November 06, 2009

Use a Camcorder, Go to Jail! -- The Saga Continues

Greetings. Controversy rages on regarding the continuing (largely behind closed doors) efforts of the entertainment industry to elevate their products to the level of "Masters of the Internet" globally, complete with Internet cut off mandates and criminal provisions for activities such as holding up your Flip or cell phone in a movie theater.

As I've said many times, I'm basically sympathetic to the plight of the recording and film industries. I've spent my whole life here in L.A. in the geographic heart of both sectors, have had many friends working in both, and have enjoyed numerous direct contacts of my own over the years with recording labels and film studios.

However, what's going on with the current facet of negotiations involving the ACTA -- the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement -- is the classical closing of the barn door after the horse has left the planet. The rise of digital recording and communications technologies has eviscerated the concept of "copyright control through scarcity" -- and you don't have to like this state of affairs to admit that it's true.

The extents to which the entertainment industry has seemed willing to go in efforts to "undo" history -- not just via the ACTA but in the past via proposals such as A/D converter restrictions, and currently with calls to allow shutting off video outputs on set top boxes, frankly are indicators of desperation and an unwillingness to accept technical realities.

In fact, the industry has reacted in much the same way with every technological change -- starting back with sheet music, the gramophone, VCRs, and so on. The march of technological progress is inevitable, short of global thermonuclear war or similar catastrophes.

The old business models in the music and film industries cannot survive forever (though the latter still seems able to pay the big bucks to stars for "yet another remake" on an ongoing basis). I won't even touch the question of quality in new music releases.

One other point for now. Draconian criminal "camcorder in theater" provisions suggest to the public that pirating of films is based on some guy with a camcorder leaning on his leg who then rushes off to monetize the result.

In fact -- and this should be obvious since most commercially pirated films these days are of relatively high copy quality and often hit the Internet before the films' release -- most commercial film piracy is based on copies that are purloined from within the film production ecosystem, not from copies made after release by camcorders in theaters.

And of course, all it takes is a single high quality copy of a song or film that "escapes" for it to be rapidly available illicitly around the world. Such escapes are simply inevitable.

That's just the reality. Attempting to remake the Internet and associated laws in a desperate struggle to hold back the clock is about as likely to succeed as holding a bunch of sand in your clenched fist for very long.

You end up with a pile of sand on your feet. Or figuratively speaking, with mud on your face.


Posted by Lauren at November 6, 2009 10:10 AM | Permalink
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