Jon Fleischman

Hollywood Studios Are Being Stupid

[Pub. Note - FlashReport readers will have to pardon my temporary and brief departure from writing about California's overspending crisis, in order to write about something that really has me worked up... - Flash]

Washington’s bailouts are bad enough, but it adds insult to injury when bailout recipients use their money for stupid things. AIG thought it smart to hold a corporate retreat at the Ritz Carlton.  Citi defied logic and tried to spend $50 million on a new corporate jet.  Now, there is word that another bailout recipient is wasting its money, this time on a frivolous lawsuit.

Hollywoodʼs six major studios have filed a lawsuit to prevent consumers (like me!) from being able to buy RealDVD, a cool program that allows you to legally back up your DVDs to your personal computer just like you back up your CDs with iTunes.

Yup.  The same industry who received a $478 million bailout break hidden in last fallʼs financial bailout bill is spending their money to shut down a legal product that could actually create a new revenue stream for the home DVD market, while leaving alone readily available DVD-ripping software currently on the market (like Jack the Ripper and Handbrake).

I can speak from personal experience that when traveling, whether up to Sacramento for FR networking, or on vacation with the family, I prefer to upload DVD content to my computer — it’s just a lot easier than lugging around DVD’s — and it also uses a lot less battery power (which is a limited commodity at 30,000 feet) to not run the DVD drive.

With all of the other issues buzzing around Sacramento and D.C. these days, it’s easy to forget that a lot of other decisions are getting made that definitely affect our lives.  Is this as big a deal as the state’s budget crisis and unemployment rate?  Of course not.  But is it something that will determine how everybody watches their DVDs?  You bet.

Like most free-market advocates, I side with the entrepreneurial spirit and technological innovation whenever possible — as key elements of a thriving market-based system.  I also strongly also strongly respect the property rights of those that create content (whether video, audio, written).  I was against downloading music from Napster, but thought the folks at Apple were geniuses for coming up with iTunes and finding a legal way around this problem.  And there are some parallels here, in my opinion.  Legal copying for personal uses like RealDVD that allow you to put your entire DVD library on your laptop.  This crusade by the Hollywood elite against RealDVD reminds me of the gun-control debate, where bans on guns ensure that it is the criminals who can easily get them, and the law abiding citizens who punished.  Those who want to illegally copy DVD’s will still be able to do so using Ripper and Handbrake, but those that want to do legal duplication of movies they own for their own personal use lose out.  That’s just dumb.

Anyway, it looks like this fight is coming to a Federal Court in Northern California relatively soon, and it will be a shame if the movie studios can’t find a way to get an impressive technology to market quickly and quit giving the finger to consumers.  It’s nice to know that the federal bailout money and tax breaks the studios are getting are going to good use — paying the expensive legal bills for a court fight — with a goal of keeping people like you and me from making the most out of the DVD’s we’ve legally purchased.

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