January 13, 2004

Napsterization: What it's meant to do

Scott Woolley/Forbes talks about the possible Napsterization of Hollywood in The Big Squeeze (reg req) with digital media. The article relates the tale of Jordan Greenhall who took the codex technology with him after leaving MP3.com, just before it was bought up by Vivendi, who is now gambling that he can beat Microsoft to the digital media punch.

True enough, and this is why the Broadcast Flag has been discussed as unnecessary for some time because most people don't want to wait forever to download a movie (the real threats to movie piracy include Hollywood leaks and street distribution of videoed movies). But then the article suggests that with the codex technology to compress and decompress rich media:

So DRM is the answer or it's the Napsterization of Hollywood. But is it possible that there is an alternative to these two choices? How about low res/highly compressed video for viewing on small portable screens is offered to entice customers to view large commercial screened movies? It seems to me that it's not an either or situation. Maybe, codex enabled work is a plus, given the right positioning and business model. There is no DRM system that hasn't been broken, and often it's customers who are frustrated with its limitations because they don't know how to make it coincide with the reasonable fair use expectations they have, or even play the media at all, while hackers break it and the business model it supports. Why not develop a business model that doesn't need DRM, and works with your audience as they promote and share your work? And one that takes into account that people still love going to the movies in a moviehouse, watching on a big screen? Offer something cheap, much like rentals now, but without the requirement to get physical media through the mail or in a store, that people could download in low res, but good enough to play on their TVs at home, that is just better and easier and more reliable than those on illegal file sharing networks, and make it ubiquitous, easy.

Update: Kevin Marks explains why compressed media is not such a good idea, because with storage subject to Moore's Law, it is irrelevant and causes a bottleneck for the CPU accessing the compressed media, but more importantly, the quality for compressed media is compromised by the process where the compression removes redundancy. This process leads to a situation where with no redundancy, there is no way for the system to compensate when an error occurs, so errors become visible and intrusive, and may destroy the rest of the file following the error. Therefore, compression will not lead to high quality or archival quality media.

Posted by Mary Hodder at January 13, 2004 08:35 AM | TrackBack