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Hollywood vs. the Internet:
Where Do the People Fit?
Roslyn Prehara
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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For years, people involved in the media, creating movies, books, and music, have made millions by selling their creative "projects" to people all over the world. Now, consumers know how to use technology to copy and share those projects, reducing the cost to themselves and reducing the revenue to the providers. Mike Godwin, in his article entitled "Hollywood vs. the Internet," deals with what content providers consider a very big problem: inadequate copyright laws and too-simple methods of breaking them. As a publisher of several articles concerning cyberspace communication, Godwin has honed his research to uncover the real issue, that content providers cannot convince technology providers to limit the capabilities of technology for the sake of copyright. The consumers, on whom these two factions base their stance, are stuck in the middle of a copyright battle between the Content Faction and the Technology Faction. These Factions must come to an agreement in which they make it possible for consumers to continue downloading content, but at a reasonable price. However, these Factions must also make it impossible for consumers to copy and share what they purchase by enforcing a law against such behavior or making the process of copying far too expensive for consumers to consider.

Content providers are most concerned with the usage of computers for copying and sharing media. With computers, consumers have the ability to copy movies or shows, and share them with a limitless amount of other consumers, making the need to purchase DVDs or boxed sets of TV shows almost obsolete. One problem is that companies pay for commercial spots which support TV shows, and as Godwin points out, "What advertisers are going to sponsor those shows when their complete runs are available online to viewers, commercial-free, through some successor to Napster or Gnutella?" (174). Content providers pay to make their products, and do not want to also pay for providing those products on television, which is why advertisements sponsor television shows. Advertisers want to be seen while viewers are watching the show. If content providers must pay to produce, distribute, and advertise their products while consumers just download them freely from the Internet, they may soon stop producing content altogether.

Content providers aim to get all technology providers to incorporate digital rights management in order to stop consumers from breaking copyright laws. As Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America states, "All we're trying to do is protect our investment in the digital landscape. This is the first time we've faced this landscape, where a 12-year-old can copy a movie and send it around the world with a click of the mouse" (Tweney 128). Tech providers, however, are not so eager to strengthen copyright enforcement, as confessed by Emery Simon of the Business Software Alliance: "We are strongly antipiracy, but we think mandating these protections is an abysmally stupid idea" (Godwin 175). Mandating the antipiracy protections, which would mean attempting to incorporate all new technology with some sort of watermark, could prove to be an impossible task. Also, the newer computers and software would not be quite as appealing to the consumer when its capabilities are reduced.

What separates the content providers from the technology providers is how each views the people who enjoy their products. Content providers view people as consumers, meaning "you control access to what you offer, and you do everything you can to prevent theft" (Godwin 178). Consumers enjoy merchandise produced by content providers, and some even collect it. This provides a rewarding market for content providers. They know they can control access to their products by raising prices or limiting the selection. This control, unfortunately, persuades consumers to seek and find these products elsewhere. Technology providers, however, view people as users, meaning "you want to give them more features and power at cheaper prices… enabling people to do new things" (Godwin 178). Tech providers want the very best for their users, and this makes it hard for them to place boundaries on what they provide to the user, even though their users may continue to find products and copy them freely and illegally. Perhaps if the Content Faction tried to see consumers through the same perspective of the Technology Faction, they would be able to come up with a way to provide consumers with entertainment that the consumers want while still receiving due profits.

The only group not consulted on this matter is the consumers, or users. One opinion is from Godwin himself: "If computers and software start shipping in a hamstrung form, mandated by government, I'll quit buying new equipment. Why trade in last year's feature-rich laptop for a new one that, while faster, has fewer capabilities?" (178). This thought might be shared by millions, and perhaps opinions such as Godwin's keep the Technology Faction from taking action against copyright piracy. The Technology Faction may also see that, should content providers limit the capabilities of technology, the advances in technology would be taken back a few years. Most consumers love new and improved products, and if they are given something they already owned a few years ago, they will not be impressed. Technology providers would not need to limit the capabilities of technology, however, if the content downloaded through that technology came at a price.

If content and technology providers sought the opinion of their customers, they might find that the customers would be ready and willing to switch to a better, legal way of enjoying content and technology. As vice president of RealNetworks Alex Albin believes: "…most users will opt for legitimate digital content if services offer a big, reasonably priced selection with sufficiently flexible distribution controls to make buying more convenient that illegal copying" (Tweney 128). Clearly, price and selection are important issues with consumers. According to Electric Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann, the movie industry is already starting to compromise with consumers by lowering DVD prices. As he points out, "Why spend hours downloading a crappy version of a movie when you can buy the full version for $9.99 at the supermarket?" (Tweney 132). Further actions such as this one might reduce the problems associated with copyright piracy while continuing to pay providers for their products and keep consumers happy.

Even if the Content Faction chose to continue to make such great compromises as reducing retail prices or providing content online to buy, illegal online file sharing may continue. In this case, further actions would be necessary, such as enacting digital rights management technology or actively enforcing antipiracy laws. A major issue with the DRM technology rests in how much it will limit the consumer's ability to copy or share content that is actually permitted. "Unfortunately, such [digital rights management] technology doesn't affect only pirated distribution on P2P networks-it can prevent users from making any copies at all, even ones that formerly would have qualified as fair use" (Tweney 129). The technology could prohibit individual consumers from taping a show on TV while they work the evening shift, or it could prevent a new dad from copying pictures of his baby girl and sending them to the family. The other option of enforcing laws would require greater participation from the government. However, this concept faces opposition with vendors like Chris Gorog, CEO of Roxio, who feels that "Hollywood is focusing all its efforts on complaining to Washington instead of making a sincere effort to compete" (Tweney 130). The Content Faction must decide how many restrictions they want to enforce, while remaining true to the rights of consumers.

The Content and Technology Factions must find a way to continue providing their products as top quality without reducing their own revenue. If consumers are allowed to continue downloading freely because technology makes it easy, the Content Faction suffers profit loss because consumers acquire content for free. On the other hand, if the capabilities of technology are reduced in order to make downloading impossible, the Technology Faction suffers profit loss because consumers will no longer buy new products. These two factions must try to reach a peaceful agreement in which they continue to provide for the consumers without sacrificing their own revenue. They must also continue to seek a way to enforce copyright laws without disenchanting their customers and losing more money. Consumers should not be allowed to access what the factions provide for free, but they should be able to find what they want at a reasonable price. The Internet can sometimes be the only place that certain content can be found. The two factions need to deal with consumers as people instead of problems or money sources, providing them with want they want. Consumers are, after all, paying for it.

Works Cited

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations: An Anthology for Reading, Writing, and Research. Ed. Jason Landrum, Matthew Wynn Sivils, Constance Squires. Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 2003. 173-178.

Tweney, Dylan F. "Hollywood vs. Your PC." PCWorld.com. November 2002. 1 September 2004. <http://www.pcworld.com/resource/printable/article/0,aid, 104699,00.asp>.

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