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 @ 9:08pm

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

    drm does nothing to stop or slow pirates, and using pirates as a reason you *need* drm just shows you aren't nearly as in touch as you think you are.

    I admit the word "pirate" is too vague and lots of different things fall into that category. A pirate is someone who makes a large number of unauthorized copies of a content and distributes them without authorization with or without profit. And they do it because they can, because they want until someone stops them. The buyer knows exactly what they are buying. A "counterfeiter" does the same things as a pirate does... but he makes the product look like the legal one and will try to make it pass AS IF it was legal. The buyer has no idea about what they're buying. You may have paid $19 for a DVD that is not worth $2.

    The profit of the pirate: over 100% (he made the copy for 5 Cents and sells it for $1 or $2. The profit of the counterfeiter: 1000% or more (the products cost $1 and he sold it to you for $16 when Best Buy or Amazon was selling it at $19. Are you sure you don't have such DVDs in your collection?

    All we ask is that you pay [put the theater admission price here] to see The Dark Knight in the place where we guarantee you will have the best enjoyment of the film (instead of watching a third-rate compression on a computer screen).

    Now you tell me what's immoral.

    lots of people do give away stuff they make, from bands, to independent film makers, to people like me, software developers. I give away most of the programs I write because I wrote them thinking that people would find them useful. some donate money, some don't, but I've been contacted many times by people who saw my free software and wanted to pay me to make something specific.

    Whatever works for you, is alright. But do you live from those donations? Does any company survive on donations? Is Iron Man or The Dark Knight possible to produce with donations? Any band can play for pleasure and give away their songs. That's a strategy that has worked and have launched some bands into stardom. But it does not work for everybody. In fact, it works for very few. It's a risk anyone is willing to take when they have nothing to lose. Sooner or later, they all see the money they can make and STOP giving freebies once they're successfully launched.

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