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 @ 12:02pm

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

    ONE
    Well... if you wanna get basic on this, ok, then, everything is different from everything. No, I cannot really live in a computer file. My God, how did I not see this...
    Of course I wasn't talking about THAT obvious difference, was I? But if you did not understand the context in which I said that a house and a computer file containing a movie are the same thing... well... I won't insist.

    TWO
    I said that in all fields of business that I know of, companies get more protective the riskier the operation gets. And I gave the example of the insurance company who demands more money to cover a car that costs 10x the price of a regular one. The movie industry opts to protect itself from piracy so that it can keep their prices regardless of the cost of the film (treating all tastes equal). The opposite could be demanding more like insurance companies do. You say it would be too much trouble. I say more than just too much trouble, it would be offensive and it would have consequences nobody would like to see.

    THREE
    Exactly!!! Unreasonable is to tell me that a stake is prepared wrong. You tell me what that means... :P Wrong according to what? Your taste? Your "steak" example is SUBJECTIVE and does not fit in this discussion.

    Now...
    Order the stake that is supposed to be rare... and it comes burned. Is that what you mean by "prepared wrong"? A replacement is the most common practice... and you should not even ask for it twice. The same thing with a faulty disc: it's faulty and it must be replaced. Or the bad projection: get another ticked for free. But do not complain about the film because the film is alright and you should pay to see it. The steak is alright and you should pay to eat it. No difference. You pay to eat a steak as you pay to watch a film (even being the film a string of 0 and 1). No difference. The preparation is like the projection or the pressing of the disc: something bad may happen and you get a replacement...

    ...but the replacement does not depend on your liking. Even return policies tell you that. Amazon, for example, is clear: you cannot return, for example, downloadable software products (because they will be used). Even DVDs and CDs although accepted won't give you full refund (because you've seen them) unless it's defective.

    If "prepared wrong" means defective, of course you should complain. It it means something else, then it has no place here because (with very few exception) nothing has its price based on how you rate the ownership, consumption or experience of it. Try asking the airline for a refund just because the trip was boring.

    FOUR
    Your question: "your big win in all of this is the ability to sell customers a product they don't want?" LOLOLOL Did Warner Brothers dragged anyone to the theaters? No. No employee from WB was pointing a gun at anyone at the theater. If they do not want to see the film, why did they go to see it then?

    Please, tell me. :P

    It was not because of the air conditioning. If they went to the theater I GUESS (it is just a guess) it was because they wanted to see the movie.

    Then pay the price. Those who do not want see the film won't see it. Period. DRM was not made for them.

    Your question: "That's what makes DRM and the entertainment industry so great?" My answer: I think you are misreading everything. The great thing about the film industry is that it gives you great pleasure for a price few industries can match.

    The problem is that some people - no matter how reasonable the price - prefer to steal instead of paying. I haven't seen TDK yet, but of course it can well be a great film. BUT even those who hate it must pay IF they want to see it. Or are you suggesting that only those who like it should pay?

    FIVE
    Your question: "And why is it that a digital movie is so much different from digital music that the two can't be compared? They're both entertainment, right?" I'm sorry, but the explanation for this one is too long. I'd love to explain, but not here. But let me tell you this: how much do you think it costs REM to produce ten songs and put them online for free? And how much do you think a moderate budgeted film cost? There's a huge difference. Why do you think Madonna left Warner? Do films make live concerts? How much does a Madonna ticket cost? how much do you think it cost to put a REM song in a film?

    You don't have to answer any of those. They are there just to signal some of the huge differences there are between the music and movie industry. Opera, theater, books... all are entertainment too... and they are all very different.

    SIX
    Here we fully agree. I'm not a believer on goodness either (otherwise I'd be a priest, not a producer). Yes, TV will not give you what the DVD does. Like you, I feel the same. But others may disagree... they will record the movie and sell them as regular DVDs MAYBE even fooling those who think they are getting the legitimate thing (it's called counterfeiting).

    DRM is there to protect the money YOU spent on the real thing. Why will you allow someone else to have for free the thing you had to pay for?

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