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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Movielabs: The message is still about piracy

I'm not a proponent of stealing music or movies or other intellectual property.

So I think it's important that the movie studios are focused on protecting their product.

But I think it sends the wrong message that the latest joint R&D project among the major studios, Movielabs, is all about fighting piracy.

Forbes had a report (actually written by Ben Fritz of Variety) on Monday:

    The first batch of projects planned for Movielabs is sure to raise concern among those who feel Hollywood is already going too far in trying to regulate how consumers use content.

    These projects go beyond previous efforts in "digital rights management"--software that limits how people can use digital content--to monitor and limit consumer activity in order to prevent piracy. They include software that could detect illegal file-sharing online, constrict access to home networks by outsiders and identify users' locations in order to regulate distribution of content in different territories.

    Movielabs will also focus on technologies that could prevent the user of camcorders in theaters, which has become the most common way films are stolen before being pirated online or on bootleg DVDs.

Fritz also mentions that Movielab's budget will be $30 million for the first two years, and that the Motion Picture Association of America is overseeing the search for a CEO. New MPAA chief Dan Glickman helped create the momentum behind the Movielabs idea, Fritz reports.

Another quick snippet:

    The studios have worked together previously in the technology arena, as in Movielink, the still-small Internet video-on-demand company, and Digital Cinema Initiatives, which recently completed its work creating a unified technical specification for d-cinema.

    But Movielabs appears to be the most ambitious joint venture to date, leading some in the technology community to question why the studios have chosen to focus exclusively on piracy prevention.

The NY Times also had a piece on Monday, by David Halbfinger, which quoted James Gianopoulos, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox:

    "It allows us to develop more ways of getting creative content into the home, to mobile devices, theaters and so forth, without exposing us to more sources of theft," Mr. Gianopulos said. "The more comfort you have in the security of the content, the more able you are to expand the consumer's access to it."

Then why not have the new R&D lab focus on two things -- like piracy and new delivery mechanisms that will give consumers more choice on how they view movies? That'd send a message that the studios were concerned not just with theft of their property, but with providing their customers with more options as to how they enjoy movies.

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