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iPod Nation

30 Mar, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Curt Marvis, CEO of CinemaNow, speaking at the Digital Hollywood confab in Santa Monica, made an interesting point during a discussion on the video-on-demand market.

He pointed out that it was just two years ago when digital downloading of music was pretty much constrained to a fairly small demographic of peer-to-peer file sharers.

“Now we can't imagine not downloading music,” he said

He's right. Look at us — we're an iPod nation. I think this every time I hike Runyon Canyon. From a certain vista in the West Hollywood Canyon Park, you can see a huge building-side ad featuring Apple's signature iPod-jamming silhouettes. You can look at this even as the live thing passes you up and down the mountain, as on any given day, literally every other hiker boasts some kind of iPod or MP3 player gadgetry strapped to their sweating frames, those recognizable white buds snuggled in their ears.

The music lover has glommed on to this device and others like it, and it already has had a major impact on the assumptions these people make about their desired video content, too.

A very technophile-type fellow who works in the same building as I do, though for a different company, excitedly visited my office last week asking if he could borrow a DVD to rip it into some new gadget he was waving around in his hand.

“Um, sure,” I said. “But you know it's not really legal, right?”

“No, it's OK,” he said. “I just want to put it on my new toy.”

“Still,” I said. “If it's copy protected and you have to crack it or circumvent it to rip it to your gadget, you've already broken copyright law.”

“Really?” he said.

I told him about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and as a compromise we looked through my stash of product and selected a title that did not have the little “copy-protected” logo on the packaging for his test of his new toy.

Now this is an above-average-intelligence guy. He's very tech-oriented, works in IT support actually.

He knew he didn't want to copy or sell or illegally distribute the content he was asking for, his intention was personal use and so he automatically assumed he had the right to that kind of use.

Music has trained consumers to think that, but it just is not the case for most if not all existing video product.

That's a problem.

That's going to be an even bigger problem, especially if VOD suppliers are right, and I believe they are, when they say the digital video consumer wants to do “whatever they want” with content.

It's true, and because when they buy a CD right now, they know they are legally allowed to rip that legally purchased content into their digital devices for their own personal use, they think the same holds true for DVD.

Should the same hold true for DVD?

I actually think so. I think if you buy a DVD, you should be able to both have that DVD and be able to manage the digital content that's on it among several devices or a home media center. I even think you should be able to burn one copy, to use in a portable DVD player.

I know the next-generation content providers are supposed to offer managed copy options built in with AACS, but nothing I have heard yet has made me confident that they are urgently exploring how to provide that consumer access. I've heard loads about device revocation keys, and attempts to control and thwart piracy. That's great.

But I'd really like to hear some firm, definitive plans on how the studios and content holders are going to navigate the legal digital access desires of the consumer mentality, specifically related to how they interact with physical media. I would argue that a year ago it wasn't as pressing a problem.

But now, there is an iPod nation out there. It is a nation of media lovers who are turned on to clicking and burning and ripping, and for the most part I think they are willing to do it legally if you will let them.

The question is, are you going to let them?

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