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The Movie industry’s shortsighted fight

Heavy handed anti-consumer and anti-innovation legal action helps no one

Leave aside your feelings about 2008 Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr (pro or con) because I think we can agree he is right on this issue:

There is now unfolding in a federal court in San Francisco a lawsuit in which several major Hollywood movie studios are suing RealNetworks – a relatively small but successful company that develops and markets Internet communications technology – in an effort to prevent the company from selling a software product that simply enables consumers to copy their DVDs to their personal computers. If the studios are successful in this Goliath-against-David legal action, Edison’s lesson in hard work will have been effectively reduced to, “genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent permission.”

I blogged about this issue previously and believe it deserves wider discussion/attention.

Barr points out this is really not in the studios long term interest:

The studios, in this latest knee-jerk, anti-technology litigation, appear to be flailing about and striking at any entrepreneurial effort to enhance the ability of consumers to lawfully enjoy the very product the studios offer – movies. In so doing, the studios have not only placed themselves at odds with consumers – who more and more are searching for technological products that offer options and security for their audio and visual needs – but also with entrepreneurs and technology companies who could be among the industry’s strongest allies in fighting video piracy.

The movie industry’s tin ear in refusing to deal constructively with outside technology (that is, technology the industry did not itself develop and own) is even more difficult to understand, considering the manner in which their colleagues in the music industry have in recent years stopped fighting and decided to embrace technology that has the potential for making more music available to more consumers in more, and more easily accessible, formats.

I noted in my earlier blog that I didn’t think we had a lot of leverage in this case, but Barr also points out why we should care nonetheless:

Defendant RealNetworks has the law, the facts and common sense on its side. The industry has money and hubris in its corner. Regardless of whether you ever might consider purchasing RealDVD software, this case should concern you; that is, if you wish for fair play and innovation to remain valued commodities in 21st century America. Thomas Edison understood this. Let’s hope Judge Patel does, too.

This is an issue that libertarians, conservatives, liberals, and the general consumer should all agree on.  Heavy handed anti-consumer, and anti-innovation, legal action helps no one (well, except maybe a few lawyers).  And is the last thing we need in this economy.

I just wish I was more sure that “the law, the facts and common sense” win in the courts these days . . .

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