Monday, October 04, 2004

Protecting the mediocre

A few notes I thought our readers may be interested in:
Down in Washington DC :
The House of Representatives has passed a law that will make it illegal to go to a movie theater and video tape a movie. The act is meant to reduce the pirating of theatrical performances. The videotaping of first run movies costs the the movie industry millions of dollars each year and hurts their ability to fund films with newer filmmakers or lesser known casts. The House bill, still requires Senate passage and Presidential approval before it can become law. It calls for those that are convicted of illegally videotaping movies in theaters to face up to Six (6) years in federal prison (which seems rather severe given that some violent crimes including assault on a federal employee carry a much lesser sentence). The bill also loosens restrictions on the Justice Department that will allow greater prosecution of firms on the internet that illegally distribute this material (and other copyrighted works) to the public. The legislation is entitled "The Piracy Deterrence and Education Act. "

The music and entertainment industry has pointed out that when people go to the Internet to see movies it hurts theaters and it hurts people who make the movies and it hurts the actors and stagehands who work in them. The same for downloaded music. However maybe the industry needs to look at the sky-rocketing prices and the quality of its’ product to understand the reticence someone feels before plunking down hard earned salary for an often less than mediocre product. It is another challenge from an industry that will not change to keep up with the times. Big Entertainment seeks protection from change through government regulation and further criminalization as a deterrent to slow down the progress of the net.

It appears to me that the bill is really just another attempt to regulate the Internet. An unregulated market place seems to very often inordinately worry people in Government. It shouldn't. Pols just do not always understand that not everything needs to be watched over. Progress, like free trade and free markets, help drive down prices and make it easy for all people to be able to enjoy the things that in the past only wealthy people could enjoy. It also helps regulate prices that are artificially kept high by laws other than those of supply and demand. Yes progress causes change, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the worse, but the truth is that it is going to come one way or the other.

The argument that the entertainment business is making to regulate the trading of movies on the internet is really akin to the argument that a buggy manufacturer would have made to Congress to keep the automobile industry from out-dating the Horse and Wagon. Times change and so does technology. If the industry is going to survive the computer -age it is going to have to acknowledge the computer and digital age and make first run movie (or music) affordable, and the theater experience enjoyable.

Local theater productions of Broadway shows has not hurt The Great White Way. Cable TV, (which was also fought by the entertainment industry and Theater owners) has not destroyed theaters and neither will the computer age. Many of us will continue to go to first run movies if they are of high quality and if they are affordable. That may mean that Hollywood people will earn a little less money. Is that so bad? Will the world come to an end if Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt only make four (4) or five (5) million for their next picture instead of Twenty (20) Million? That Lawyer Dude’s father built houses for a living. Did he have a right to be paid every time someone new lived in the house? Of course not, but isn’t that what a royalty is? Attorneys used to make a lot of money when there were very few of them, but now doesn’t it seem that everyone knows someone who is a lawyer? Well that glut of attorneys drives down the prices of the average lawyer. The best still get paid a lot and the others have lost a little. It hasn’t stopped people from going to law school however.

If the cost of a first run movie were to fall to say Five ($5.00) dollars a ticket. Most people would still chose to go to the movies. If a person can legally buy a downloadable DVD for Ten ($10.00) Dollars most people would rather download the better download than go to pirate sights on the web. If there were DVD’s available with extras hidden in them… many of us might want to buy those at the video store too.

That Lawyer Dude thinks that the answer is not in further prosecutions and regulation but rather in the entertainment industry getting real and finding ways to live and survive in a digital age.

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