Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Jack Valenti, head of the MPAA and kindred spirit to Hilary Rosen would have you believe that Hollywood as we know it is hanging by a tenuous and increasingly fragile thread. In his estimation, broadband and digital media will compromise the viability of the industry if left unchecked. Why would someone invest a magnificent amount of time and money to create a work that could then be freely redistributed by pirates, thieves and scalawags?

That's why we need region codes and Macrovision. We need to shut down P2P networks. Take the Norwegian kid and his cursed DeCSS to court. We need to enlist the technology industry to help with Digital Rights Management. Extend copyright to last a century and a day. Charge massive royalties (Thanks for the link Allan.) Control distribution!

MIT grad student Raffi Krikorian wanted to see if Jack and Co. were onto something with their fears of piracy and industry destruction so he set out to discover if it was as easy as they say. He then sent his results to the FCC.

I guess it's not that easy, even if you study large, distributed, networked, and emergent systems at one of the premiere institutions in the country.

Perhaps Jack should meditate on the DVD for a moment. The device is small and convenient, more durable than a video tape, with better sound and video than laser discs at half the cost. They have tons of extra features. You don't have to rewind them. Then consider that it is the most successful consumer electronics format/device ever.

Maybe people are smart enough to recognize a good thing when they see it. Maybe they'll line up by the millions if you give them something worth paying for. Maybe by adding extra fees, proprietary devices and confusing protocols you make things more unattractive and compromise any potential for success. Just look at the train wreck that was Divx.

Maybe one of the elements that spurs piracy is the fact that an affordable version has not been made commercially available (look here and here.) How many bootlegs of the original Star Wars trilogy do you think are floating out there? How much has demand for such material gone up in light of the revelation that George Lucas does not intend to release the original versions on DVD ever?

Maybe industry leaders should work on serving the public instead of serving subpoenas.


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