How Do We Get To Fair? The Video Industry and Tech Change

On Friday night, my son and his friend wanted to watch either Thor or Captain America. We don’t have cable, but I’m hooked up with iTunes and Amazon. All I wanted to do was rent one of them. But I couldn’t. I could not. I could only buy them. I was dying to give them $5, but it wasn’t available. So, either I have to have Netflix, find a video store (do those even exist any more?).

This past week, leaders in the tech industry have been giving talks at the All Things D conference. There is always a lot of interesting stuff going on there. But this year, William Morris CEO Ari Emanuel—brother to Chicago Mayor/Ex-White House Chief of Staff Rham Emanuel—stole the show by essentially blaming the tech industry for video piracy. Google and others, he argued, don’t really try to filter web results to take off pirated video. This, despite news that Google processed more than 200,000 takedown notices from NBC Universal last month alone. In the process, Emanuel reamed the influential reporter/Verge founder Josh Topolsky, seemingly without any idea who he was.

As you might expect, there has been lots of coverage of and response to Emanuel. I am not a huge fan of Techdirt because it tends to be pretty sensationalist, but Mike Masnik’s piece Dear Ari Emanuel: We’re All Meeting On The Internet, Come Join Us makes a lot of great points. One good one: why is it silicon valley’s duty to spend their time policing piracy rather than, ya’ know, making stuff they want to make? Shouldn’t the movie industry do that itself? Another good one: the video industry needs to learn from the recording industry. The RIAA fought what people wanted and lost for years. Finally, though, they have worked to embrace new technologies—and the new business models that go along with them—and things are finally looking up for them.

I’m all for commutative justice; people need to get compensated for the work they do. At the same time, that compensation needs to be fair. And let’s be honest $15 is too much for a movie I’ll watch only one time. Seriously. Just like a hundred bucks a month is ridiculous for cable.

According to Masnick, the bottom line is that Emanuel and the video industry just don’t get it.

After not being able to figure out a convenient, legal way to rent a movie for his kid online, I find it hard to disagree.

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