Warner Bros Goes P2P via Bit Torrent



Does Warner Brothers honestly think we’re going to pay $20 for
a write-once DVD viewable only on our computers?

I hope not, because if it does,
its plan to sell movies and television shows online using BitTorrent’s
peer-to-peer system is truly wrongheaded. This morning the studio, which has
been fighting a bitter battle against file-sharing networks, announced
a plan that on the surface appears to be a forward-thinking adaptation of a new
distribution system

"We’ve been struggling with peer-to-peer technology and
trying to figure out a way to harness the good in all that the technology allows
us to do," Kevin
Tsujihara, president of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group, told the New
York Times
. "If we can convert 5, 10 or 15 percent of the illegal
downloaders into consumers of our product, that is significant." It certainly
would be.

But I can’t imagine Warner will ever achieve conversion rates like
that if the Torrented movies are  priced 
the same as a shrink-wrapped DVD
, yet be encumbered
with a robust copy protection
that allows them to be viewed only on the
computer to which they are downloaded. Leave it to Hollywood to "embrace"
peer-to-peer distribution and all the economies and efficiencies that go along
with it and then ruin it by using it to peddle an inferior and overpriced

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Blissex commented on May 12

    I suspect this is driven by lawyers, not by the hope of making sales — if they show a court that illegal downloaders were offered the opportunity to buy, they can make a much better case against them.

    Movie companies know full well that services like iTunes thrive on being cheap before anything else, this is what leads me to suspect that they are not aiming for sales, just for a benchmark.

  2. anonimouse commented on May 12

    Robust copy protection? That old lie again? Give me a break!

    If there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that no copy protection scheme is robust. If nothing else, the audio and video can be copied when the file is played on a computer.

  3. Blissex commented on May 12

    «”If we can convert 5, 10 or 15 percent of the illegal downloaders into consumers of our product, that is significant.” It certainly would be.»

    I disagree with “It certainly would be”. There is no indication that illegal downloads significantly reduce sales of content. Downloads are often done by either people who leave in countries where copyrights are weaker, or by people who could not afford to buy anyhow.

    Indeed there are studies that show that a lot of the heaviest ”pirates” are pack rats, and don’t actually view or listen to the content they download, they just act as collectors, a bit obsessive.

    This is surely something an economist would understand: if the price of something is near zero, it will be overconsumed and wasted. ”I’ll download that movie just in case”…

    The big problem with the content industry is not piracy, it is that viewing/listening to content has to happen in real time, that is: there are only so many hours in the day, so one form of content can displace other forms of content; another problem is that content is not essential like food, so it can be highly sensitive to price.

    For example in the past 5-10 years there have been a number of trends that have changed markets for content a lot:

    * Many workers have lost their jobs, and/or their disposable incomes have shrunk.

    * Many workers work ever longer hours.

    * Video DVDs have enjoyed a huge sales and rental boom, this is going to crowd out music content.

    * Video game consoles have become ever more popular, and many players spend 20-30 hours with each game they buy.

    * Online persistent games have gone from 250,000 to 7,000,000 registered players in a few years, many/most of which spend 20 house per week on them (this for example has likely severely impact sales of non online video games in the past year).

    What the music and video content (and offline games) industry seems to be doing to me is to try to find excuses for not being able to hold the interest of its customers, and to at least get stronger monopoly protections to protect it as it declines.

  4. KirkH commented on May 17

    P2P is a means to an end for people who pirate content. They’re not going to suddenly stop pilfering simply because they love BitTorrent.

    This is just bizzare. In fact BitTorrent will save studios bandwidth so it comes across as a lame attempt to save money (bandwidth charges) while sounding cool.

    Imagine if BestBuy started giving away baggy clothes at the door that you could use to bring merchandise to the checkout stand in a bid to convert shoplifters into shoppers. It’s just a stupid idea.

  5. Big Red commented on Dec 9

    I wholeheartedly agree. I for one only look for classics that I know I have absolutely no chance of finding anywhere, or simply do not have the time to look for (eg could anybody be bothered looking for a copy of “Sleuth” or “Let’s Kill Uncle” anywhere other than torrents?) I have two children and a full time job, so have neither the time or resources to bother looking anywhere else. If I find it I’ll download it, and be very happy to have found it, but if I don’t find it I WILL NOT look elsewhere. I imagine that many torrent downloaders are like myself, ergo that any plans to charge for these movies (unless it could somehow be for about $5 a copy and with 100% guarantee that I was getting a quality product) is an absolute waste of time.

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