Log in


TK's MORNING BUZZ: The Threat of a Napster-Like Service for Movies Has Frightened the Studios Into Taking Early Action

5 Jul, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I'm glad to see Hollywood, for once, isn't sleeping.

In what is best described as a pre-emptive strike, seven major studios have taken legal action against a Napster-like service they say makes the downloading of movies a lot easier than it's been. Disney, Paramount, Fox, Sony, MGM and Universal filed their case against Aimster in federal court in California, while Time Warner took separate federal action in New York.

It's obvious the studios learned a lesson from their recording-industry peers. Napster was allowed to grow and develop into an international file-swapping service that cost the record companies millions, perhaps billions, in lost sales before they belatedly went to court to shut Napster down.

Obviously the Hollywood studios watched, listened and learned, because their action comes at a time when downloading movies is still a tedious, laborious process that only a small percentage of PC owners can easily accomplish. It takes two or three minutes to download a song; it can take up to 20 hours to download a movie, less if the downloaders are willing to settle for a lower-quality transfer.

Apparently many of them are. A New York consultancy firm estimates that already, as many as 500,000 feature-length movies are being traded across the Internet daily. That hurts studios because they don't collect royalties, and retailers because they lose rentals and sales.

The prospect that Aimster and services like it can one day become as big and mighty as Napster, and wreak havoc on the movie industry the way Napster and its various clones have done to the music business, has apparently frightened the movie studios into taking early action.

Good for them. Once the average Joe could download songs over the Internet, illegal file-swapping blossomed, with swappers defending their actions as a personal right (yeah -- like stealing someone else's car) but operating under the shroud of anonymity.

The movie studios want to avoid a similar fate and are particularly concerned about Aimster, which according to the multi-studio complaint in California uses encryption technology that hides swapping activity as well as the swappers' identities.

Ultimately, I'm not sure the studios will be successful. The war against piracy is essentially a losing battle on all fronts, difficult to control, much less stop. But I do applaud the studios for at least trying, for doing something sooner rather than later.

However you look at it or try to justify it, file-swapping of copyrighted material -- music, movies, books -- is piracy. And piracy hurts us all.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

Add Comment