July 19, 2004

Saving Hollywood

Kevin Laws, guest blogging at Due Diligence, has a very perceptive article on what Hollywood needs to do to save itself from digital obsolescence. Basically, don't repeat the mistakes of the RIAA. The whole thing is worth a read, but his recommendations are:

  1. Work with DivX to incorporate digital rights management in the standard, no matter how imperfect. AACS is the movie industry's equivalent of SDMI, a consortium of entertainment companies creating a proprietary standard for sharing video. AACS is DOA because it is too late, just as SDMI came too late. It was supposedly announced July 14th, but the web site still says "coming soon" and if you have images off, it still says "coming July 14th". Instead, work with DivX. Allow it to continue to support any movie ripped freely, but with an optional simple encryption with a separately provided key tied to a specific device. Users register "allowed" devices with a third party service and when they pay, it automatically downloads and installs keys that allow the device to play any specific video. It is important for the industry that this become part of the already winning DivX and XviD standards, rather than a proprietary solution.

    Free copies of the exact same movies will still be available for download because people will rip the DVDs, just like MP3s are available for almost any song downloaded from iTunes. People still download from iTunes, because as a mass market experience it is better. For those that value their time more than a few dollars, it will be the obvious choice. For the students who don't have the money, they wouldn't have shelled out $50 for a season of the Simpsons anyway.

  2. Release everything. If I can't get the Simpsons legally, I have that much more incentive to learn how to use illegal file-sharing services. Rather than staging things individually, just make the entire catalog available. It's still OK to wait until the theater or TV season ends, but it better be available online soon afterwards.
  3. Support the infrastructure. Once DivX supports some form of moderate DRM, Hollywood needs an iTunes-like experience for video. They should instantly make their entire catalog available to any service that wants to provide it on the same terms as DVD releases (minus the costs of physical distribution), spurring the same sort of innovation in that area as we've seen in music.

Like I said, insightful. But probably not going to happen in the time frame he'd suggest. Like the RIAA, the MPAA would rather try to use their market power to legislate their continued dominance through strengthening the IP laws. But we can all hope.

Posted by richard at July 19, 2004 04:46 PM