One of the many things that has fascinated me over the years is the great, all-knowing box – television. Television has always been there for me – in the good times, the bad times, the times of no particular goodness or badness (Monday through Wednesday). I’ve watched entire marathons of everything from The Brady Bunch to the Jeffersons to my personal favorite, Friends (I guarantee, sadly, that I know more about it than you). I even enjoy the television shows about television shows – the Emmys rock my world (or they will, once they finally recognize Lauren Graham for being awesome and give Entourage an award for Best Comedy).

Thus I was fascinated when Lost premiered. And when my brother got me hooked on 24, I couldn’t help myself. But I promised, no more serial shows, ever again. Ever. Never ever.

Ever.

And then that damned Heroes show came along.

Yes, Heroes, the show about – well, you know what it’s about, don’t you? Let’s just say it’s X-Men, on crack. If you haven’t noticed, it’s all the rage now – the new “Lost,” although the old one is still better than ever in my mind. And believe me, I tried to fight it – “No! I refuse to watch Heroes. I refuuuuuuuuuuuuse.” But to no avail. My friend even ended up downloading every episode off of bitTorrent.

Then over winter break, I was lucky enough to receive the second season of The Office. Instant love. And the fire – the one Ryan started – spread to everyone I knew, to the point where my roommate downloaded season three.

Then, two days ago, both my friend and my roommate got an interesting letter from the school, forwarded along from NBC Universal:

“It has come to our attention that University of Rochester is the service provider for the IP address listed below, from which unauthorized copying and distribution (downloading, uploading, file serving, file “swapping” or other similar activities) of the NBC Universal Property or Properties listed below, or portion(s) thereof, is taking place.”

Somewhere in the five page e-mail were fun phrases such as “cease and desist” and “termination of subscribers” – yes, NBC Universal believes in the annihilation of collegiates who download their material.

Well, NBC Universal, I understand your motives. Yes, Aaron Markham, Director of Internet Anti-Piracy and Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for NBC Universal, you want to make sure not that we are just downloading it to watch for our enjoyment, but to make sure we don’t distribute it. Because if it were just a matter of us watching, NBC wouldn’t care – they provide the shows online for our perusal. There are systems set up within the University through which we can also download the shows.

What NBC Universal is afraid of – or so those pesky FBI warnings at the beginning of every DVD ever made would lead me to believe – is that NBC Universal doesn’t want us selling their stuff for profit. They want their money, goddamn it, and just like Sylar, they are not going to stop in their quest (the only difference being NBC Universal doesn’t eat people’s brains – oh, wait, they’re in the television industry). Damn mind-eaters (fun fact: Sylar is evil).

Now, I don’t particularly enjoy battles over artisitic copyright law and corporate whatever law. I don’t bother to understand terms like “law” and “infringement” and “banana” (well, that wasn’t in the e-mail, but it would have made it more interesting). What I do understand is that if NBC Universal, like the Recording Industry Association of America did with Napster, doesn’t crack down on offenders, then nobody will follow the rules. We will turn into barbarians, ripping apart the Internet in our quest for every episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Scrubs.” Extreme? Perhaps. But true.

So as we godless savages hunt down our torrents, NBC Universal hunts us down. They mandate the University to intervene, too, upon penalty of lawsuit. And though I don’t know what happens if someone repeats an offense – things like “research” and “facts” don’t appeal to me – I guess most people comply. My roommate did. My friend did. NBC Universal wins again (fun fact: under Article One, Section Eight of the United States Consititution, Congress can define and punish piracy on the high seas. I imagine Senator Arlen Specter going out in a motor boat to find some sly downloader torrenting “My Name is Earl” in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean). That seems contrary to everything Heroes stands for. The masses should be the winners. I enjoy such irony.

Also, I enjoy vague conclusions. Good luck with this one. I’m going to go download “Heroes” – I mean, go to NBC.com and watch it. Because there is a huge difference.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.



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