Backroom Deals Fuel Laws Like SOPA, Not Piracy

Backroom Deals Fuel Laws Like SOPA, Not Piracy

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Users want all content available all the time, but streaming everything violates old deals with retail chains.

Having cut the cord totally from cable programming, I now depend on Hulu Plus and Netflix to provide all my shiny pictures moving in a rectangular frame - otherwise known as my HDTV. That's great for older shows and movies, but my desire to watch the second season of Sherlock is thwarted by it not appearing on either service. When it is impossible to get content any other way, some folks are driven to download it illegally. Instead of content providers working as hard as they can to make shows purchasable online, they are instead spending time and money lobbying for legislation like SOPA and PIPA, and taking down websites such as Megaupload. Gene Hoffman, CEO of Vindicia and a pioneer in the music downloading business in the late 1990s, thinks Hollywood won't fully commit to digital distribution because of old deals made with retail partners.

"The problem I have with the entire [SOPA] conversation is it's an exact repeat of 1999," said Hoffman, who began selling un-encrypted mp3s for 99 cents a track and was attacked by the music industry for it. That is, until Napster came around. "[Hollywood] doesn't have a good moral argument when they sit there pulling stuff out of Netflix and making it harder and harder for those of us who have no problem at all paying a fair price for it.

"If I could pay for and gain access to all the stuff that most people are actually going out to BitTorrent and Megaupload to go get," that would make Hoffman very happy. "I can't tell you the number of blog posts I've read about 'I want to watch show X. I go to Netflix, not there. I go to Hulu, not there. Crap, BitTorrent.'"

People would throw down good money for the convenience of watching whatever they wanted. What possible reason could content providers have for not taking their cash? "They don't want to take the money in that way because it hurts old friends of theirs," Hoffman said. "So instead they want the power to stop YouTube. And that's exceedingly problematic."

Hoffman is frustrated with the current system. "I can't [download a show or a game] and the only reason I can't do it is because it hurts some old business model. I point back to the fading signs of Tower Records on the side of buildings to show what's going to happen there." Tower Records was once the shining example of a cool record store, but lagging sales of physical media forced the chain to even close its flagship store in Manhattan in 2006.

That's a bold statement, and I'm not sure all the companies currently producing movies and television will suddenly go out of business. But the old retail dependency will start to evaporate as consoles continue to trend away from merely providing gaming content, as Hoffman also predicts. How great would it be to buy items like episodes and seasons of shows piecemeal instead having to buy a subscription service?

Honestly, I just want to watch the second season of Game of Thrones on April 1st without dropping $200 on cable and HBO for two months.

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"Honestly, I just want to watch the second season of Game of Thrones on April 1st without dropping $200 on cable and HBO for two months."

That's my problem summed up exactly. It's arguably even worse for folks here in the UK given that even if you are paying for cable tv, if you're with the wrong provider you're still screwed because Game of Thrones is exclusive to Sky TV

THIS JUST IN!

Businesses do things for money and are incredibly thick and greedy about the way they do business!

Ilikemilkshake:
"Honestly, I just want to watch the second season of Game of Thrones on April 1st without dropping $200 on cable and HBO for two months."

That's my problem summed up exactly. It's arguably even worse for folks here in the UK given that even if you are paying for cable tv, if you're with the wrong provider you're still screwed because Game of Thrones is exclusive to Sky TV

On the HBO note, it's a shame that they HAVE a mobile service, but you can't just pay for the service. You have to be a cable subscriber and get HBO. I'd love to be able to just pay to stream the service.

Though I haven't seen Game of Thrones because I haven't had cable for a couple of years.

Speaking of that, it's really annoying that almost no show on Netflix carries streaming programming past the last season of TV I watched on TV. What, do you think I'm gonna buy cable? Nah, I'll probably just get them on DVD from Netflix.

My straight cable bill was like 95 bucks a month WITHOUT HBO. Considering I barely watch TV, that's a terrible model. It's cheaper to just buy DVD sets and wait a couple extra months, or go through Netflix. And to the point, Comcast was charging more because they were adding services I wasn't using, like digital music and crap.

Though Amazon had (Has, maybe, I don't keep up) a model similar to what Tito suggests. You could buy current TV piecemeal or a whole season's pass. I wouldn't be surprised if this service had been screwed in the last couple of years, but it was a great idea. Also, I know shows are often up on iTunes right after they run the first time. I don't like paying the prices they ask, because they're often more than a box set, but the convenience is (or possibly was) there.

This may not apply to any of you from outside the States, especially giving the practices of international distribution.

THIS JUST IN! The US government is corrupt like the warp.

Really? we figured that out(for the most part) when this started. Very few people actually suspected it to be about piracy. Like 90% of everything going on in D.C. is fueled by some corporations agenda. The day after SOPA failed its lobbyist came out on FOX and all but admitted to bribery, he got off investigation free, now a new bill is about to show its ugly head. Guarantee it.

PREDICTION: In 80 years time the Oscar for best picture will go to The Retailer: A story of a man who sells hard copies of movies and TV shows, but ultimately decides he's too much of a salesman to move to online distribution. Released in classic 2D formatting!

It's nice to be told what we already know.

Really though, I am concerned about what damage will be done in the time between now and business finally realising digital products are best distributed digitally.

if they want your money, it's up to them to offer a better service.

Legendsmith:
It's nice to be told what we already know.

Really though, I am concerned about what damage will be done in the time between now and business finally realising digital products are best distributed digitally.

My concern would be if the digital only model appears faster than internet connection areas can reach. My internet connection is average at best, and I don't feel like waiting 4 hours for a game to download on my PS3. Rather walk the two miles to my local mall and pick it up instead.

Best example I can think of: Age of Empires II. I work at a University and a student was just caught for pirating the aforementioned game a few weeks ago and it got me wanting to play the game again. It wasn't on Steam or GOG so I googled it. Turns out it isn't available except in freaking $20 physical form from Microsoft Games. Dear Microsoft if you aren't going to sell the game, then give it away. It isn't like anyone is buying AOEII anymore so you can't be making money, get some brownie points and brand recognition for giving it away. Also don't you have a FTP version that you would like fans to play? Wouldn't you like us to play it? Interesting note: when steam opened up on the Mac they gave everyone portal to incentivize people to set up accounts and buy games...Just saying.

I've brought this up before in conversations regarding My Little Pony, which is not available through any legal streaming service or even iTunes outside of the United States. While on paper it looks as if its producer, Hasbro, could make a killing streaming the show online with advertising, in practice they have exclusive deals with foreign television stations that would make it straight-up illegal for them to do so. And if they were to try to re-negotiate, chances are the station owners will say "no deal" and drop their show altogether. Those people do not want to lose viewers to cheaper online distribution. So, far from being an additional venue that could net them some extra cash, streaming is directly competing with the far-more-lucrative foreign distribution deals they have currently.

DVS BSTrD:
PREDICTION: In 80 years time the Oscar for best picture will go to The Retailer: A story of a man who sells hard copies of movies and TV shows, but ultimately decides he's too much of a salesman to move to online distribution. Released in classic 2D formatting!

...Huh.

I want to see a movie, right now, set in the not-too-distant future. It's about an incredibly beautiful actress who's suddenly out of a job because all the acting is now being done by very skilled but plain looking actors wearing gorgeous digital motion-capture skins a la Andy Serkis playing Gollum.

I agree, Greg. Sadly the movie industry seems intent on repeating the mistakes of the music industry.

It's like the recently announced new service from Warner Brothers that is coming to a Walmart near you. You can pay Walmart to convert your old DVDs into the ultra violet digital format and access it from any mobile device (as long as the mobile device is one of three hundred, and you have an active internet connection, and...other restrictions added just to be a jerk)!

What brilliant idiot thought that idea up? Just ripping the thing is entirely too complicated. Driving to Walmart, paying them money and using a proprietary system is much easier. Sadly, I think Walmart is just the place for this service and it may be marginally successful.

Frostbite3789:
THIS JUST IN!

Businesses do things for money and are incredibly thick and greedy about the way they do business!

Add a few more comments about thickiness and you're just about there. One of these days, people are going to wake up and realize that money may be the mode by which commodities flow, but hording a big number of enough paper to cover your mansion has no value at all.

 

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