Content Insider #100 – Content Prison
Content Protection, Fair Use Has to be Fair for Everyone

Author: THE Insider

What are people all happy about regarding their video content? It's all on BD? Big Deal! Oh sure you can copy your music...your audio books...your stuff. Copy their movie? You out of your gourd ?? Don't tell us you'll soon be downloading so their discs don't matter. Yeah right. We're talking serious lawyers here. Contrary to what they tell governments, the world doesn't revolve around their stuff. In fact once we buy it isn't it our stuff? Some day they'll get a clue like the music industry and audio books industry that once content goes digital there's no turning back. We didn't copy audio tapes and pass them around...we didn't copy VHS movies and pass them around...we didn't copy DVD movies and pass them around... Suddenly their new stuff is so much better? Get real !! But you decide which side of the prison wall you're on...

“My idea, Plissken. Something we've been fooling around with... The capsules are already starting to dissolve…In 22 hours, they'll be dissolved down to the cores. I estimate that you'll be dead in 10 to 20 seconds from internal bleeding...” Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleve), Escape from New York (1981)

 

It’s all solved and everyone should be happy. We have a single next generation disc format. The CE/PC industry is ready to deliver the 2 ft and 10 ft entertainment experience.

 

Figure 1 - It’s Show Time – Isn’t it marvelous? Aren’t you happy? You can watch “their” movies on “your” set. Sit back and enjoy. Just don’t think too much. Source – NY Times

 

Even Tellywood is happy.

Won’t it be fun?

Sorry…it won’t be that easy.

The MPAA and AACS are still working on their fantastic content protection scheme.

 

Ingenious Plan -- The MPAA and AACS have a totally right out of Hollywood script for protecting us from ourselves. It’s so cool it’s a double-whammy. It also cuts out all those troublesome indie producers who want to siphon off even more of their money!!! Photo Source – Embassy Pictures

 

We’d be worried talking about it but their gumshoe (Anthony Pillicano) is on trial for racketeering Hollywood style so he’s a “little” preoccupied.

But there’s a little difference between what consumers want/expect, what indie producers would like to have and what Hollywood wants to give all of the rest of us.

What consumers want (and are getting from other entertainment segments) is the ability to buy their content…once!

Then enjoy their movies when they want, where they want, how they want, on what they want. That’s called “managed copy” in the trade so you can buy it once and use it on any device you want.

 

Figure 2 - What We Want – The PC/CE industry has spun the ideal entertainment world…your purchased content when you want, where you want, how you want. Works just fine as long as you don’t think about Hollywood’s stuff. Hold your breath for moving your content. Source -- Microsoft


You know like folks want to do today. On their TV…on their desktop…on their laptop…on their portable player…on their iPod/MP3 player…on their phone…cool!

But when you look at what Tellywood wants to do you have to mumble as Snake (Kurt Russell) did… “No human compassion.”

You see what their MPAA and AACS (not a company, JBOL – Just a Bunch O Lawyers) want is really encoded media …not just discs but all media!

Figure 3 - Content Prison – All of the fantastic DRM (Digital Rights Management) work the AACS has put in to protecting us from ourselves makes a superb script for one of their movies. Of course it sorta messes up our lives but that’s a sacrifice you have to pay for their security. Source -- Wikipedia


While the music industry has almost totally abandon DRM (Digital Rights Management) as have audio books, Hollywood stands by their encryption even though it was cracked by a bunch of Doom 9ers.

Once we have a fresh set of BD movies, the code kids will probably crack it as well…

Hey it’s their form of entertainment!

While CE/PC folks all agree that the consumer is entitled to some level of consumer copying, the “good guys” still aren’t sure. After all if you want the movie in another form why not just buy it?

You know made for theater…made for TV…made for disc…made for iPod…made for phone.

Figure 4 - Hub of Activity – Families today use their notebook and home computers for more than just computing. Today’s systems have increasingly become the hub of people’s entertainment activities. Source -- Forrester


After all it really is all about the theater experience, not the customer’s convenience. As Hauk said, “Remember, once you're inside you're on your own.”

Lots of people say that the disc’s days are numbered and that all of the parties are simply waiting for downloads to arrive. Trust us it is going to be a long time before downloading a 30GB movie is competitive with a physical disc.

Figure 5 - Speed, Quality – Even the early adopters who have gone alone with the rush of a good idea and downloaded their movies don’t find it a pleasant experience. Especially when you consider that they downscale the content just to deliver instant entertainment. Of course mere ordinary folks won’t even try it. Source -- CEA


Try sending someone a 12GB presentation some time!

The MPAA is holding the line to have a “lock-in” technology implemented for “their” content.


However, Bruce Schneier, a noted security authority, notes that such approaches have a negative consumer effect. In a recent article talking about iPhone and MS he notes –

“Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms.  Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from *us*.”

The MPAA is struggling very hard to make a case for what they call “a consumer downside for piracy.’ But what they are really saying is that there’s “a business downside” to treating consumers like thieves.

Figure 6 - Scavengers -- For the most part people misunderstand sharks believing that they cruise the oceans striking out and ravaging everything…including people. Hollywood has built the same image around how consumers use their content, stealing precious stuff every time they turn around. Don’t worry…the government will protect you.


As Mr. Schneier was also quoted as saying years ago, “Trying to make digital files uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet.”

But the MPAA and AACS seem to take Romero’s (Frank Doubleday) position in the matter…“You touch me... he dies. If you're not in the air in thirty seconds... he dies. You come back in... he dies.”

Our son and millions like him around the globe never knew pre-Internet. They’ve never known anything but free downloadable content. He agrees with the EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) folks and comedian Scott McLoud --http://www.nothings.org/writing/upay.html:

  1. Users don't want to pay for content
  2. Users don't want to deal with upay decision-making
  3. If users pay for content, they want to keep that content
  4. Getting upay into browsers is hard
  5. Critical mass chicken & egg problem
  6. Technological improvements could remove the success tax before upay happens
  7. upay requires site authors become a business
  8. upay introduces middlemen
  9. Middlemen could get monopolies

We agree in part with the points made but people deserve to be compensated for their work and they deserve some level of protection of that work.

We honestly believe that people will acquire their content legally when it is priced fairly and can be used in a reasonable manner. People who know how to rip a disc or download illegal content for the most part don’t do it because it is too much trouble, too much work.

If the content is reasonably and fairly priced they’ll rent it or they’ll buy it!

Another aspect of the issue that is seldom addressed is that the AACS DRM fee structure is designed for the few in Tellywood, not for the growing mass of indie videographers/production houses.

If you dig deeply into the AACS files (last we checked anyway) you’ll find that a Client entity must become a licensed AACS Content Provider or Content Participant, at a cost of $3,000 (one-time fee). Not too bad even for struggling indies.

But then they have to acquire a per title key (fewer dollars) plus a per disc fee (a few cents per disc) to have your content replicated on next generation DVD discs.

Big problem is that the structure works just fine for the front end of the content long tail where they’ve got the big offices, big production budgets, big promo budgets, big theaters, big distribution channel, big salaries.

Figure 7 - Wrong Tail – Hollywood looks at the widely cited entertainment curve and sees huge dollars in the front portion of the tail and dismisses the rest of the tail. The problem is the really long portion of the tail isn’t entitled to the same level of protection Hollywood enjoys without spending themselves into debt. Source – Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail”

To have some level of copyright protection on their blue discs Indies have to be asking the same question Hauk did…“You going to kill me, Snake?”

We’ll repeat Stewart Brand’s comments at the first hackers’ conference in 1984 –

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

Ok we admit it there are no easy answers but you can see that lady justice does not have her scale tipping heavily for the consumer or for the growing number of indie production people who want to creatively express themselves and ask the viewing world to see, enjoy, pay for their content.

A level of reasonable DRM is probably necessary if for nothing more than to make us stop and think when we absent mindedly knock out an extra copy or two of a movie (for some weird reason!).

As for the pirates, the guys imprisoned in New York?

For gawd sake they got their footage from the source in Tellywood to knock out their discs.

Plug the freakin holes in your house first guys!

Then give people (all people) DRM that works on time, every time, all the time and in a seamless, almost invisible manner. You know like the stuff Jobs uses on iTunes.

After all, you’ve got huge libraries of untapped content you want to convince us to buy (or rent) again…and again…and again.

Figure 8 - Archives of Dollars – Hollywood doesn’t really have to worry about producing brilliant new content that they know people will only steal anyway. After all they have huge vaults just crammed with older video stuff that they can repurpose, recirculate, reprotect again and again and sell folks new copies they can enjoy.

If Tellywood starts working with the whole community then people can ask as Snake did… “We did get you out. A lot of people died in the process, I just wondered how you felt about it.”

Good Bad Guy – Sometimes consumers feel like Snake – basically a good guy in the middle of bad guys trying to save a half-***ed bad guy. It’s complicated but when everyone is trying to take you out you’ve gotta wonder who’s side your government is on. Photo Source – Embassy Pictures

If they don’t then the ROW will have to say exactly what Snake said…“Get a new president.”

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