Launching Apple’s iFlicks in the Year of HD: a studio’s perspective

Steve says it’s the year of HD. Bill says it’s the year of HD. Cringely says it’s the year of iFlicks … the movie version of iTunes.

apple selling videos via iTunes

That got me thinking: if I’m a studio, and I’m approaching the capability of selling movies by download through an iTunes-like interface, what am I looking for?

Well, if I’m a smart studio VIPer, I know that hackers around the world will find ways around whatever encryption I put on my files.

So I need to give up the utopian vision of perfect encryption, security, and control. Never has existed, never will exist. But I realize that for my business model to survive and even thrive, I don’t need that. All I need is to make it less attractive to steal the content than to buy the content for the vast majority of those individuals that constitute my market.

How do I do that? With the 3 hards …

The first hard: hard to find
As a studio exec, I’d want any bootlegged videos to be hard to find. So I’d employ spiders that would search for any video content and correlate it with all the known titles in my library of content.

If I found any with the automated search, then I would have a low-level employee check it out. Once they’ve determined that there is, in fact, bootlegged video here, any competent and litigous studio exec would call out the legal dogs and through some weight around. In response, sites start taking movies down, or start switching IPs, addresses, etc.

Do this long enough and persistently enough, and you start to make stolen content hard to find.

The second hard: hard to use
Secondly, as a studio exec, I’d want to ensure the process by which people could use any videos that are out there, or any tools for making transferable files out of DVDs people have bought, as hard to use as possible.

This was built-in in the video industry … videos are big, bulky, analog things. Few people had dual-cassette VCRs. Copying from one to another was not simple, not quick, and a quite involved. But in the modern DVD era, anyone who has any relatively modern computing equipment has everything he or she needs to copy as many DVDs as wanted, as many times as they please.

So as a studio exec, I’d want to ensure that the DRM I embed in any movies that are sold online will be difficult enough to circumvent that any people using tools to disable it will be forced to go through multiple steps, or have to download and install obscure software, or otherwise find it hard to use.

The third hard: hard to justify
This is the most important hard, and the one where, as a smart studio exec, I’d spend the majority of my time.

Most people would rather do things the right way, would prefer to buy stuff from valid vendors, would prefer to be on the straight and narrow. But it needs to be easy to justify. So it needs to be dead easy, simple, and straightforward. And, importantly, the price needs to be right.

That’s why the iTunes music store has taken off – it’s secure, reliable, and not too expensive. And iFlicks would have to be the same way.

So if users could get what they want at a price that makes sense … and it ought to be less than the cost of most DVDs in the store right now, because middlemen, physical media, inventory, shipping, etc. etc. are cut out … then buying becomes a more attractive option than stealing.

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At least, that’s what I would think if I was a studio exec.


1 CommentLeave a comment

  • just like there is grafitti on the pyramids from 5,000 years ago and every “greatest” wepon ever is trumped by another one, your solutions are what might be true if you can lobotomize or change human behavior – good luck with that. A certain % of people are thieves but that’s what makes us human – most of the ancient technologies came to light because someoen stole it from others – just like building a moat and stone walls only encouraged other weapons to traverse those – the best strategy – make it so stealing is pointless. You wanna watch a tiny version on your laptop $1 – want it as Divx? $2. H.264 $4 – VCD $5 DVD $8 DVD with commentary & extras $11. HD version $15. Criterion HD $20. When you make it transparent – your stealing is minimal. Most of the copyright theft online is because of CONVENIENCE – I grant you 10% are thieves who if you offered something free, they’d want two or punch you so they got something extra and 10% of the people are just cheap but 80% of the audience as real potential customers is not bad. If I miss a show on Tv and I’m willng to watch it on a laptop – the nmetworl/production should just sell me a viewing for a couple bucks and who cares if I keep it on my HDD or a CD? Look at the people who taped all the shows on VHs but are buying the DVD’s now – same thing. It’s about CONVENIENCE – not about locking away merchandise. If you’re selling $10,000 bracelets, that makes sense but when most of your product is HOUSE OF WAX or HT LOSE A GUY IN TEN DAYS, the open market works best.