Almost ten years ago I wrote this article about my take on why we didn’t have HBO delivered over the Internet. It was based on an article by Jack Valenti, then the president of the Motion Picture Association of America and now deceased. Well, we now have Internet streaming of movies through Netflix and some other services but there isn’t as complete a library as there should be and the reason is that the MPAA is still attempting to achieve relevance.
Jack Valenti explains why we don’t have HBO delivered over the internet. It’s a fairly decent article and Mr. Valenti gives some pretty good answers from his perspective. Some things he is saying bothers me, though. For instance, when he says:
It is a charge issued only by those who have a blurred knowledge of the financial fragility of the film industry. Because making movies is so expensive, only two in 10 films ever retrieve their production and marketing investment from domestic theatrical exhibition. Distributors have to use other venues — delivery systems such as cable, satellite, TV stations, videocassettes, DVDs, international markets.
I’ve got to ask myself if maybe the reason for this is exorbitant production costs. But I’ve got to give him that domestic theatrical exhibitions should not be the only revenue stream available to the producers. Those producers have every right to protect their copyright for a limited time. (U.S. Constitution, Article 7, Section 8 ) Where I have a problem is in the way Mr. Valenti suggest that these rights must be protected.
Computer and video-device companies need to sit at the table with the movie industry. Together, in good-faith talks, they must agree on the ingredients for creating strong protection for copyrighted films and then swiftly implement that agreement to make it an Internet reality. Without concord, one option is left: Congress must step in to protect valuable creative works on the Net and thereby benefit consumers by giving them another choice for movie viewing.
My question is, “Where does the independent and amateur film makers fit into this picture?” Mr. Valenti seems to believe that the major players, the movie industry is the only group in need of protection. My belief is that with the equipment getting cheaper and available to the masses that Mr. Valenti’s fears are more over losing control of distribution channels than preventing the illegal copy of DVDs.
Think about this for a minute. Production costs of movies should be dropping like a stone since equipment costs are dropping so much and getting simpler and simpler to operate. If broadband were used for the distribution method of these movies one would think that distribution costs would also drop. One might also think that distribution methods would start to be within the reach of the independent and amateur film makers, just as production equipment has come into their reach. Just like I’m now able to reach out to you with my little weblog here. If independent and amateur film makers can reach you on their own, what good is Mr. Valenti?
I don’t know about you but under these circumstances, if I was Mr. Valenti I think I would be looking for a way to reintroduce a bit of complication into this mix, a way to make the members of my Motion Picture Association… relevent.