (allegedly) downloaded pirated music. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a comprehensive history of how that played out. The settlement proposed here by Willow is significantly cheaper than the RIAA shenanigans. If you have questions about this sort of thing, EFF may be a good place to start. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) faced a similar problem to Willow TV, and sued streaming service providers.
  3. But this is different, right?
    Yes, this is different in many significant ways. The RIAA sent letters to people who distributed pirated music. Also, unlike UFC, Willow TV is going after people who are streaming video, not those serving it. Willow TV is explicitly giving fans a chance to become customers, or face legal action. The other difference is the offer of amnesty.
    Finally, while there is legal precedent regarding downloading pirated content, there doesn’t seem to be as much about streaming. Technically, there is a difference between the more ephemeral streaming user and the permanence of a download.
  4. How did Willow TV get email addresses?
    The Willow TV CEO, Mr. Srinivasan, has stated on Twitter that the information was obtained through subpoenas on service providers. Last year, Willow had sued a large number of defendants for illegal streaming of cricket in the United States. Mr. Srinivasan spoke with GigaOm last year about the piracy problem, and how his company is tackling it.

A few more points. As the Willow CEO, Mr. Srinivasan, pointed out on Twitter, I don’t think there’s much precedent regarding offering amnesty by turning pirates in to customers. It’s novel, and if both parties agree that a stream was pirated, I actually like that solution.

But that’s the problem– this approach starts with an assumption of guilt. If you receive this email, you have no recourse but to pay Willow or hire a lawyer. The cheaper option is an admission of guilt. Which means that even for the innocent, the better option may be to pay Willow. The reality of the legal system is that the party with deeper pockets wins by default, regardless of legal merit or actual guilt.

Which is why some on Twitter and in the comments below are using the words “extortion” and “blackmail” to describe this tactic. I’ve defended Willow from that language so far, but if more people (like in the comments on this post) claim to be innocent cricket fans caught in the cross-fire, this could get ugly.


Also, here are a few recurring themes in the comments I’ve received from affected individuals on Twitter, in email and in the comments below:

  • Willow’s email looks illegitimate, partly because there is no postal address or phone number which seems like a reasonable thing to expect in a legal notice.
  • There is no legal guarantee of amnesty if an individual chooses to pay to become a customer. In fact, some worry that it could constitute an admission of guilt.
  • The email does not state which illegal services the individual subscribed to. In fact, there is no specific information about the violation, so the email looks more like extortion than an actual legal notice.
  • Some pirated streaming service represented themselves as the copyright holder. Users of that service had no idea that Willow held the rights to the broadcast.
  • Some individuals claim hat the pirated stream didn’t even work, so there is no instance of an actual violation.
  • Some individuals are not in the United States, and may not be in violation of the law cited in the email.

Many readers have posted their experiences in the comments below. Thank you, and keep your responses coming either by email, twitter or the comments below.

Here is a frequently asked questions document I am putting together. Please let me know if you have additional questions for that page– either questions for me, or to pose to Willow. Thanks.

Many people have been asking me to act as an intermediary between them and Willow, or help in other ways. So far, I’ve been reporting on this as a news story, providing a single resource for all currently known information and a forum for affected parties to communicate. I have also gotten in touch with the Willow TV CEO over Twitter, and asked him or his lawyer to look at feedback in the comments. Beyond this, there is little I can do, especially since this is a legal matter in which I am neither a lawyer, nor an affected party.

Willow TV CEO Mr. Srinivasan just sent me the link to an FAQ that they have put up on their site that addresses many questions people had in the comments below.

Here is the text of the notice:
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