December 30, 2005

LATimes Editorial On The Sensenbrenner Analog Hole Legislation [11:13 am]

Interestingly, even the industry’s hometown paper doesn’t think it’s a good idea: Congressional copycats [pdf]

The studios have an understandable interest in combating piracy. But Congress should not be mandating the technologies used to fight it, particularly when they aren’t proven. As Sony BMG learned when it used a new technology to prevent CDs from being copied, unanticipated glitches can inflict more than enough pain to offset any reduction in illegal copying.

At any rate, this legislation won’t stop determined video pirates, who will find other ways to make bootlegs. Its effect would be mainly on typical TV viewers, who would be prevented from doing a number of things they expect to be able to do with video. Maybe you’re an HBO subscriber who recorded an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to watch on the bus the next morning on your way to work. Today, you can use analog connectors to convert that recording into a digital file suitable for your iPod or Sony PSP. If the bill became law, the tools needed for the conversion would be illegal.

[...] Such connectors are gradually disappearing from TVs and video recorders anyway, so this “hole” will eventually close on its own. In the meantime, if the goal is to deter illegal copying, Hollywood should work harder to help viewers watch what they want when they want to. And Congress should understand that piracy cannot be curbed simply by giving Hollywood more control.

Related: the LATimes’ end of the year roundup - High-tech Hollywood [pdf]

HOLLYWOOD CONTINUED ITS love-hate relationship with new technology in 2005. The industry made a few breakthroughs that will benefit entertainment’s producers and consumers alike — while still seeming to take one step backward for every step ahead.

One of the most promising children of the marriage between Hollywood and Silicon Valley was the deal between Apple Computer and a handful of TV executives to let Apple sell downloadable versions of their shows for the iPod. It was a small step in the grand scheme of things but a breakthrough nonetheless: It showed the networks’ willingness to experiment with new business models even if they conflict with the desires of affiliates and syndicators.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iTunes Music Store continued to dominate the market for downloadable songs, which grew about 150% in 2005. That growth helped ease the industry’s pain from yet another drop in CD sales. Yet revenues were comparatively small, showing that masses of consumers had yet to be persuaded to pay for music or video online.

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