Freedom Works on Hollywood vs. Consumers

The good folks at Freedom Works issued a report (PDF) last week on the RealDVD issue that I wanted to bring to your attention.  It is a handy summary of the issues and clearly lays out the case that this lawsuit is a counter-productive and anti-consumer action by the big Hollywood studios.

Here is the executive summary:

Fighting a slump in DVD revenues and a rapidly changing marketplace, the motion picture studios recently filed a lawsuit to ban RealDVD, new software that allows consumers to make a single backup copy of DVDs they have legally purchased to the hard-drive of their computer. While doing little to quell illegal DVD piracy (one cannot use RealDVD to burn movies onto a disc or load movies onto the web), banning new products will impose substantial new limitations on consumers and their use of the DVDs they purchase.

Should the motion picture industry succeed with their lawsuit, which will be heard later this week in a Federal courtroom in San Francisco, consumers will lose fair use rights that have been carefully defined and protected by the courts. Banning new products such as RealDVD will also hamper competition and technological innovation in one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy.

The report makes the case that RealDVD is:

  • legal
  • something consumers want
  • not intended for nor useful for piracy
  • would likely lead to increased demand for DVDs at a time when demand is slowing

They also make clear that this is not simply an industry protecting their legal rights and fighting illegal piracy:

The studios, in essence, are asserting an exclusive claim not
just to the creative content they provide, but to the technologies used by consumers to view DVDs, something that goes far beyond their copyright protection to spur innovation. More accurately, the major studios are in a struggle to protect fading revenue streams and are failing to embrace new revenue streams being created through innovation.

As one commenter noted, “Effectively, the Big Content players believe that they own their industries, and innovation should come from the top down through the paths that they choose. Thus, these sorts of lawsuits will continue until the management of these firms recognize that innovation is a bottom-up phenomenon. Or, the big firms go out of business. Whichever comes first.”

As I have noted before, if you care about innovation and consumer access to technology you should be watching this case.  Hearings opened Friday in San Fransisco.