I’m a guy who doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet. Period. [the Internet has] created this notion that anyone can have whatever they want at any given time. It’s as if the stores on Madison Avenue were open 24 hours a day. They feel entitled. They say, ‘Give it to me now,’ and if you don’t give it to them for free, they’ll steal it.
— Michael Lynton, CEO Sony Pictures Entertainment (via tedr, kenyatta)
He’s implying a false dichotomy: either internet distribution of films cannot be possible, or everyone will download everything illegally without paying.
Obviously, this doesn’t reflect reality. The third option is for the major publishers to address the demand for internet distribution and PC-compatible formats by building online content stores and establishing distribution relationships.
The music industry had a rough start with the internet, but now it’s returning to solid footing: the legal, profitable ways to sell music to consumers on the internet (iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc.) are more attractive than piracy for most people.
But the movie and television industries are lagging far behind.
It isn’t that difficult to be more attractive than piracy. Pirating movies and TV shows is unreliable and time-consuming. You have to find what you want on a BitTorrent tracker or a filesharing network, then you have to download it (which is usually much slower than downloading from the legal stores), then you might need to un-RAR it from 45 parts, then it has a badly formatted, often unreadable filename, then you finally get to watch it (if you don’t hit codec or container-format problems), then the quality is mediocre or the audio is slightly out of sync or it was badly deinterlaced or it’s anamorphic or it has TV-network overlays and promos and weather alerts splattered all over it or the audio is overdubbed in Russian with burned-in Spanish subtitles.
Yet, the movie and TV publishers are stuck where the music industry was sitting four years ago. Consumer demand for internet distribution is very high, and many computers and portable devices are capable of playing internet-delivered video content and common file formats. There are very few legal download options, and the few that exist are burdened with such restrictive DRM that the product is inflexible, limited, consumer-hostile, and unattractive to most pirates.
The video publishers only need to follow the music industry’s lead in taming internet piracy: make a better product.
They’re almost there. iTunes movies and TV shows are quick and convenient to find and buy, especially for Apple TV owners. Xbox 360 owners get the Live video store, which is similarly convenient. Pricing is slightly high, but not fatal. Download speeds absolutely fly, usually maxing out your internet connection. Video quality is acceptable at the standard level and very good at the “HD” level, and there are hardly ever any quality, sync, or metadata problems with the files. TV shows are better than watching on TV because there are no commercials, and movies are better than watching on DVD because there are no FBI warnings or legal disclaimers or forced previews or bad menus or animation delays or P-UOPs.
The next step is very simple: Drop the DRM. All of it, except where necessary for the definition of the product (the only good example I can think of here is a rental, which needs to be able to expire).
The music industry finally dropped their DRM, and look: nothing bad happened. Quite the opposite, actually: they’re achieving record-high sales. Music piracy didn’t skyrocket, because DRM wasn’t stopping pirates.
The record industry finally killed mainstream music piracy by offering a better product. It’s the movie and television industries’ turn. And any delay or failure along the way is entirely their fault — not the internet’s, not the pirates’, and not ours.