Fast and Easy!

With the 500,000,000th song sold through the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), it should be fairly obvious to the movie and music industries that this is the model to use. It’s fast, cheap and nearly instant with a good connection, and let’s face it-most pirates are on broadband. Who’s going to wait 8 days to download even a divx movie on dial-up? That is assuming the connection doesn’t get dropped, etc. However, starting a download on broadband, even a fairly large one, then letting it run for a couple hours while you run errands, do housework or go to bed is what any of us usually do with a large file or software update anyway. When I download a file from Fileplanet or a similar gaming site, sometimes they run in the vicinity of 500 MB or more. I just start it, set my power settings to “always on,” turn off the monitor and go do something else for a while.
The argument that the quality of the video is substandard and unacceptable is for all practical purposes, rather pointless, as I have seen some downloaded divx burns that are indistinguishable from commercial DVD’s on an average TV. Watching them on the computer, it’s an academic point. The technology is out there, and if some script kiddie can rip The Matrix well enough to look really good and fit on a VCD, imagine what the movie industry could do with all their technology.
With hard disk space becoming cheaper and the cost of disc media becoming laughably diminutive (200 CD-R’s at Costco for under $20 recently), it would be a simple matter to browse or Blockbuster, select a movie and buy it for a nominal fee. Perhaps $5 to download a high-quality rip that will fit on a standard DVD? I know the cost of the physical pressings is virtually nothing and the most of the price of a $20 DVD goes to pay some kind of fee to everyone but me and a guy down the street, but if the industry is serious about stopping piracy, they have to make it the lowest common denominator-make it easier, better quality and reliable for an attractive price, and people will follow the path of least resistance. Blockbuster has already instituted their “No more late fees” model-how about never having to visit the store again? What happens if they don’t have the movie that you really wanted to see? “Sorry-that was rented out earlier today, and with the new policy, it could be out for 2 weeks.” Out-of-print, independent and foreign films could be made available, vastly increasing the audience and exposing a middle-class kid in Oklahoma to the struggles of a Nepalese yak caravan in Nepal’s first Academy Award nomination for “Caravan.” A friend of mine just downloaded a comedy sketch of a popular comedian that has since gone out of print. A generous uploader ripped his or her copy and provided it to a fellow fan who would ordinarily not be able to procure it, legally or otherwise.
For an industry that can make us fear Aliens in space, believe that dinosaurs have returned through genetic manipulation, follow the adventures of Indiana Jones and make us worry we are all being used like batteries in a digital dream world, why is a viable sharing model so hard to visualize? Piracy will continue until it is easier and more convenient not to. Maybe a limited trial program would be in order? We have to try something-arresting little girls for file-sharing is a sign of desperation and irrational reaction, much like a caged animal-nowhere to turn, but the key is in their hands nonetheless. What can it hurt? Astoundingly-overpaid bubble-world actors may get a few pennies less from royalties? My heart bleeds. They’re not getting anything with piracy right now anyway… [Britt Godwin]