I’m somewhat shocked that in 2012, there’s still not an easy way to buy or rent movies that can play on a multitude of common consumer electronics devices. The days of walking to a local retailer to purchase music on a disc seem long past, and something I’ll likely tell my son to quips like “Dad, you’re such a dinosaur”, yet Hollywood seems to cling to this model unquestioningly.
As a college student during the 1990’s when music piracy on the internet was new and my ideas about intellectual property were rather immature, digital downloads were all the rage. After unsuccessful efforts at everything from lawsuits to music playable on only some devices (one now-discontinued class of which was ironically branded “plays for sure”) universally-playable, non-protected music is available from Amazon and Apple for a buck. I’m glad to use a convenient online store, and instantly “scratch an itch” for a new song that I can play on my cheapo MP3 player I use for jogging, iPhone, and car. In essence, the paid product is easier to find, and of known quality versus the bootleg.
Hollywood seems to miss the message that consumers not only want instant gratification, but a product they know will work with minimal fuss on everything from their iPhone to their TV, or laptop at 30,000 feet while on a flight. Hollywood’s answer is increasingly complex copy protection, that necessitates particularly software and video hardware, and makes a consumer spend hours researching formats and protection schemes versus pirated video that will likely run on his or her device of choice.
Perhaps I’m naïve, but I believe most consumers of pirated video would gladly pay for a high-quality product that was easy to find and easy to use. Browsing audio in iTunes and on Amazon is a joy, yet major studios complex licensing requirements and insistence on copy protection make the corresponding legitimate video product unwieldy. Want to watch a movie on a Friday night? Perhaps it was on Netflix on Monday, but pulled on Thursday due to a contract dispute. Interested in watching that movie you bought on iTunes? Too bad your Samsung TV won’t read the copy-protected format. Trying to use the new Hollywood “ultra violet” standard to watch a movie on your phone? Too bad there’s no supported player for your phone. It’s little wonder no one wants to buy a product with inferior features and a premium price.
While Hollywood certainly has reasons for attempting to cling to its old model, lambasting your consumers while simultaneously offering a grossly inferior product certainly looks like a tragic drama rather than a blockbuster of a strategy.