December 25, 2003

The MPAA Plays “Softlee Softlee Catchee Monkey” [11:36 am]

But will it really work in the long run? While these industries grasp for control harder and harder, it appears that some are ready to opt out altogether. This NYTimes article tries to paint a reasonable picture, but only devotes a sentence to the key point: In Chasing Movie Pirates, Hollywood Treads Lightly

While the recording industry has made headlines with a few hundred lawsuits, the movie industry has been sending out hundreds of thousands of threatening notices via e-mail messages each week to the people who make its products available on the Internet.

The music industry’s approach has contributed to a decline in downloading but has also produced a powerful public backlash, angering millions of its customers. That is one reason, among others, that Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, said that his industry would not be following the music companies’ path any time soon.

“I’m not ruling out anything, but at this moment we don’t have any specific plans to sue anyone,” Mr. Valenti said. “I think we have learned from the music industry.”

The gentler threat works, said Mark Ishikawa, the chief executive of BayTSP, a company that helps the industry track down file sharers by scanning the Internet for movies and issuing the e-mail notices automatically. Fully 85 percent of those contacted “do not come back,” Mr. Ishikawa said. “We never see them again,” with no headlines and no public relations blowups.

[...] Mr. Valenti says Hollywood is doing everything it can to get ahead of the coming storm. Along with the warning letters, the movie industry is paying for consumer education programs and technology research, and pushing for laws and regulations that executives hope will protect their wares. At the industry’s urging, for example, California recently passed a law making it illegal to use a camcorder in a movie theater.

Yet experts in digital technology say Hollywood is fooling itself if it believes that its current steps will be enough, or even that they will take the industry in the right direction.

[...] What the industry needs, technology executives say, is to look harder for tools and contracts that allow people to get the movies they want at a competitive price, rather than concentrate on actions that restrict access. [emphasis added]

[...] The costs of adopting the wrong strategy will be high. Jeff, the movie swapper, says that despite his scare he has not changed his ways. He has gone deeper underground instead, renaming files so that movie titles would not be as easy to find with industry search software, he said. (Mr. Ishikawa of BayTSP said that the strategy would not work against his service, however.)

Jeff also says that he does not make his own trove of movies available to the world as readily. “I just watch them and delete them instead of leaving it out there,” he said. “I don’t leave the network on 24 hours a day the way I used to.”

But Mr. Davis, the former song trader, has changed his habits. He dusted off his turntable, bought a new needle and started haunting the bargain vinyl bins in junk shops, where he has discovered some treasures for a dollar a record.

“I’m really very excited about it,” he said, “because there isn’t much new to buy out there, is there?”

See this followup: Slashdot on the MPAA’s “Refined” Strategies

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