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...