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 @ 7:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm still waiting for an example of DRM that hasn't been compromised. I don't think any survived a month of being released into the public.

    Well... it all depends on how you see the problem. It is true, I do not know of any DRM who has been successfully enforced. But your assumption is a common fallacy: just because we haven't successfully done something right, that means it has to be impossible to do it right.

    But in truth, there's nothing that tells you that just because it hasn't been achieved, it cannot be achieved and will not be achieved. Futurology is not my profession and if you have any ambitions in such field, good luck.

    So it is pointless to analyze past failures because scientific progress is made of 1000 failures before you get the one right. Any one can tell you that and I wonder why you haven't figured that one out by yourself.

    Basically, DRM is useless when applied in just one front. The best DRM (the one we are STILL about to see) will come in every window: exhibition, home video, VOD, etc. There is no successful DRM alone. What can be successful is a full strategy covering all windows of utilization.

    I haven't heard of pirate copies of a SACD. Have you? And I still haven't seen copies of a Blu-ray disc. But if you still think a successful DRM strategy is impossible, look at Sony: they control content (movies and music), hardware (cameras and players) and software (discs and files). They have a huge following (Samsung, Matsushita, Fox, Disney, Sony Pictures)and just recently we felt their muscle when they smashed HD DVD (who had less DRM - no less).

    Again: lessons can be learned. Betamax (Sony) lost to VHS partly because of content. Early this year, Blu-ray (Sony again) won overwhelmingly with a pool of industries working together.

    I have no idea where you got the impression that the industry learns nothing from its failures.

    show me some cases of DRM that actually slows down pirates, I dare you. I'm been following the gaming industry since before CDs were out and I can almost guarantee you that anything they came up with to slow the pirate was cracked within two weeks of being released, the majority happens within 24 hours

    I'm not a gamer so I cannot say anything about it... but... Can you make a copy disc of a PS3 game? If you can, good for you. I know people who would love to... but cannot and subsequently paid for the games. That's success. Also... can you play a PS3 game on a Mac computer? How about on a PC? That's the biggest form of DRM known: incompatibility. You claim you want to use anything anywhere. Can you really play a PS3 game on a Mac computer? Can you access Xbox live content from a PS3? Some you can because they allow you to. Others you cannot.

    When I was a kid, my friends used to copy VHS films. Today SOME of them cannot copy a DVD. Call them dumb... but they say it's too difficult and takes time and trouble. They pay for their DVDs. AND of those who DO copy DVDs some will not go through the P2P nightmare of endless downloads... and the eventual disappointment that sometimes the file does not work... or the the picture is lousy, etc. That's success. That's slowing down piracy. It may be not significant now, but it's a big start.

    You find it ridiculous? Perhaps. But the industry is learning from every failure.

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