Sunday, June 25, 2006


June issue of IEEE Spectrum features a terrifying article titled "Death by DMCA" which relates how far the American entertainment companies (aka "Hollywood") are going to protect their copyrights. They basically intend to control each and every bit of information from production to consumption and for this they will go to all possible extents, like putting a lid on too innovative technologies.

It is somehow funny to see that the analog-to-digital converters are on their targets list. Understandably, any bridge between the horrific world of audio and video tapes and the clean and controlled world of binary files is not something Hollywood appreciates.

Where is this going? Can their grand plan for control succeed anyway?

Consider French pay-TV named Canal+. Whatever effort they put in building a new unbreakable decoder to work with a new un-decipherable signal, was systematically matched by crafty people who not only created but industrialized series of pirate decoders.

Another example is the pathetic DVD zone segregation: who is still constrained by this lame attempt to control the marketing of movies? Everybody wants to be able to play DVDs bought anywhere in the world, so everyone will go surfing the net and, voila, ten minutes later their player will be de-zoned!

If people want to crack it, they will do it. And they will make the crack available to the common man.

So here are my $.02 for Hollywood: instead of trying to prevent people from stealing your goods, produce goods that people actually want to pay for.

Let me illustrate this with two possible marketing proposals:

Proposal A
  • Produce tasteless music made by disposable "artists", movie scenarios written by brain-dead pen-pushers and games that are endless clones of themselves,
  • Sell all this at prices that no-one finds fair,
  • Pretend you want to protect intellectual property while you clearly despise artistic creation.
Proposal B
  • Leverage respect people have for their favorite artist and encourage their passion by providing a wide access to all sort of music, movies and games,
  • Recognize that people are ready to pay for a nice box with cool artwork that wraps the product they buy,
  • Strongly assert the rights of the artists before the rights of the vendors.

All in all, these locks and bars Hollywood wants to put in place will end up by adding new complications to the non-techies (like when you buy a CD and can not play it because the security protection makes your player cough).

Is there any hope? For music, Jamendo is surely exploring new grounds and opening new possibilities. Open source games are interesting but will they ever be able to compete with multi-million $ games? And as for the movies...


alex said...

Great post David!

Fully agree with you and yes Hollywood is acting today like ...
- the monopolists of the AM radio versus the innovators of FM radio
- the movie industry against the inventors of video recorders
- old-style composers and musicians violently opposing the phonograph
- banks fighting against new financial intermediaries like e-trade
- ...

From an economic perspective this is all about disintermediation, with an enormous amount of violence in the demeanor of those who are in essence going down. Going down because nobody can put a chaotic world, creativity and human talent in a straightjacket.

From a larger viewpoint, this is the eternal battle between those who favor the establishment and those who want to see more meritocracy, between the rigid conservatives and activists of progress, between those compromised in one-dimensional thinking and those who dare to protest and offer new paths... It is the age old struggle for more justice and less prejudice...

It is a fight worth fighting that leaves no room for hesitations. People like Jamendo's founders, like Lawrence Lessig with Creative Commons, like Richard Stallman and all of the unknown heroes of open source pick their side. It is good to see people of your talent support an open world.

David Dossot said...

Alex, thanks for sharing your insights.

You are right to say it is a fight.

Read this:

Now that RedHat bought JBoss, which owned Hibernate, there is money to rip so FireStar software goes for a round and sues them.

Yes, an open world is worth fighting for.

My feeling is that it is of paramount importance to convince people that an open world is not a threat, but a chance.

So let's fight gently, a la Google (do no evil).