Hollywood's Worried About The Wrong Thing When It Comes To Digital Archives

from the misplaced-worries dept

Is it really any kind of surprise that Hollywood is worried about the wrong thing? The NY Times ran an interesting article this past weekend about how Hollywood is starting to freak out over the potential costs of digitally archiving movies. Currently, film archives are simply stored in cool places, like salt mines -- but Hollywood doesn't quite know what to do with digital archives, and a new report has them freaking out about just how expensive it will be to store digital content. There are many reasons why this worry is misplaced -- starting with the simple fact that whatever it costs today is only getting cheaper, and that trend is only going to continue for the foreseeable future. However, we've talked about the risks of digital archiving and "digital extinction" before, and the threat is completely overblown and often misplaced.

The problem isn't with what it costs to store content. Storage is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. The real problem is that those doing the archiving keep wanting to put their content into proprietary formats which will rapidly go extinct. If, instead, Hollywood focused on storing (and making many, many copies) of the content in more open, easily accessible formats, this wouldn't be a problem at all. Hell, I'm sure the experts over at the Internet Archive, Google or Amazon would all be thrilled to help Hollywood preserve its digital films. However, since Hollywood is so freaked out by technology these days, the chances of them letting any of those organizations help out (even a not-for-profit one like the Internet Archive) seems slim to none.

In the meantime, why not get creative? How hard would it be to create a system that would build a p2p storage system for Hollywood archives, where lots of folks could store bits and pieces of movies for the studios in exchange for... say... a free sneak preview of an upcoming blockbuster? It's the sort of thing that the community would love to take part in... but, of course, in MPAA land anything P2P must be evil.

Filed Under: archives, digital, hollywood, movies


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  1. icon
    Nick (profile), 26 Dec 2007 @ 2:55pm

    According to Lawrence Lessig's "Free Culture," the real cost of digital archiving is hiring lawyers to clear the rights for films still under copyright that should have fallen into the public domain now that the Sonny Bono Act has extended copyright once again. This includes tracking down the rights holders, despite the fact that there is no directory of rights holders. The cost of restoration is now so low that it is below the cost of clearance. Then there is the threat that new rights holders can emerge and sue companies trying to restore the films. This makes the cost restoration not even worth the cost and the films made between 1923-1932 will now rot in the vault before they can enter the public domain. You have Sonny Bono's rent-seeking widow, Mary Bono, to thank.

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