Thursday, May 12, 2005

The MPAA/RIAA Guide to Leveraging New & Promising Technology: just kill it

Today the MPAA targeted and shut down 6 major websites which specialized specifically in trading television programs via bittorrent (cnet story).

I, personally, was a regular user of the first site listed in the MPAA press release, shunTV. While I can't speak for the other websites which were targeted, shunTV had a very specific and strictly enforced "no HBO shows and no DVD rips" policy. As a result, almost all shows posted to the site were captures of television shows freely availible on broadcast television. Thanks to shunTV, my tv viewing habits grew by approximately 700%, I started buying television show DVDs that I would have never purchased otherwise, and I started writing a column for the MIT school newspaper about all things television related.

What is particularly frustrating is that, as far as I can tell, there isn't a very strong legal standing for the MPAA's actions. Movies? Music? You know, the MPAA and RIAA came off as bullies, but it truly was within their prerogative to take legal action -- both are content which users pay for that is often behind a content protection technology. Broadcast television, on the other hand is transmitted over what is considered the "national resource" that is the television broadcast spectrum and is, by definition, NOT enclosed in any sort of content protection. IN FACT, the federal courts just recently ruled that the FCC (taking action requested by the MPAA) did not have the authority to even INTRODUCE such restrictive technology. In this case, the MPAA is just plain-ol-big-enough that it can flex its muscle and shut down these sites which can't take the risk (shunTV didn't charge money or run ads, so I seriously doubt it was trying to make a profit, let alone a signficant take-on-the-MPAA like profit) or bear the cost of questioning their authority.

All of this two weeks after the return of a television show which was resurrected, more than two years after its cancellation, thanks to staggeringly high DVD sales fueled ALMOST ENTIRELY by extensive online trading by young adults.

Such stupidity

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