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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

« News Groups, ISPs Weigh In on Apple v. Does | Main | Still More on the "Is Linking Legal" Question »

April 9, 2005

Movie Downloads, Maybe

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Under the byline "Faultline," The Reg this week published a lengthy analysis of the potential near-future for the movie-downloading business. The article notes that a number of big names (Sony, MSFT, etc.) have announced their intention to step into this arena, but nobody seems to have a business model that answers all the nagging questions.

Clearly the existing services aren't revolutionizing anything - they're not well-known, they have technical glitches, and none of them seems to be willing to make the kind of serious effort at seamless user experience that I think will be essential to success.

Despite the popularity of DIXV and BitTorrent it's still considerably harder to find and download movies on free nets than it is to find and download music (or porn :). This gives the studios time and a potential opening. Their model doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be a bit better than the nets and it should succeed.

However, there are serious issues that have to be resolved at the business level. For example, how will downloadable movies respond to the region-coding locks that cripple global DVDs? Will they make such locks obvious and more annoying? Will they try to replicate them? On another front, will downloadable movies be rentals, ownables, or rent-to-own? Will they require pre-selection (a la NetFlix) or will the services try to offer video on demand? Will a service try to appeal to the film buff, offering a large library and back-catalog or will it be hit-oriented, with something like the 100 most popular titles available?

All of these options can be done with current technology - which way any particular service goes is therefore a question of business model and how it wants to position itself in the consumer mind. Unfortunately, none of these models seems like a sure thing, so conservative CEOs are being... well, conservative. Meanwhile, consumers are waiting, still waiting...

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