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Content vs. Technology:
The Hollings Bill Protects Them Both
Jessica Lewis
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Since the introduction of digital technology, downloading music from the Internet for free has become very popular in the US. The content industries, which are businesses that make various forms of media, are afraid that the expansion of digital technologies will cause them to lose business. It will allow people to not only download music, but all forms of media for free. If someone can get a movie or TV show for free, why would they pay for it? The content industries want controls to be implemented in order to manage the freedom of downloading. While the technology industries, which are businesses that produce technological equipment, agree that piracy is a problem, it is the implementation of digital technology controls might hurt their industry. "Hollywood vs. the Internet" by Mike Godwin deals with this debate between the two factions. Since media is a big part of the average American's life, it is important to protect the content industries because under the present circumstances the media cannot survive. The Hollings Bill is the best way to protect the content industry because it is the best compromise between the two factions for the time being. However, it will not be a permanent fix to the problem of piracy.

Since the digital age the content industries have been struggling because of illegal downloads. Records show that "piracy of personal computer applications in the United States resulted in software publishers suffering losses of more than $1.8 billion in retail sales" (Ditzion 299-300). If the content industries continue to suffer losses of this magnitude then they will fail to exist. Although they will not fail overnight, without change, overtime the media will no longer be able survive. The fact that people are able to get things from the Internet for free makes them not purchase the product from the company that made it, which causes a loss in revenue for the producer. The loss of revenue will cause continued loss of money for the companies, and eventually they will not be able to afford to pay for things needed to make the product. Without a product there is no business. Eventually one company will fall and the rest will follow. With the present circumstances in place, immediate assistance for the content industries is required for their long term survival.

Since the introduction of the content industries, they have always been an important part of our nation. Statistics say that "TV sets are in use in the average American home for more than seven hours a day" (Campbell 18). The country relies on the media to get information and entertainment. Without these industries Americans will lose a significant part of their every day lives. It is important to protect this industry because the media educates the country. For example, without the media American citizens would not be as knowledgeable about the 2004 presidential election. The stance of every candidate is detailed by the media. Without this knowledge Americans would not be able to make an educated vote. If in the future, the media fails then how will American citizens be as knowledgeable as they are now about future elections? Books, magazines, news, television, and music give the nation education, knowledge, and a chance to develop personal opinions. These industries are the backbone of the educated America and therefore must be protected.

Although the media is important to protect, it is not as easy to protect as one might think. The digital technologies, such as, but no limited to, personal computers and digital cable are what allow the media to be publicized. The media is spread to the consumer through technological devices such as the Internet and cable boxes. Therefore it is important to protect both industries, to an extent because one cannot function without the other. The content industries want to "restructure the digital world. [They want] to change not just the Internet but every computer and digital tool, online or off, that might be used to make unauthorized copies" (Godwin 175). The problem with this is that if digital technology companies are restricted and unable to make technology that cannot make copies, then people will not want to buy new hardware. In a sense the idea would be to downgrade all digital technology. People buy new technology because it can do more, faster; if the new technological equipment would in fact do less than the old equipment, then the technology industries would lose tremendous amounts of customers. With the loss of customers there would be a fall in revenue and, similar to the content industries, the eventual failure of the technological industries. If the media is too strongly protected then the technology industries would fail to survive as well. It is important to find a compromise between the two industries that will protect the media and not ruin technology.

The content and technology industries rely on one another to function, so keeping both industries operating is important. A bill proposed by Senator Hollings called the Hollings Bill protects the content industries and gives the technology industries a new edge to profits. The bill implements what is called a watermark, which is an invisible encryption that tells technology whether or not to allow copying on digital media, in order to control piracy. This watermark would prevent technological instruments from copying the encrypted digital media. However, this will cause a significant decrease in the want for new forms of technology because old forms will do more than new forms. What the Hollings Bill proposes is "a proactive measure designed to promote both digital content and increased use of high speed Internet services" (Godwin 177). The Hollings Bill wants there to be a shift from buying media in stores to buying it online. The technology industries will need to continue to upgrade their high speed Internet technology in order to support this shift in the consumption routine. The Hollings Bill is a good compromise because it gives technology industries a new way to gain profits while protecting the content industries. However, it is not without its problems.

One problem is it makes one giant assumption, that what consumers want is the convenient accessibility to a large variety of media through the Internet. However, this is not true. The reason consumers download digital media off the Internet is because it is free. There is no reason to buy something when you do not have to. Consumers do not use the accessibility of media from their desktop because it is convenient, but because it is free. Therefore creating a large variety of media through high speed Internet is pointless.

Another problem is the bill is based on increasing the use of high-speed Internet. However, statistics show that "seventy million American homes have the option for high-speed Internet access yet only seventy million have exercised the option" (Draughon 7). This shows that high speed Internet is not what consumers want. Since the bill is based on the assumption that consumers want high speed Internet and that is shown to not be the case then the bill will not give technology a true means to making a profit.

The good thing about these problems is that they will only negatively affect technology industries. The Hollings Bill will give the content industries the immediate assistance they need while attempting to offer technology industries some protection as well. The content industries need the immediate help because they have been hurting for some time now and if they are not protected now will only continue to hurt more. Eventually, the damage to the content industries will be unfixable. While the technology industries have not been hurting if they start to hurt it will be minimal damage until a new plan can be thought of. The Hollings Bill provides the perfect solution for the time being because it will protect the hurting content industries and allow time for a better plan to be thought of if it fails to protect the technology industries.

Another issue with the bill is there will never be a permanent fix to the debate between the two factions over piracy protection. Hackers will find a way to get around the watermark and continue to pirate digital materials and, new innovations will constantly be put on the market allowing for new ways of copying things to appear. This bill is only a temporary solution to an ongoing issue. It is not known if the bill will even protect the technology industries because of the assumptions it makes. However, for the time being it is the best compromise. It will give the content industry a break in losses and perhaps prevent technology industries from suffering. If it fails to protect the technology industries a new plan will have to be devised.

Although both the content and media industries are very important to the public's way of life, the media is the most important because it gives Americans education. It is also the most in need of immediate attention because without help media could fail to continue to exist. The Hollings Bill will allow the media to have control over piracy for the time being while attempting to protect the technology industries. Although it is not without its problems, it is the best solution for the time being. The battle between media and technology will never end. Both industries look out for themselves and focus on their individual success. They do not care about each other, even though they rely on each other for survival. Piracy will never end either because people will continue to adjust to controls. Hackers will learn to override the new systems, new machines will be thought of that allow copying, and new ideas will be needed to protect the industries again. With the content industries worrying for their survival and technology companies worrying for their continued success the battle for protection is far from over. However, for the time being this is the best compromise

Works Cited

Ditzion, Robert, Elizabeth Geddes, Mary Rhodes. "Computer Crimes". The American Criminal Law Review 40.2 (2003): 285-336

Draughon, Richard Scott. "Policing the Killer App". Information Executive. 6.4 (2002): 7

Godwin. Mike. "University Education". Speculations. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, and Constance Squires. United States of America: Kendall/ Hunting Publishing Company's, 2003. 172-179

Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media and Culture: an introduction to mass communication 2005 update. United States of America: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 17-19

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