Dear MPAA: DRM Is Not A Requirement For Releasing Movies

from the nice-try,-but...-no. dept

We've written about the request from the MPAA to the FCC to grant a waiver that would allow the MPAA to use "selectable output control" (SOC) in order to block DVRs from recording their movies. As we noted, the movie studios basically would like to add in another movie release window, letting movies appear on television before they're released on DVD. Of course, there's absolutely nothing stopping them from doing so today. However, they claim that it's impossible for them to do so unless they get to implement DRM via SOC to stop people from recording these movies. The MPAA's own defense of this plan was exceptionally weak, but now some others are actually coming forward to defend the MPAA's position.

Ryan Radia, over at the Tech Liberation Front, has a long and thoughtful article where he tries to paint the MPAA's position as being pro-market and anti-regulation: "Consumers are willing to pay to watch new movies at home, and content producers are willing to transmit them, but government is standing in the way." It's a neat twist, but it's 100% wrong. The government is not standing in the way. If consumers are willing to pay, the movie industry can absolutely offer up the movies and let them pay.

Radia's claim is based on the entirely false premise that the MPAA needs this special kind of gov't approved DRM in order to release its movies. Radia plays a neat trick in spinning this the other way, claiming: "But content owners aren't required to ensure that all movies can be easily timeshifted and archived." Yes, indeed, nor are movie studies required to use DRM.

There is absolutely nothing stopping the movie industry from making use of this "new business model" other than its own unsubstantiated fear of non-DRM'd content. It's not a government regulation. It's not some weird FCC rule. It's the MPAA itself.

Mark Cuban gets it right when he points out what a huge mistake the MPAA is making in even bringing this issue up in the first place:
For all the money the RIAA wasted on trying to stop digital piracy, about all they accomplished was explaining to everyone exactly where and how to steal music. Please do not make the same mistake. Right now its a hassle to unitlize the analog hole to copy movies. Most people have no idea how to do it, particularly for HD delivered movies. Please do not go through a big process of teaching people exactly what the analog hole is in hopes of getting companies to prevent its use. All you are going to do is turn on the lightbulb for many who would otherwise not have a clue.

The theatrical exhibition industry just experienced a phenomenal several weeks with The Dark Knight setting record after record. People by the 10s of millions went to the theater, many multiple time to enjoy the unique experience of going to a movie. Could you please, please, please use the money you are going to spend fighting the unfightable and instead spend it on promoting the fun of going to the movies ? More people going to the movies is more people getting excited about movies. More people getting excited about movies means more people watching movies on TV, which is good for revenues, and more people buying DVDs or legal downloads of the movies. Again, good for revenues.
Piracy is not, and has never been, a real threat to the movie industry. The movie industry is doing incredibly well by releasing good movies that people want to see. Even if they're available for unauthorized download, movie watching is a social experience, and the better the industry makes that social experience, the better it will do. Wasting time demanding unnecessary DRM isn't necessary. It's not blocking any business model. Wasting money fighting for this "analog hole" to be patched won't stop piracy at all. If anything, it will attract more attention to that analog hole, while pissing off more viewers and making it that much harder to get movie fans to want to pay money to see movies. Even if the MPAA prevails, it won't put a dent into unauthorized file sharing. People will figure out how to get around the SOC protection, and once a single copy is out there, it's everywhere. Focusing on stopping file sharing is a lose-lose proposition.

So, please, movie industry, stop pretending you need DRM for your business models. You don't. You never have. And the more you pretend you do, the more trouble you're causing.

Filed Under: business models, drm, movies, mpaa, selectable output control, soc


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  1. identicon
    CinemaScope, 7 Aug 2008 @ 5:39am

    All part of the same business model...

    It is incredible that lots of people here insist that some laws should only apply to this and not that. That just because money or sandwiches are things and digital data is infinite THEN one cannot be stolen and the other can.

    There is NO difference between a house, a car, a sandwich, money (on notes and coins OR on an internet bank), a DVD, a film or a computer file. All these things were made by someone OR belong to someone OR can be accessed through someone OR has its access controlled by someone.

    It just happens that somethings are easier to do than others. It may be virtually impossible to prevent someone to photocopy a book and give it to someone else. OR to build all cars with a top speed that never go beyond the local speed limit. That does not prevent the car manufacturers of spending millions in security devices a) you'll never need if you drive carefully (but paid for it anyway) and b) may be useless or not if you hit a tree at 200mph.

    That's why the insurance of a Ferrari does not cost the same as Honda Civic. It costs 10 times more.

    Should a ticket for THE DARK KNIGHT cost 10x the ticket for that French film nobody cares to see?

    Of course, not. We would hate that. Most films cost the same ticket price (and even DVD prices have standards). And in the free market, anyone can make a film and sell it as the best film ever. The audience will always feel disappointed sometimes. That's how it is: like in restaurants... you eat, you pay - regardless of you liked the food or not.

    DRM may not be the best thing on Earth. But it is the future. Get used to it and learn to live with it because it is here to stay. Of course there will be always those who circumvent it. But it's going to be so hard, very few people will get it done right.

    I produce films and I got lots of people on my payroll. Yes, I want all the money I can get from my work... and work of those on my payroll - because I have to pay them.

    The movie industry is not evil. Stop treating an industry that gives you pleasure as evil. Stop treating pirates as heroes who steal from the rich in order to give to the poor. That's childish. The industry KNOWS the difference between content circulation that generates revenue (which is good) AND content circulation that hurts sales.

    What most of you do not see is that a film is as important to its industry as a certain formula is to the pharmaceutical industry. We give away trailers and clips just as Pfizer gives samples. Why should we allow someone to consume our products for free at the time revenues are most critical?

    I agree with the MPAA about the need for DRM if they believe there's a market for (paid) TV screening of the film BEFORE the DVD release. It is obvious to me that DRM is needed in that case otherwise the DVD sales performance will be compromised (and home video sales are a VERY important form of revenue).

    If there's no DRM for that matter, there will be simply no move in that direction (the advanced TV screening, that is) because the movie industry is not dumb.

    Some people here are saying DRM is horrible and it is worthless. No it isn't. I cannot see one single industry who does not care about security and access of the goods they produce.

    Yes, there were movies before DRM and the industry was raking on money 70 years ago too... but that was before digital, game consoles, internet, P2P, home video and cheap pirate DVD copies sold for a dollar or two at the street.

    DRM is here to stay. Embrace it.
    Anyone care to comment?

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