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The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

14 Nov, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Except for their own plans to cash in on the downloading craze with the launch of MovieLink, the Hollywood studios have been oddly misguided in preparing for what promises to be a battle royal over illegal downloading, focusing their efforts on politics instead of technology.

Just as the practice all but destroyed the music industry, we're starting to hear rumblings about the potential destruction of the video industry by a Napster-like mechanism that allows consumers to easily swap movies over the Internet.

The studio line has always been that the threat is still too far off, given the fact that most computer users lack the high-speed Internet access to download those giant movie files and, while MovieLink — a collaborative effort among five studios — has received a tremendous amount of ink, the partners privately concede it's more of an attempt to stay ahead of the curve than it is to generate any real money, at least for now.

But the future may be closer than we think. Yesterday morning I came across an interesting article from the Associated Press that noted copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the long-awaited sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that opens theatrically this weekend, are already available on the Internet.

“Warner Bros., the studio that produced and distributes the movie, confirmed that pirated copies of the movie have appeared on obscure Internet sites that regularly offer illegal copies of first-run movies,” the AP reported. Warner has since denied that pirates successfully placed the film on the Web, contending the file was a decoy.

But the rest of the sentence provides some compelling food for thought. Note the phrases “obscure Internet sites” and “regularly offer illegal copies of first-run movies.” Let me point out that Napster was also once an “obscure Internet site” before it hailed down on the music biz and put a brutal dent in CD sales.

And the fact that it is common knowledge that there are sites that “regularly offer illegal copies of first-run movies” should have all of Hollywood sounding the alarms.

Technology is growing by leaps and bounds, and downloading entire movies will one day be as simple and quick as opening a Word document.

I don't know exactly what Hollywood should do, but they had better think — and act — fast.

That day may not be around the corner—but then again, who's to say for sure?

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