I’m sorry, but this is going to be a bit of a rant…here goes.

Today’s article in the Financial Times titled Studios push anti-piracy rules on Apple reports that the studios are pushing for tighter copy-controls on Apple’s iTunes movie distributions. They write:

After months of discussion, a sticking point has emerged over the studios’ 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.

There are 7 comments on FT.com: Hollywood wants More Restrictive Controls for iTunes Movies:

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  1. Jamie Davis | Nov 30 2006 - 04:03

    This is just more of the big studios wanting money for every single version of their content out there. They want us to but separate versions for the computer and the ipod. They want us to have to buy the dvd instead of streaming it to our tv from the computer. They want us to pay on demand for viewing on cable or satellite rather than use our tivo or DVR.

    Are we surprised by any announcement the MPAA or RIAA make about the average consumer/criminal (they can use the words interchangably apparently).

  2. David Mullaney | Nov 30 2006 - 05:56

    Yeah I always thought it was interesting that the music and movie industry feel the need to cripple the rights of legitimate digital media consumers. Surely the best way to beat piracy is to compete with BitTorrent et al.

    Give the legitimate customers more then you get from pirate copies. This is how they deal with piracy of physical media. They bundle extra features, and give them higher quality media for being legit.

  3. Bruce | Nov 30 2006 - 08:41

    “limit the number of devices that can use a film downloaded from iTunes”?

    What? Don’t movies bought from iTunes only play on your computer and the iPod? What other device is there? I guess they could only mean the number of computers and iPods the movis will play on. Maybe they mean only one comuter of your five registered can play the movie, as well as only one iPod.

    I just hate this control the industry demands. How many frigging times do I have to pay to watch X-Men when and where I want to? Pay for the theatre, pay for the DVD, pay for the SE DVD, pay for the iTunes download, pay for the VOD. I’m not saying that ll of those should be free but couldn’t I please just pay for the movie once and watch it when and how I want?

  4. Nicholas Loisos | Nov 30 2006 - 01:44

    The only way to get at greed like this is, to hit their pockebooks. Instead of being their slaves, lets reverse the tables. Lets all get on the Web and organize a “Do not buy until we Own” campaign.

    I don’t recall losing the shoes I bought because I wore them too many times. If I buy somethin g it’sd MINE! They SOLD it to me. That’s the prmise this Capitalist contry is built on.

    So we let them get too big and now they want it all. Time to remind them who their customers are. We should stop buying ANYTHING that remains under the control of others and we should stick to it till they GET IT!

  5. Vic Schmidt | Nov 30 2006 - 02:34

    According to a couple of articles I’ve read on the web today, the movie studios insist that we consumers are NOT entitled to do ANYTHING with our DVD Movies except watch them on our TV sets, and then ONLY from the original DVD the movie comes on. We are NOT allowed to Rip a copy and put it on our computers, move it to our iPod (or other device). Period.

    Funny, we can legally Rip copies of music we have purchased, for our own use, but we can NOT Rip a copy of our own DVD Movies. Sounds like a law suit waiting to happen, so we can have our rights back!

    We CAN Rip and/or move TV show copies to our iPods (etc.) and that’s great, but if I PAID for and OWN a DVD Movie, it should be MY RIGHT to do with it as I will, including throwing it away, giving it away, donating it to Goodwill, etc. when I’m sick of watching it…

  6. Rhett | Dec 02 2006 - 03:07

    I agree with Nicholas Loisos above, we should just STOP buying their crap! I have decided I will never buy another album from Universal Music Group because of the EXTORTION they are subjecting Apple to with this new iPod “tax”. Umm… excuse my ignorance but since when did we give music companies the authority to raise taxes? It’s blood money for a product they had NO hand in producing. Now the movie studios will follow suit soon I’m sure, they’ll start requesting a piece of the profits from every DVD playing device sold as well. Maybe we should just start signing our paychecks over to the entertainment giants instead. Screw-em!

  7. Rick Gaitskell | Dec 05 2006 - 10:45

    Alex’s article says that “Video bought from the iTunes store, on the other hand, cannot be streamed to other computers”. I may misunderstand the context of the quote, but I have been able to watch iTunes-purchased TV shows downloaded to one computer, using iTunes sharing to a 2nd computer on the same subnet. Both machines where authorized under the same iTunes account. (The iTunes sharing software was sufficiently well coded that I could actually watch the content on the 2nd machine, as it was still being downloaded to the 1st machine.)

    I imagine that the Movie company concerns are less focused on the current state of affairs, and more looking forward… As iPod hardware becomes more capable, and increasingly ubiquitous, they probably envisage cheap multi-GB devices being loaded with their movie content under the existing Fairplay DRM and then lent, (or even re-sold), to other people. The issue is that the hardware is getting cheaper, while they are attempting to hold the price of the software i.e. Movies, at a fixed level. At present, a movie is approximately $10/GB. The iPod $/GB is already falling below this level and will be set to full further in coming years such that the cost of the iPod becomes small compared to the value of the content it can hold.

    Obviously, DVDs can be lent/re-sold under their license, which has always seemed fair.

    The fact that one iTunes movie download under the current DRM could be loaded onto multiple (cheap) iPods, and all used in perpetuity by many people other than the original iTunes account holder (as long as the iPod is not redocked) must be causing some pause for thought. One has to hope that Apple will be able to come up with a way to maintain “reasonable use” while not getting into Zune-territory, where the DRM appears hopelessly restrictive. The rate of growth of the electronic download distribution channel will be very dependent on getting the fair use apect of the DRM correct in the coming era of ubiquitous/cheap iPods. I only wish that the lower costs associated with electronic distribution would lead to a lowering in the price we pay per movie – we may be waiting some time…