Google's Fiber Makes MPAA Skittish. Why Does Hollywood See All Technology In Terms Of Piracy?
from the negativity dept
One of the points we're always trying to make about piracy is that it has less to do with people just wanting everything for free and more to do with people rushing to embrace the possibilities of new technology. The industry has been slow to offer products that take advantage of these possibilities, and when they do they usually cripple them and charge too much for them, because they refuse to acknowledge the impact of better distribution systems on the market. Instead of recognizing that technological capabilities dictate how they should distribute their content, they think they get to dictate how far people should utilize technology. So piracy moves in to fill the gap, offering people the sort of comprehensive, on-demand service which they know is possible but which can't be bought at any price.
An anonymous reader points us to a perfect example of the technophobic attitude that has become so ingrained in Hollywood. It starts with a story in Bloomberg Businessweek about Google's pilot project in Kansas City, where they are laying fiber to bring super-high-speed internet to the community. With 922 Mbps download speeds already available in nearly a thousand homes, the topic of piracy was inevitably raised:
[Google spokeswoman Jenna] Wandres stresses that Google Fiber isn’t meant to empower pirates: “We hope higher speeds will actually make it easier to deliver and download more authorized content,” she says. Nonetheless, Howard Gantman, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, notes that piracy is always a concern of the entertainment industry. Google Fiber “could be a great opportunity for consumers whose access to creative content is often hampered by slow speeds,” he says. But in South Korea, “the home entertainment marketplace was decimated by digital piracy” enabled by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet.
For one thing, the statement about South Korea is incredibly flimsy. The Korean music industry thrives on high-speed internet—it grew into an economic powerhouse while the country had some of the highest and earliest broadband penetration rates (and digital piracy rates) in the world. Smart Korean entrepreneurs have figured out how to succeed in the new market. Moreover, claiming that "home entertainment" as a whole was damaged by broadband is just hubris from an industry that thinks only its own products count as "entertainment".
It seems like every Hollywood statement about new technology follows the same format. "This new thing is great, but... piracy!" The problem is that they refuse to act on the first part until someone gives them a bulletproof solution to the second part—and since such a solution does not and never will exist, they ruin every attempt at a new service with ineffective restrictions and DRM schemes. Ars Technica picked up the story and spoke further to the MPAA spokesman, getting yet another "great, but..." response:
"We want to reinforce that higher speeds could be a great opportunity for consumers, and that's the bottom line," Howard Gantman, spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, told Ars on Friday. "There are problems that can, in terms of [an] increase of digital piracy, come with that, but we are hopeful that efforts can be made... to address digital piracy."
Someone should tell Gantman that it's not "the bottom line" if you go on to add caveats and addendums. It's also interesting that he thinks blazing fast internet only "could be" good for consumers—maybe because he knows Hollywood "could" (but won't) offer them a service that fully leverages the technology. Really what's amazing about this is that the MPAA thinks anyone cares about its opinion of fiber broadband, as if the public is going to stop and think, "Gee, I guess I'll just have to wait for faster internet access while Hollywood develops better piracy controls".
The fact that the MPAA can't get through a single statement about something as clearly positive as faster internet without bringing up reservations about piracy doesn't bode well for Hollywood's future. The studios should be getting ahead of the new technology, and making sure that everyone who gets hooked up to a new fiber network is immediately greeted with a well-made, well-priced movie service that gives them a chance to test out their speedy new connection. Instead they're probably going to watch the technology develop with caution, wait for pirates to beat them to the punch, then arrive in the market with an inferior product and complaints about how they "can't compete".