From the National Journal:
- Hollywood versus Silicon Valley. Over the past year, the two mega-industries have been locked in a highly public fight in Washington, unable to agree on how to keep the Internet from becoming a pirates’ haven. The stakes are high, because the outcome of the battle will help define the computers, televisions, digital videodisc players, and yet-unimagined electronic devices of the 21st century.
These two giants have clashed before. In the late 1970s, the movie studios feared that the newly developed videocassette recorder would slash theater revenues. Hollywood filed copyright-infringement lawsuits against VCR manufacturers. In a 1982 congressional hearing, Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, compared the VCR to the Boston Strangler. Hollywood lost that fight in 1984 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios that consumers have a right to tape television broadcasts for watching at another time or on another machine.
The legal principle is that a consumer can make “fair use” of copyrighted material. But copyright expert Peter Jaszi, a law professor at American University, also points out that “a very important part of the Sony analysis is that new information technology that benefits consumers is a presumptively good thing.”
Hollywood has never been comfortable with that definition of “fair use,” and in this era of digitized content, the movie industry’s discomfort has turned into alarm. The studios could live with piracy in an analog world, in which videotapes degrade with each reproduction. But today’s Internet-based digital technologies permit broad and instantaneous distribution of digital copies, each one just as high-quality as the previous version. That cuts to the heart of Hollywood’s distribution system and eats into studio profits, even as it simultaneously creates new revenue opportunities. Hollywood now makes more money on videocassettes than on box-office sales.
Napster’s meteoric rise in 1999-2000 made the implications of piracy apparent to the recording industry. Millions of music lovers began sharing songs in the form of digital files over the Internet. The recording industry’s lawsuits finally shut Napster down, but today’s next-generation software, such as KaZaA and Morpheus, allows transmission of digital movies and books. Recording-industry sales are slumping because of such software, the music labels say. Now the movie industry is getting worried….
Very thorough article on the state of the divide.