Saturday, May 07, 2005

Stupid-assed control-freak media companies

I was originally going to post this on [my other blog, which is no longer active], but then I realized it's related to an important political issue that is truly dear to my heart: intellectual property.

A while back, Glenn H on posted a link to a trailer for the upcoming movie Serenity. Tonight, I finally remembered to actually watch it, and midway through, I decided it rated highly enough on the coolness scale to actually be worth saving. Since the trailer is a Quicktime movie embedded into a webpage, there is no way to save it via contextual menu (not in this browser, at least), so I pulled up a source code window for that page to find the actual URL of the trailer. I found it, pasted it into the address bar of my browser, and then chose "Save Page As" from the file menu.

I've used this method before with embedded media and it usually works pretty well. In this case, however, what I ended up with was a Quicktime movie icon on my desktop that, when double clicked, resulted in an error message. I forget precisely what the message was, but it was obvious what the real problem was: This trailer was copy protected. Or, maybe, the trailer itself was hidden somehow and the URL I found was only the first step in actually accessing it. Who knows.

I can understand the need for this sort of thing, what with big copyright owners shitting their pants on a regular basis over all the "piracy" that goes on over the internet. Copyrighted material is, according to the law, their property, so they are within their legal rights to protect it. But in this case I really have to wonder which lawyer had his head stuck so firmly up his ass. This clip I was trying to save is a trailer. An advertisement.

Suppose I had succeeded in saving a copy for myself? What would I do with it? There are three possibilities:

1) I might never watch it again, and at some point delete it from my hard drive. In this case, who cares whether I downloaded it in the first place?
2) I might keep it indefinitely, and watch it. This would very likely have the effect of reminding me of the movie, making it that much more likely that I'll see it in the theater. Possibly several times, if I get really fired up over it. Moreover, if I have it on my hard drive, it is far more accessible to me than if it's located at some very obscure URL on the Apple Computer website. I'm far more likely to see it again if I have my own saved copy than if I don't.
3) I might show it to other people, or upload it to some other internet location, in which case other people will end up obtaining it and watching it themselves. This will likely have the effect of increasing their interest in seeing the movie, too.

So the worst case scenario is that saving my own copy of the trailer has no effect on anything at all, and the more likely probability is that it will actually increase the trailer's effectiveness as an advertisement. By refusing to allow me to save a copy, the people who own this advertisement are undermining sales of their own product (namely, the movie Serenity).

However, far be it from me to presume to understand the lofty thought processes of corporate intellectual property hawks.


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