When You Have A 'Chief Content Protection Officer,' You're Doing It Wrong

from the protection-vs.-enablement dept

Back in October, I was on a panel in Hollywood with Kevin Suh of the MPAA, whose title was "VP of Content Protection." Kevin was quite nice and I enjoyed the conversation with him, but as I noted in my blog post at the time, just the fact that the MPAA has a "VP of Content Protection" suggested how misdirected the MPAA's strategies are these days. What I didn't realize is that there's a whole bunch of folks with similar titles. Hillicon Valley has an article about how the MPAA's content protection staff is shuffling roles, and it mentions how Suh has been promoted from VP of Content Protection to Senior VP of Content Protection (congrats, btw). But the article also points out that his boss, Mike Robinson, has been promoted to Executive VP of Content Protection and his boss is "Chief Content Protection Officer" Daniel Mandil.

The problem, of course, is that this assumes a key point: that content needs "protection." It wipes out even the possibility that there may be better strategies than focusing on trying to do the impossible and "protecting" content. It's sort of like an entire department tasked with demanding the tide never come in. Perhaps the MPAA could take some of that money it's used for "content protection" (whose crowning task so far has been to get Homeland Security to seize a bunch of domains on an extremely questionable legal basis) and instead put it towards encouraging and enabling new, useful and profitable business models. I guess it's just easier to have a whole department based on playing victim, rather than being proactive and helping filmmakers adjust to the market.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 9:28am

    "It's sort of like an entire department tasked with demanding the tide never come in."

    Heh. Fantastic!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Sort of like hiring security for your store when shoplifting reaches an all time high.

    If you like shoplifting, it's bad. If you own the store, it's good. People won't like you for doing it, but screw the freeloaders and thieves!

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      Would you people quit comparing stealing with copyright infringement. It's an invalid comparison and has been debunked so many times it's not funny.

       

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 10:38am

        Re: Re:

        Psst! Don't feed the trolls...

         

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        average_joe (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:47am

        Re: Re:

        Would you people quit comparing stealing with copyright infringement. It's an invalid comparison and has been debunked so many times it's not funny.

        Seems analogous to me. In both cases someone commits an act that interferes with another person's rights.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          o ok

          so it should be really easy to get these thieves and freeloaders off the streets for good... seeing as MURDER and copyright infringement are basically the same thing.

          "Seems analogous to me. In both cases someone commits an act that interferes with another person's rights."

           

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          el_segfaulto (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:57am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Property - A natural right recognized by the Constitution
          Copyright - An artificially granted, state-sponsored (theoretically) temporary monopoly on distribution of work.

          Some pretty big differences there.

           

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            average_joe (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Analogous does not mean they are exactly the same.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              maybe i'm mistaken, but i've read several of your comments on other posts and they all have the same shill tone.

              one question. are you for real?

              If so, then how do you expect to use these terms interchangeably and still be taken seriously

              you just busted your own argument.


              When the judges and prosecutors have the choice of reading the law to a T or interpreting... or just plain making shit up... well, we learn copyright infringment and theft are "analogous"

               

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                Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If so, then how do you expect to use these terms interchangeably and still be taken seriously

                I didn't think I'd be defening average_joe today, but...if you equate "analogous" to "use these terms interchangeably", you're either being unintentionally obtuse or intentionally misleading.

                 

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              Ron Rezendes (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

              Whew!

              Glad you finally said that AJ!

              Theft - denial of an actual piece of real property usually a misdemeanor, depending on value of the item(s)this could possibly be Grand Theft and is a felony.

              Copyright Infringement - Possibly a denial of an opportunity to sell or distribute something protected by a temporary state-sponsored monopoly and as such is simply a civil case with varying damages awarded based on intent and extent of infringement.

              Analogous in a sense that they both interfere with a persons rights but it stops right at that point because it certainly is not analogous in how it affects their "property".

              Theft deals with real property, copyright infringement deals with distribution rights.

               

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                Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

                Re: Whew!

                OK, let me summarize your post. You define theft and copyright, then admit that the two concepts are in fact analogous (which is the point of the thread to which you replied). Then you give an example where the two concepts are different (which incidentally has no effect whatsoever on whether they are analogous).

                 

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                  Ron Rezendes (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 4:59pm

                  Re: Re: Whew!

                  Yes analogous to a point...certainly not the point where they are the same or used interchangeably; although the Pro IP crowd always screams "thief" when it really is simply infringement.

                   

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            Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Some pretty big differences there.

            And how exactly is this relevent to whether the two concepts are analogous? Just because two concepts have "some pretty big differences" doesn't mean they can't also have some key similarities. Many differences != Completely different.

             

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          Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Seems analogous to me. In both cases someone commits an act that interferes with another person's rights.

          I agree. Stealing and copyright infringement are analogous. They both do interfere with people's right and that's enough for a valid analogy. But then again, I apparently have a much looser definition of "analogous" than most people. Some people seem to think that unless two things are almost identical, they're not analogous. My take on it is that if there is a key similarity, then they're analogous.

          Now, having said this, I am still very much in favor of making the distinction between theft and copyright infringement. They are indeed two different concepts and should be treated differently because of the number of ways they are different. But to deny that they are at least analogous does a disservice to your overall argument.

          What's behind this denial anyway? In peoples' minds, are they thinking, "Well, I know that theft and copyright infringment do have some key similarities, but I can't admit that because people like average_joe and The Anti Mike won't understand the nuances, so I'll just pretend that they don't."

           

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            average_joe (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't think it's a fear that I won't understand the nuances. I think it's more likely a demonstration that those denying the analogy don't understand the nuances themselves.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You cannot have art without some form of unlawful copying but you can have art without any laws whatsoever.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Nuancing this sort of thing is just shading the obvious truth: people have things they didn't pay for, and don't have the rights to have. How did they get it? They took it. Now, they may have made a copy, but in the end, the same principals apply: They have something they should not have.

              Unless you ignore that basic issue, you can never get past it. If someone has a hard drive packed with 1T of downloaded movies, you would say "oh, they got that illegally". It is a pretty easy thing to understand, at least on the surface.

              You can nuance it and try to hide the underlying facts, but it is all still the same.

               

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            Modplan (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:53pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            They both do interfere with people's right and that's enough for a valid analogy.


            In which case it's a rather worthless analogy that has nothing unique that actually genuinely warrants pointing out the analogy in the first place.

            Though you're original analogy when arguing this was that infringement deprives someone of income, which I'm sure others will happily tear apart.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2011 @ 6:55pm

            Key similarity = same?

            I agree. Stealing and copyright infringement are analogous.

            My take on it is that if there is a key similarity, then they're analogous.

            Human males and human females have a lot of key similarities... they're so close to the same, I guess you wouldn't care which you ended up in the sack with? For that matter, apes have a lot of key similarities with humans as well.

            Fortunately for the rest of us, "your take on it" doesn't matter. You don't get to make your own definitions. If it were that simple, I could rob a bank, and say that I am just making a withdrawal (several key similarities), which is perfectly legal.

             

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          Anthony, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:40pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think i'll just leave this here

           

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      Jon B. (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      One of the major credits to Walmart's success, especially in the past, is its customer service. Walmart plasters "Satisfaction Guaranteed" on its stores. Walmart does employ some security to stop shoplifters, but for a lot of minor occurances, the security is pretty lax. Even though it's relatively easy to steal from Walmart, they find that they do better business by leaving content fairly unprotected.

      Walmart's return policies are also quite lax, and their employees are instructed to be lax on returns and satisfy customers. It's trivially easy to return something to Walmart without a receipt, even if that thing wasn't even purchased at Walmart. Walmart loses a lot of money by taking returns in any condition, with and without proof of purchase, often handing out cash, even in cases where it's pretty clear that the "customers" are defrauding the company.

      But they choose this because it's good for business. You garner confidence and good will with your customers when you don't treat them like criminals. It's easier to purchase something if you know you can return it. It's easier to shell out money when you're not being treated like a criminal. Other stores will deny returns from legitimate customers because of restrictive policies. Rather, lack of "content protection" is a huge part of how they grew a base of repeat, faithful customers.

      I could tell personal stories from a few different angles. One I'll tell as a customer is that I received an item as a gift. I returned it to Walmart with no receipt and got money for it. I later found out that the giver bought the item somewhere else entirely for less money. I'm not proud of that. I'm happy to go back to that store and keep spending money, and I'm sure they're happy to have it, even though they lost a good deal of money on me that day.

      So, even though the comparison of copying to stealing is faulty, the point still stands that increased "content protection" hurts both the legitimate customers and the bottom line more than it hurts the "freeloaders and thieves".

       

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 10:53am

        Re: Re:

        Complete agreement.

        The goodwill of people is a nigh priceless commodity, one which cannot be purchased directly, but must be earned thru actions taken.

        For the reasons you've stated, I never shop at Best Buy (and steer people away from it) and keep returning to Walmart, even though I don't particularly like their corporate practices.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:07am

        Re: Re:

        "Walmart's return policies are also quite lax, and their employees are instructed to be lax on returns and satisfy customers. It's trivially easy to return something to Walmart without a receipt, even if that thing wasn't even purchased at Walmart. Walmart loses a lot of money by taking returns in any condition, with and without proof of purchase, often handing out cash, even in cases where it's pretty clear that the "customers" are defrauding the company.

        But they choose this because it's good for business."

        But...but...thieves and freeloaders!

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Artists need protection for they are weak and could never defend themselves from the thieves and, uh, the freeloaders?

          Okay, thieves can be a pretty worthy opponent but the freeloaders? Really? Who couldn't defend themselves against the freeloaders?

          Artists can't be that weak, can they?

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:35am

        Re: Re:

        All Walmart has done is weigh the costs of adding security and being stricter with the bottom line sales numbers. They compare A to B and figure it out. They just combine all of those things (theft, unusable returns, return fraud) as shrinkage.

        They do however have some of the most sensitive wireless tag sensor security systems, often detecting tags from other stores that were not properly deactivated. To suggest that they don't do serious amounts of security is perhaps a credit to their security, you aren't seeing it.

        Now, Walmart will tolerate a certain amount of shrinkage. But when you go to certain stores, security is much more obvious and much more clear. If Walmart was face 20-50% shrinkage rates, don't kid yourself, they would be in there with security up the ying yang that would likely make the TSA look like pussy cats.

         

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          Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          All Walmart has done is weigh the costs of adding security and being stricter with the bottom line sales numbers. They compare A to B and figure it out. They just combine all of those things (theft, unusable returns, return fraud) as shrinkage.

          You say "all" that WalMart did like it's a small thing. It's not. WalMart did a cost/benefit analysis and based their actions on that analysis. They didn't let the emotional response -- "But they're stealing from us!" -- guide their actions.

          Now, if the MPAA did that same analysis, taking into account their particular situation, and stuck to the results, they wouldn't be putting so much effort into pushing back the tide. They'd take the truckloads of money being spent on lawyers and Chief Content Protection Officers and spend it on experimenting with new business models that accepted the new reality the Internet has brought.

          As you point out, the shrinkage rates are vastly larger with digital content, but that doesn't mean there isn't still money to be made. The problem is that, relatively speaking, the MPAA are trying to implement security "that make the TSA look like pussy cats." And where has that got them? With a long series of pyrric victories, that's where.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You say "all" that WalMart did like it's a small thing. It's not. WalMart did a cost/benefit analysis and based their actions on that analysis. They didn't let the emotional response -- "But they're stealing from us!" -- guide their actions.

            You missed much of the point. WalMart has excellent security, it is just not quite as obvious to some people as you might thing. The electronic tags are well hidden, but certainly can cause a ruckus. Having people at the door randomly checking outgoing carts, etc. WalMart is also incredibly good with inventory, and they know what their shrinkage is on almost a daily basis. Don't get tricking into thinking that a quiet security setup means that they are just throwing their arms up and letting the thieves have at it.

            Now, if the MPAA did that same analysis, taking into account their particular situation, and stuck to the results, they wouldn't be putting so much effort into pushing back the tide.

            You are kidding, right? Since they aren't spending hundreds of millions, but are in fact losing hundreds of millions, your point is meaningless. They have done the math, and realizes that without serious action, there would be no business left at all. Shrinkage is to a point now in digital media that it won't be long before there is nothing left to shrink.

            Had the music industry throw up their arms and said "yeah, take it all" they would already be gone, you freeloaders would have emptied them out a long, long time ago.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              CULTURE HARD!!!

               

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              Jon B. (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Walmart may have excellent security, but it doesn't get in the way of customers. Electronic tags don't slow down the checkout process or inhibit your ability to use the product.

              Where I am, they don't "randomly check outgoing carts" - they only do so when a beeper goes off, and then it's a geezer with a pen. Not exactly a great deal of "security", especially compared to stores that treat EVERYONE like a criminal by stopping every customer at the door and preventing them from leaving until the receipt is checked. (Sams Club included)

              They're not "throwing their arms up in the air", but they are keeping the security out of the way of the paying customer.

              Since they aren't spending hundreds of millions, but are in fact losing hundreds of millions, your point is meaningless


              You're going to have to define "shrinkage" in the context of digital, infinitely reproducible media. Shrinkage in the scarce good, retail sense means loss of inventory.

              Please note that I didn't say loss of profit. If nothing is lost, broken, or stolen at Walmart during a single year, but profits drop, that's not "shrinkage". That's just a drop in profit.

              Where's the RIAA's loss of inventory? You're going to have to define "shrinkage" in this context. There's lots of money being made, and lots of content being produced. Are you sure the RIAA's loss of profit isn't just that?

               

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              Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You missed much of the point.

              I see your point. And while I acknowledge that WalMart implements quite a bit of security that isn't apparent to the end customers, I also take at face value the statements in the TD post about how WalMart has a very liberal return policy that accepts items which are clearly from other stores. My point is that even this amount of "accepting" illegal behavior is galaxies away from the actions of the MPAA and other large media companies.

              Since they aren't spending hundreds of millions, but are in fact losing hundreds of millions, your point is meaningless.

              The music companies represented by the MPAA are losing hundreds of millions of dollars? Citation required, please. (Right, only if you use the same kind of creative accounting used by the MPAA where a download is equated on a one to one basis with a "lost" sale.)

              Had the music industry throw up their arms and said "yeah, take it all" they would already be gone, you freeloaders would have emptied them out a long, long time ago.

              Oh, I see how it is. Because I disagree with you, I must of course be an illegal downloader. Way to jump to conclusions.

               

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        Hulser (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:42am

        Re: Re:

        So, even though the comparison of copying to stealing is faulty, the point still stands that increased "content protection" hurts both the legitimate customers and the bottom line more than it hurts the "freeloaders and thieves".

        Great observation. I don't know if TD has already commented on this, but I'd be very curious to find out more about who's behind this policy at WalMart. Whoever pitched the idea couldn't have had an easy time of it, but they apparently got it implemented. It'd be very interesting to see how they overcame the "But they're stealing from us!" reaction. Maybe some of those Chief Content Protection Officers should talk to WalMart's executive officers.

         

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          Jon B. (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I wouldn't know any detail, but it's all basic Sam Walton. The whole "satisfaction guaranteed" mantra was his from the beginning. The place hasn't been the same without him.

          Another of his quotes that's on point is "Take their money, and they will return." It sounds like a silly quote, but when you're standing around in a stupid store (walmart included) with long lines, most registers closed, and no one available to take your money, you can see what he meant.

          If the **AA isn't willing to take your money, i.e. give you something worth paying for and take your money conveniently, you'll go elsewhere and be an "underserved customer".

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Some old guy named Sam was behind it. They couldn't tell him no since he owned the place.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    No instore security is not a valid comparision. Try in home security that follows you around and tells yu what you can and connot do with what you've purchased.

     

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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    It occurs to me that we should probably start taxing air. It is the primary means of transfer of pirated music to the ears of the listeners. Or I guess we could just make using air illegal altogether. That would show those damned pirates.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    Frightening thing ... thanks mike

    "I guess it's just easier to have a whole department based on playing victim"

    Once you choose to be a victim, you are always a victim, in your own mind or the person victimising you.

    That seems to be the lot of the entire old content industry.

     

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    Jay (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:28pm

    Small request

    Can we have one post that debunks the "artists rights" movement that people seem to bring up?

    Seriously, everyone uses the artist as a scapegoat, someone that is supposed to be protected and yet NO ONE ever brings up an artist that supposedly went bankrupt because of sharing a work.

    I think it's high time someone sits down and finds either these artists that supposedly have rights, find a way to destroy piracy through filesharing networks (HAHAHAHA), or sit down and figure out how you can make new money in new ways with content.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 7th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

      Re: Small request

      The rights of the artist/creator/corporation that owns the work are greater than the rights of the subsequent audience/viewer/consumer/citizen/general public, global at that!

       

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        Ron Rezendes (profile), Jan 7th, 2011 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Re: Small request

        "The rights of the artist/creator/corporation that owns the work are greater than the rights of the subsequent audience/viewer/consumer/citizen/general public, global at that!"

        You forgot the sarcasm tag or...LMFTFY:

        The rights of the subsequent audience/viewer/consumer/citizen/general public, are greater than the rights of the artist/creator/corporation that owns the work!"

         

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    Dram Carson, Feb 9th, 2011 @ 7:43am

    Whose Content is it, Anyway?

    Without reservation I agree that titles/departments devoted to "content protection" are a foolish pursuit. Especially to the extent that any of this results in lawsuits, more DRM, etc., it is a Pyrrhic victory for the companies involved, when you consider not only the enormous outlay of manpower & money, but the bad press and ill will created as a result of every lawsuit that goes to court and zaps some Joe Sixpack with a 5 or 6 figure judgment for DLing a few songs or a movie worth maybe $30 retail. Or else all the frustration among paying customers with DRM-wrappers and HDCP-enabled cabling. And so on.

    Technology marches on, & so do geeks, and what appears today to be the long awaited magic bullet (or codec, or cable, or protocol) will be little barrier, even to casual, non-technical users in a few months or a year, if that. Had the MPAA & RIAA and others really understand their own businesses back in the early 90's as the web was getting off the ground (and they should have, since they had been through similar changes with CD's, with TV, and with radio even), they might now be in a position to write off "illegal downloading" as what it is" a cost of doing business.

    Had they learned their lesson from earlier tech changes, they would have gotten in step, and offered music and video/film online, and without DRM time/copy limitation, and made that content easy & fast to get. They'd now be sitting pretty, with a much larger revenue stream than they now enjoy. But they didn't, and they don't. The only strategy, other than waking up to the realities of the 2011 marketplace for music, cinema, software, and other content as well as the consumers themselves, is to invent more complex and onerous DRM systems (Mac App Store, Sony DRM CDs), and to lobby for harsh, punitive, and anti-competitive, anti-free speech/association internet laws, which stifle their own enterprises, alienate users, punish bystanders, and halt new technology and development: or more pointedly, it moves all of this outside the US and UK/EU, and even further beyond their control.

    So finally, enshrining "content protection" in its own department, with its own vice-president, may make companies feel like they are doing something productive and in their own interests, but not so. Such a move to me is evidence of a moribund outfit, to whom I will not be looking for anything new, exciting, or valuable, anytime soon.

     

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