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.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2008 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: All part of the same business model...

    Dear SomeGuy:

    ONE - "Besides the obvious difference..."
    Physics is not the issue here. That house and that computer file (which contains a film) was made by someone and belongs to someone. The file in itself is irrelevant to this discussion because it is a simple vehicle to a work that is worth money (and that, like a house, as you admit, is not infinite). Send a blank computer file to someone and ask him if he wants to buy it. He won't because it contains nothing that is of any worth. Commerce exists because there's value in things. It has nothing to do with the physicality of things. You can buy virtual things with real money. Why? Because these physicless things have a function somewhere - therefore you cannot get them for free. Likewise, the digital movie we talk about may be endlessly reproduceable... but that fact alone does not mean that it does not have a real money value. So my argumentation does not fail. One thing is the file. The other is what that file contains. And what it contains gives you something (the experience of the film) for which you should pay.

    TWO - "Should it? Yeah, in a sense, it should"
    I'm sure you know there was a time when very different theaters had very different prices. I'm sure you also know there was a time when you could see two films for the price of one. These and many other practices are gone today because the evolution of the business meant treating every film the same way... with the thought that for every film there is audience of a certain size. And the more you think about it, the more it makes sense because it is the audience who gets the most out of it. In fact, countless films are made every year that benefit from the fact that they cost as much to be watched as a blockbuster (meaning that no audience is treated differently according to taste). Smaller films may get fewer screens... but give the theater the same price per ticket... otherwise, there would be no theater in the US right now that would NOT be showing THE DARK KNIGHT. I kid you not! Even at $20 per ticket!

    The demand for THE DARK KNIGHT is huge... but the studio is not charging you $2 more for it on its first day. Is it? No.

    THREE - "Not true. If I order a steak and..."
    Please, you are not being reasonable. How many times have you done that? At which restaurants? Don't make me laugh. Tell me at which restaurant you're eating and I'll be there every day eating for free. LOL But you are confusing two things. One thing is a defective product. The other is your own personal taste. Get a projection without sound or some other technical problem and you can ask for your money back... or replace your faulty disc... that's standard procedure in commerce. But complain that you did not like the film and you'll never get your money back. Your steak example is no good because you DID NOT eat it. You tried the first bite and sent it back. You're still hungry, right? If you want to satisfy yourself, PAY in another restaurant or just eat the trash and PAY for it. Try eating the whole steak THEN complaining it's no good.

    THE SAME THING WITH MOVIES... you've seen it, you must pay. It's a one-off purchase. Of course you can be unpleasant, noisy, yell some 10 f-words LOL and maybe the fancy restaurant manager will be better than you and pay you off with your own money. The theater manager will probably call the police. You chose. LOLOLOL

    FOUR - "No it's not, precicely becauase..."
    Well... point me to any study that says that most consumers will NOT buy something because of DRM. Most consumers probably don't even know what DRM is. And even if they do, they STILL want SPIDER MAN 3 or THE DARK KNIGHT. Better yet: how many of those who went running for the theaters the day TDK opened said "I refuse to see the film because I cannot have a quick peep on the internet copy I tried to download last night and could not find". None that we're aware of. On the contrary, by delaying piracy by some 36 hours or so, Warner Brothers managed to put on the theaters even people who hated the film and would never go see it in theaters had they had previous free access to it.

    Want to see it? You should pay. If you like it or not... it's your problem. You want a Ferrari? Pay for it. Got no money and feel not happy with your Honda Civic? Well, there are other cheap cars. Have quick drive on all before you decide (like in movie trailers). But no one will give you a free car. And if someone does... well... good for you!

    And which study has shown that people will pay for what's free? (please don't post links to websites quoting quotations) Which people? Which content? I hope, for your sake that you are not talking about music. As you know the film and the music industry have many, many differences. REM may well put ten songs for free and call it "an album". But we're talking about films here. Not movies.

    FIVE - "The industry THINKS they know..."
    Well... we are certainly not talking about the same industry. And one thing about people who went to to see the film multiple times: the industry loooves that people. Some of them even get freebies. Those people are the least of the industry's worries. LOL

    SIX - "The is no need. There is a strong desire..."
    As you said, YOU will buy the DVD anyway. But we are not talking about you. We are talking about the ones who are not as fabulous as you. That's all.

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