from the a-thought-exercise dept
What would the movie business be like today, if the MPAA had succeeded in banning the VCR?Remember, in the Betamax case, the studios sought to kill off the VCR, leading to the famous quote from MPAA boss Jack Valenti:
I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.And, Valenti and the MPAA came very close to convincing the courts, who only granted immunity for those offerings with substantial non-infringing uses by the narrowest of margins (though court initially decided to side with the MPAA before changing its mind). Unfortunately, while SOPA seeks to couch its broad upending of the legal and technical frameworks of much of the internet in the claim that this is "just" about "stopping pirate sites," twenty years ago, this case was about "just" stopping this "pirate technology."
But what happened after that? Once the court finally declared VCRs legal, suddenly the movie industry exploded. With this new method of video distribution, the entire movie business was reinvented in a good way. It meant no longer just viewing in the theaters. An entire new category soon took over: home movie viewing (and renting). Before long, the home video market actually overtook the theater. And, these days, ironically, what do you hear the MPAA whining about the most? That online sharing is decimating the home video market. Of course, if the MPAA had had its way 20 years ago, we wouldn't even have a home video market.
So the thought exercise of where the movie industry would be today, if the VCR had been declared dedicated to infringing purposes twenty years ago, seems particularly relevant. That's doubly true, seeing as the E-PARASITE bill effectively looks to overturn the court's Betamax decision, and open up the floodgates for the MPAA (and others) to cut off all funding from any new technology it believes is "dedicated to the theft of US property" under the exceedingly broad definitions in the bill.
Take a moment, and consider where the movie business would be today, if the VCR never existed. And think about just how wrong the MPAA was then to freak out about a technology that later saved it. And consider that perhaps we should wait before changing the law to allow the MPAA to kill off the next "VCR" in the digital age.