Addicted to novelty since 2001

Engadget Interviews Darth Vader

Er, maybe he’s the Emperor. Regardless, here’s an interesting interview with outgoing (after 38 years!) MPAA president Jack Valenti. In response to a question about being anti-technology, he says:

I have said, technology is what causes the problem, and technology will be the salvation of the problem. I really do believe we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it. In time, we’ll be able to do this, because I have great faith in the technological genius that’s out there.

Later, he adds “we’re trying to put in place technological magic that can combat the technological magic that allows thievery”. You foolish, foolish man. The usual critique about irritating customers with DRM aside, this way lies madness.

I hate to get all Santayana, but the MPAA really ought to study the last 30 years of technological innovation. In short, the hackers always win. Additionally, the more desirable the information and the more loathed the target organization, the more hackers will hack and the easier it will be for the average consumer to reap the benefits. Since the popularization of personal computing, I can’t think of a single example where hackers have failed to access something that they wanted. Anybody got one?

In fact, forget about hackers. The MPAA ought to consider how technology has largely failed to resolve the spam issue. Yes, spam blockers have gotten better (and, along the way, created a host of other problems), but so too have the spammers.

I’m not sure what the MPAA should do to address the piracy issue, and even if it’s a meaningful issue (in terms of lost revenue) at all. However, placing their faith in technology is going to get them a bunch of irritated customers, a wad of wasted money and little else.

UPDATE: Via BoingBoing, we find this post with some more analysis of the interview.

2 Responses to “Engadget Interviews Darth Vader”

  1. 'nee

    The MPAA still doesn’t understand video piracy, let alone the axiom that if technology can be engineered, it can necessarily be reverse engineered. I don’t even think they know why people pirate videos at all; these are the same guys who think that raising the price of a movie ticket will combat their losses from falling attendance… that stops them from feeling the results, but doesn’t actually fix the problem. Same mentality here. Who’s the incoming president? Does he at least have two clues to rub together?

  2. Derek

    Many industry and artist organizations, from the MPAA and RIAA to the American Federation of Musicians (of which I’m a member) have long records of trying to hold onto old business models, preferring old technologies over new ones: local live performance over recordings, theatre over movies, sheet music over broadcasting, movies in theatres over videotapes, CDs over MP3s, full orchestras over synthesizers and samplers.

    What they consistently miss is that the new technologies usually permit newer, different, better, and more revenue-generating business models to emerge.

    To take one example, would the music industry be as large as it has been if sheet music had been kept as its major source of revenue? On the other end of the 20th century, might it have been making _more_ money by now if Napster had been kept just as it was, but on a cheap all-you-can eat subscription model, perhaps with the enticement of album art, lyrics, and actual search that worked as an enticement?

    We won’t know, but these organizations’ consistency in opposing new technologies, and their failure in imposing their will on their customers, tells me that they’re likely to fail this time too. And good for us if they do.

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