I attended a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago of a movie that was released last week. The movie title isn’t terribly important–it was a ho-hum flick that no one will remember in six months–but the measures, well, they gave credence to a comment I made recently in a conversation.
When my girlfriend said the United States is a free country, I said that at least when it comes to copyright, it’s not.How ridiculous have things become? Let me tell you. There were four security guards as we stood in line. Cell phones, pagers, and all other recording devices had to be turned off. My girlfriend got special permission for her insulin pump. She had to tell them that no, she couldn’t do without it. Yes, really. Why? If something lights up, the thugs are instructed to assume it’s a recording device and evict you, no questions asked.
"Disney wants you to talk about this movie," the head thug said. "But Disney is equally concerned that nobody makes a copy of it."
Judging from the quality of the film, they’re more concerned about people copying their stuff than they are about making good new stuff. No wonder Disney’s in financial trouble. (The most frustrating thing about this particular film was that it probably could have been pretty good but it was blatantly obvious that the screenwriters didn’t know anything about the world they were trying to portray.)
Once we were seated, when someone came back from the concession stand, I so wanted to ask the person, "You sure there isn’t a recording device hidden in that hot dog?" But I couldn’t remember if they’d told us recording device jokes would not be tolerated–kind of like bomb jokes while standing in line to get on an airplane. I assumed they wouldn’t be tolerated and kept my mouth shut.
This totalitarian atmosphere has a lot to do with what’s wrong today with the music and movie industries. They love pay-per-view because they can control it. You have to fork over a few bucks every time you watch the movie. They’ve made two attempts at disposable DVDs because, again, their lifespan is limited. If you want to watch it again after the disc has self-destructed, you have to pay again.
You think they’re going after 321 Studios just because they don’t want people pirating DVDs? Think again. DVDs do have a finite lifespan, which does give you a legitimate reason to make a copy for your personal use. DVDXCopy is coded to only allow you to make a copy for personal use, though I suppose you could use it to make a copy of a borrowed or rented DVD. What you won’t see is people hawking DVDXCopy-made counterfeits out of the back of a van parked on a busy city street. But that’s OK. Hollywood doesn’t want you to make a copy of your Field of Dreams DVD because they want you to buy another one in six or seven years.
The way the big movie studios got big was by making great films that people wanted to see again and again. Along the way they made lots of bombs too, but that was part of the cost of doing business. Some films took a while to be appreciated–It’s a Wonderful Life being a prime example. Even though now it’s considered a classic, it was initially a flop.
And there are plenty of good films still being made. Time will tell on Secondhand Lions, for instance, but I loved it.
Being a somewhat creative person myself, I can sympathize with these companies. Making something good is hard. Making something that sells is hard. Making something good that sells both today and tomorrow is just about impossible. Even when you have thousands of people working for you, you can’t count on accomplishing that feat even once a year. The factors are beyond your control.
When the goal is increasing profits, it’s much cheaper and easier to buy a few Congressmen and set up a totalitarian state. That’s something you can control.