Written by: Alex Curtis
I’m sorry, but this is going to be a bit of a rant…here goes.
After months of discussion, a sticking point has emerged over the studiosâ€™ demand that Apple limit the number of devices that can use a film downloaded from iTunes.
And in the very next paragraph, FT.com states that the studios want to avoid piracy—demanding that Apple introduce a new distribution model for movies.
This just gets me riled up, and I think it does the same to some of you.
As we Mac geeks may know, currently, music downloaded from the iTunes store can be copied to at most five authorized computers (computers all purchasing music with the same iTunes account), synchronized with an unlimited number of iPods, shared via streaming with five other computers on the same network within 24 hours, and the same playlist of tracks can be burned seven times to a standard CD format and ripped to remove any of these copy restrictions. Video bought from the iTunes store, on the other hand, cannot be streamed to other computers, nor can it be burned to a standard physical media to be played in a DVD player or other digital device. The point is, even though music is fairly locked down via the iTunes service, control over video is already considerably more restrictive.
According to the article, the studios are asking for even tighter controls on how consumers can use these videos.
If the reason for this additional control is out of a concern for piracy, shouldn’t there be at least some evidence for the existence of piracy of iTunes distributed video? If there were evidence, surely we would see how-tos posted on the front page of Digg, Slashdot, or maybe even here on the MacCast. But we haven’t seen that—not for iTunes video at least.
Regardless of whether this was the studios’ spin or the FT.com’s failure to ask more engaging questions—it all comes back to that ole red herring of piracy. Take another look at the quote: “…studios’ demand that Apple limit the number of devices that can use a film downloaded from iTunes.” The studios, in this context, aren’t so concerned about piracy—rather they are obsessed with control over every miniscule consumer use of legally obtained content.
Say what you will about the Zune, but it introduced the latest portable media innovation with wireless media sharing, but it was severely crippled—“three plays for three days.” If that’s not out of concern for the content industry, why can photos be shared without the restriction? I propose that this debate is really not about piracy, it’s about limiting what consumers can do, on their device(s) of choice, with the content they’ve legally obtained in the privacy of their own home (or personal network). Apple proved that you can compete with free with its success at selling $0.99 music tracks, and Apple, the content industry, and consumers have reaped the rewards.
Now I’m sorry for getting up on my soapbox in this post, but I’m almost done… I have come to expect this “piracy spin” from the content industry, but shouldn’t we expect more from journalists who report on this market. FT.com didn’t write about what consumers want and expect of their downloadable media. They didn’t ask the studios or Apple what drives demand for products in a market place. It’s innovators like Apple who have exploded the market for online media sales, and made the use of the media fairly flexible for consumers. Shouldn’t FT.com have at least questioned the track record of the content industry as the ones who have fought new online business models and technological innovation tooth-and-nail?
As a consumer and a blogger, I think it would have been useful for FT.com to ask the studio representatives more meaningful questions.