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Friday, February 16, 2007

From the WSJ: 'Hollywood Weighs Copyright Protections'

Sarah McBride has an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal today on whether Hollywood studios might consider removing copy protections from their digital movies. My guess: not any time soon. Home entertainment execs within the studios are very powerful, and they're already worried about digital downloads *with* restrictions cutting into DVD revenues -- forget about digital downloads sans restrictions. McBride writes:

    The studios are increasingly engaged in internal debate over the right course for the future. According to people familiar with the matter, the studios' technology executives and engineers have been calling for Hollywood to at least re-examine the issue. They are meeting with stiff resistance, especially from the "home entertainment" units that distribute films on DVD -- and are adamant about the need for digital rights management.

    Nonetheless, the same forces pressuring the music industry to consider removing such coding are closing in on Hollywood. Pirated copies of movies circulate freely online, without any restrictions on how they are traded or copied. While the damage hasn't been nearly as great as in the music industry, many fear it will grow worse in the near future.

    ...Many movie executives agree that physical DVDs still need copy protection, but some are starting to discuss whether the heavy-duty digital rights management now on electronic copies is the right route. While movies sold on Apple's iTunes can be played on as many as five computers and an unlimited number of iPods, most online movie stores offer far less flexibility.

    "Consumers can find ways to get our content anytime they want to," says a Hollywood technology executive. "They get it from a friend, [or] the Internet. By putting on an onerous DRM, it's making an honest person want to go to the illegitimate side."

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