by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 28th 2007 1:50pm
Way back in 2003, then head of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, got so worried about "piracy" of movies coming from insiders that he banned the use of "screener" DVDs for those voting for the Academy Awards. If you're unaware, traditionally, Motion Picture Academy members received "screener" copies of the movies up for awards on DVD or VHS tape so they could watch them at home and decide how to vote. Yet, in Valenti's twisted world, this had to be stopped because screener copies were appearing online. Of course, banning screeners created quite a mess for the folks who actually had to vote on the awards, as there was no longer an easy way to actually see the movies. It also really upset smaller studios, who knew that their movies were less likely to be seen by Academy members if they couldn't send out screeners. Eventually, the MPAA relented, but the following year came up with a new ridiculous solution. Rather than sending DVD screeners that members could watch with their existing home theater setup, it hired a company to make special DRM'd DVDs that would only play on special DVD players. Then it sent these special DVD players with the screeners to the Academy members. Of course, this was both a huge expense and still a tremendous pain in the ass for voters, who had to hook up this special DVD player that could only be used for screeners. It also made it difficult if the Academy member wanted to take the DVD somewhere else (say on vacation) and watch it elsewhere without dragging along this "special" DVD player. Apparently it only took 3 years of complaints before the MPAA realized that perhaps this was a dumb idea (that also didn't stop the movies from getting online anyway). This year, it's apparently phasing out the special DVD players and will provide (gasp!) normal DVDs for voting members.
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