Friday, June 09, 2006

Hollywood and the Hackers

It seems ridiculous, but the MPAA seems to be following in the footsteps of the music industry, obsoleting itself in the process.

In this back-and-forth between the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the co-founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), I am shocked to see the same line of thinking coming from the MPAA that pushed the music industry into the bit bucket.

Here are a few gems from the MPAA guy:

you see if you don't adequately compensate the artist, the director, the creator, the actor, they won't do it in the first place so people won't get movies.

Hmm, like what happened with music? No, wait a minute, a lot of bands see free distribution of their music as a way to promote themselves. Just ask the Arctic Monkeys. Or Chance. Or Brother Love. Imagine the creativity we unleash when artists have the capability to release their music for free over the Internet.

Also interesting to me is that the people the MPAA guy mentions do not get most of the money collected for a movie. Not even close. Most of the money goes to the distributor and the production studio. Merchandisers. Why doesn't he mention those guys? This is very illustrative to me, because here are the "members" of the MPAA:
  • Buena Vista Pictures Distribution; (The Walt Disney Company)
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
  • Paramount Pictures Corporation
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
  • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
  • Universal City Studios LLLP
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

See many artists, directors, creators and actors represented in that list? I don't see one.

It is ridiculous to believe that you can give product away for free and be more successful. I mean it defies the laws of nature. Would a clothing store give all their clothes for free? Would a car dealership give all its cars for free? Of course not. If they don't make a profit in this world they're out of business. That's just the laws of human nature.

Oh really? Again, let's look at music. Music is freely available on the music sharing services. And yet iTunes sold a billion (with a "b") songs in the past year. Is that against human nature??

The clothes store and car dealership comparisons are not useful. Each of those things has a unit cost for each sale. Music and movies in digital form do not.

I can see that there will be a big problem when the big studios that the MPAA represents have to compete on a level playing field with the independent producers of movies. It's a big problem for the studios, not for us. We as consumers just get a bunch of unique content to choose from.

I really expected the MPAA to act differently than the music industry. I thought they would have learned.

Myself, I have a lot of affinity to the movie industry. I get great enjoyment from watching movies, Hollywood movies included. I love them. We hardly ever go to the theater, but we have tons of movie channels at home through DirecTV, and we watch several movies every week. I never cease to be amazed at how entertaining movies can be, even the most basic Hollywood stuff. Yes, I realize that Hollywood produces a bunch of junk too (Basic Instinct 2, Santa With Muscles, Baby Geniuses, etc.) but I cannot ignore all the great movies they've created too (Fight Club, Lord of the Rings, The Incredibles, Crash, Kill Bill, Mystic River, etc.). I could go on and on.

But just because the MPAA members produce good stuff, doesn't mean that they should have a monopoly on the content coming to us. And they won't. They can't control that. The smaller movie producers, everything down to the one guy doing a documentary, will be competing head to head with Hollywood and winning half the time. These small operations will be putting out movies on super low budgets, distributing them through the Internet, getting seen, and getting funded.

It will keep Hollywood on their toes. And they can't stop the little guys from putting stuff out. Which is killing them, I guess.

I don't have all the answers. But I wish the MPAA would learn from the mistakes of the music industry and look for ways to capitalize on the Internet as a distribution medium, and consider the possibility of putting stuff out for free.

Why not? You couldn't do any worse than the music industry!

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