Pop quiz: What's the first thing you see when you watch a DVD? The answer, of course, is a threat to imprison you or fine you up to $250,000 if you dare copy that movie or display it for non-home use. Movie studios and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are downright paranoid about the pirating of their movies. Some of that paranoia may be justified, but at the same time, it sure is annoying to a customer who buys a lot of movies to see this warning emblazoned on the screen at the beginning of every single video. If I watch half a movie and eject it from the DVD player and then later want to watch it again, I have to see the same FBI warning again, and you can't fast-forward through it, either. (DVD players actually give viewers less control than VCRs!)
By the way, in case you ever wanted to know what the FBI warning looks like in French, that is included in every DVD as well, and only God knows why. Maybe the French have a problem with piracy. If that's the case, why aren't they flashing the same warning in Spanish, Korean and Chinese, because obviously, there is a lot of piracy in countries that speak those languages, as well.
Why does the FBI assume only English- and French-speaking movie buffs are criminals?
Really, why aren't we treated to 30 minutes of FBI warnings, in every possible language, that we can't fast-forward through? They're already wasting our time with warnings in two languages. I think they should expand it to 10 languages. You see, the big problem with DVD technology versus the old VHS tapes is that with DVD, you don't have control anymore. The studios have control. Some DVDs even force you to watch previews because they disable the fast-forward functions on your DVD player. I think that's absurd. One thing I liked about the old VHS tapes is that if you wanted to skip the warnings, you just hit fast-forward and they're over and done with. If you stop watching a movie
on an old VHS player, and eject the tape, it just starts where it left off when you put it back in. What a great concept.
Some DVD players attempt to do that these days, but most don't, so you're forced to watch the intro and the FBI threat time after time. On top of that, you then have to navigate your way through the menu, through the chapter selection, and each one of these offers you with very little control. For example, at the menu, you have to listen to the menu music or watch the pre-menu video before you can even start selecting options on the menu. I think this structure of the DVD is exactly what the movie studios like. They like to have control and to force you into experiencing their content in a certain way. This is how they can force you to watch the FBI warnings or force you to watch previews you'd much rather just skip.
Deaf to consumers' needs
The movie studios have really missed the boat in understanding what users want and what users are willing to buy. For example, the studios have long fought the idea of people being able to download movies and watch them on their computers in their homes. Of course, recently, some studios have been experimenting with it, but why didn't they do this three or four years ago? The answer is because they didn't want to have anything to do with movie downloading. They didn't recognize the future was changing and they didn't want to change their business models in order to fit in with that future.
The movie studios would much rather see us all stuck in 1984. They really don't want anyone to have the capability to copy, duplicate, distribute, share or otherwise exploit digital content, even if it is just for their own personal purposes. For example, studios don't like you copying movies to your portable media players, PSPs or iPods. As a result, they're losing out on billions of dollars of revenue. Let's face it: I'm not the only one who would be willing to pay for downloadable movies as long as the process was fairly straightforward and they didn't treat me like a criminal from the get-go.
Movie, recording and even audio book industries missed the boat as far as customer satisfaction
In a similar vein, there is an audio book company called Audible.com
, and this company has missed the boat, as well. They offer downloadable books only in their proprietary format, and if you don't like this format, you can burn their books to a CD using their software and then you can rip this CD to an MP3 file so you can listen to these audio books
on your MP3 player. It's a lot of work to go through, and you're forced to go through it because they won't let you download MP3 files of their books. Why don't they just make files available in MP3 format?
They say they have to protect the intellectual property of their books. When the workaround is not exactly rocket science, don't you think the pirates might have figured that out, too? Really, all this copy protection does at audible.com is inconvenience the paying users, which is why I'm no longer a member of the service. I want books in mp3 format so I can listen to them on my iRiver device or my iPod. I don't want to have to use special syncing software or the special audible.com proprietary audio format, and I don't want to be treated like a criminal if I rip that audio to a format that I can actually carry with me when I'm traveling.
Audible.com just doesn't get it. The movie studios don't get it either, and companies like Sony BMG definitely do not get it. This is the digital age, and content owners would be well advised to stop investing so much effort in treating their paying customers like criminals. Like a lot of customers, I have no problem whatsoever paying for downloadable videos, music or audio books, as long as I can move those files to my laptop, portable media device or mp3 player.
If I'm going to pay for content, I want to actually be able to use it and not be imprisoned by some proprietary technology that assumes I'm a criminal. Think about it: How would you like it if every time you left a retail store, your bags were searched and you had to go through a metal detector? Does that seem excessive? Well, that's how the movie industry, music industry and even the audio book industry seems to treat people. They treat everyone like criminals, and in so doing, they inconvenience their best customers and kill the viability of their services.
Let's turn everyone into criminals!
Those same industries are working hard to pass new laws that make it illegal for you to make a recording of anything, even an analog recording. Let's say you are playing a Janet Jackson CD and you hit "record" on the tape recorder. You would be breaking the law. You could be thrown in prison as a felon for doing that. Or let's say that you were watching a movie on TV and you had an old VHS recording machine. Let's say you wanted to record the movie on the VHS tape, so you could watch it in your Winnebago while you are driving through the great American West. You could be imprisoned for years and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for doing that if these new laws become a reality.
The movie, music and audio book industries are out to turn their customers into criminals, as if we didn't already have a prison overpopulation problem. Imagine if everyone who had ever copied a piece of music or a snippet of video were actually put in prison? Frankly, I don't think there's a single online adult in this country who hasn't done that at one time or another. I've ripped music CDs to my computer so that I could listen to them on my iRiver device. If that makes me a felon, then it's a bad law. I've ripped DVD movies into "avi" files and the converted them to "mpeg4s" so I could watch them on my Playstation portable. If that makes me a criminal, then there's something wrong with our criminal justice system. I've paid for all this content; I bought the DVD. I paid for the music album; I just want to enjoy them on my own terms.
I think somebody should manufacture a DVD player that will actually allow you to fast-forward through all the garbage that movie studios put at the beginning of their DVDs. That would be a great DVD player. It could be called the "Total Control DVD Player." If anybody ever comes up with a product like that, please let me know. I'd like to publicize it.