If you're at all interested in copyright, the movie industry, BitTorrent, or Bram Cohen (its creator), I recommend reading The BitTorrent Effect from the January 2005 issue of Wired.

Here are two excerpts that I enjoyed:

Cohen knows the havoc he has wrought. In November, he spoke at a Los Angeles awards show and conference organized by Billboard, the weekly paper of the music business. After hobnobbing with "content people" from the record and movie industries, he realized that "the content people have no clue. I mean, no clue. The cost of bandwidth is going down to nothing. And the size of hard drives is getting so big, and they're so cheap, that pretty soon you'll have every song you own on one hard drive. The content distribution industry is going to evaporate." Cohen said as much at the conference's panel discussion on file-sharing. The audience sat in a stunned silence, their mouths agape at Cohen's audacity.

That makes me really wonder about that so-called industry. How can they not see it changing before their eyes? Do they not know about their own kids downloading music and movies on-line? I guess they're just too locked in to their way of seeing the world. Like Ricky Fitts says in American Beauty, "Never underestimate the power of denial."

What exactly would a next-generation broadcaster look like? The VCs at Union Square Ventures don't know, though they'd love to invest in one. They suspect the network of the future will resemble Yahoo! or Amazon.com - an aggregator that finds shows, distributes them in P2P video torrents, and sells ads or subscriptions to its portal. The real value of the so-called BitTorrent broadcaster would be in highlighting the good stuff, much as the collaborative filtering of Amazon and TiVo helps people pick good material. Eric Garland, CEO of the P2P analysis firm BigChampagne, says, "the real work isn't acquisition. It's good, reliable filtering. We'll have more video than we'll know what to do with. A next-gen broadcaster will say, 'Look, there are 2,500 shows out there, but here are the few that you're really going to like.' We'll be willing to pay someone to hold back the tide."

Not enough people have been thinking about Television 2.0. Will it be the traditional broadcasters or the Internet companies who take the lead? My bet is on the Internet companies.

Posted by jzawodn at January 02, 2005 11:07 AM

Reader Comments
# Gregg said:

I really enjoyed that article as well. It is amazing at how clueless the content people are. Even I'm aware of the changes that will be coming down and I have no background in that industry! I wonder what brings that ignorance, perhaps it's just that people in that business have grown so used to the way things are that they have become arrogant.

on January 2, 2005 11:34 AM
# Greg K. said:

Um, what? Sounds like Bram and Wired are clueless. The MPAA has been causing many of the top bit torrent sites to shut down.

on January 2, 2005 11:59 AM
# Tristan said:

Funny, I was thinking about that today after doing some reading on MythTV.

Content providers could so easily set up a site with show / movie previews to be distributed via bittorrent.
Each entry could have a link to a torrent for the preview, and to the torrent of a DRM protected file containing the whole show.

Opening the DRM protected file would simply take you to a page where you get to enter you credit card details to get authorised to view the content.
Once you buy your right to get access to say, the whole season of the Simpsons, you could just setup your next generation RSS reader to get the shows as soon as they are released.

The funniest thing is that the technology for all that stuff already exists. Some porn sites are already using P2P networks to distribute DRM protected files, and the latest beta of NetNewsWire does a fine job dowloading enclosures.

If they wanted to build a system like that, they could have a beta up and running in a week.

Provided there's enough free content to make things interesting, they'd have no problem convincing the major players to integrate plugins into their DVRs.

on January 2, 2005 12:00 PM
# tankko said:

And who is going to pay for the production of all this content? An episode of a high-end TV drama (like Law and Order) cost $5M per episode. People have come to expect that kind of quality.

I develop web games for companies like Yahoo and Real networks. They pay around $30K for a game, plus back end. Trust me, these companies don't get it either. I have tried and tried to get them to understand building higher quality, deeper games and funding them with advertisements, etc, but they just stare and say "That's not a market".

They are completely unwilling to invest any money in content. So who is going to pay the $5M for these high quality TV 2.0 episodes?

Right now, the TV networks pay for them. So, I would expect Yahoo to pay for them. But they won't. They don't get it any more than the TV people get the change that is happening.

on January 2, 2005 01:30 PM
# Andrew Ducker said:

I currently pay for Napster. I'll happily pay for my TV - hell I _do_ pay for my TV via my cable subscriptions. Give it to me on demand and I'm sooo there.

The main problem with P2P is finding it in the first place - give me a single point of reference and I'll be downloading from that, even if I have to pay - my time is certainly worth that much.

on January 2, 2005 03:19 PM
# Adam Fields said:

Well, for one thing, DRM is a completely failed technology. DRM has never, not once, not in any documented instance, prevented a piece of content from being distributed illegally. It is a tool of content usage enforcement, not copy protection.

I've written an extended rant about this:


High budgets may be "required" for quality content, but that doesn't change the fact that content companies are going to have to get used to a world in which they can't force anyone to pay for their creations - the tradeoffs are just too high.

I've also written a long piece (with lots of good comments) on why BitTorrent is just the beginning of the problem for the content creation companies.


on January 2, 2005 06:49 PM
# Charles said:

I already have every song I own on a hard drive. Pretty soon storage will be so cheap, you could have every song EVER RECORDED on a hard drive.

on January 3, 2005 01:26 AM
# goosmurf said:

I wonder whether its that "they don't get it" or that they choose not to get it. These companies have existing revenue streams to protect, and its difficult to estimate the true revenue potential of new technologies. Couple that with a culture of job hopping which discourages risk taking - do your 2 or 3 years, collect decent pay cheque and move on, don't rock the boat - and you begin to understand the lack of motivation.

on January 3, 2005 02:38 AM
# david said:

Charles: That and compression technology will get progressively better..

Jeremy: Read this one yet? http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.01/topsite.html

on January 3, 2005 02:41 AM
# Tristan said:


While I agree DRM fails at protecting content against people who are motivated to break the DRM, Apple's iTunes DRM is a great examples of fairly non disruptive DRM.
The fact it allows me to do pretty much whatever I want with the music I pay for removes all the motivation I would otherwise have to break free of the DRM.

A similar kind of DRM on videos would probably have a similar effect on my usage. If I can get the show I want to see for a few bucks, at the quality I'm expecting, I'd have absolutely no reasons to spend any time trying to find an illegal (probably lousy) copy of that show.

I'm sure the majority of people are like me in that regard, give us what we're willing to pay for and we'll be happy.

The major problem the content companies are facing is the fact that you can now buy devices which do an awful of things, except that in order to be able to use them, you have to break the law. Once you've spent a couple of hours figuring how to rip your DVD collection in order to be able to put them on your fancy new portable media player, you'll have learnt an awful lot about divx (and the fact you can get a ton of them on P2P networks).

on January 3, 2005 05:26 AM
# Nick Arnett said:

Media companies -- especially recorded music -- have had this attitude for a long time. They've kept tight control of distribution via control of intellectual property, they know that's where their wealth and power comes from, so they've consistently resisted new distribution technologies. My eyes were opened to this when I wrote about Personics for Rolling Stone back around 1988. That was a startup that would make custom cassette tapes at high speed inside of record stores. Consumers loved it, by almost any measure, but the record companies, who were very reluctant to even try it, still wouldn't go for it. The founder of Personics (a lawyer by education) suggested that it would make sense to create a compulsory license for distributing recorded music, with one or more clearinghouses similar to BMI and ASCAP, as a way to open the door to new technology and end what he saw as misuse of intellectual property law. Instead, we seem to have been going the opposite direction, which says a lot about the power of media companies, of course.

on January 3, 2005 08:06 AM
# Adam Fields said:

Tristan -

You say "Apple's iTunes DRM is a great examples of fairly non disruptive DRM."

But that's an illusion, and pure chance that they haven't yet hit on removing something you want to do.

In reality, it works differently. There have been several documented cases of Apple rolling out "upgrades" with reduced functionality. The point I'm trying to make is that DRM cannot give these companies any power whatsoever to prevent copying unless it gets a whole lot more restrictive in a way that actually destroys every other computing industry. Stop and think about that for a second. Then what's the point? Why are they spending so much effort and money? There's only one thing that DRM is good for - restricting how and when legitimate users can use the content for which they've paid.

My secondary point is that the retail transaction that takes place has, largely because of these issues, morphed from something that most people recognize as a "sale" into a complicated licensing agreement where consumers are handing over their money without really realizing that they're not "buying" anything, they're renting, but they amount of money is the same or more than when they used to be buying.

This shift has been entirely driven by the content owners, and it doesn't benefit the consumer.

on January 3, 2005 08:07 AM
# Adam Fields said:

Also, it occurred to me in the previous comment that I didn't explain why I have the opinion that DRM can't work without destroying general computing.

I've written a longish blog piece about this:


on January 3, 2005 08:15 AM
# Liam Corren said:

This is already happening...check this link out

on January 3, 2005 12:46 PM
# Manny Hernandez said:

I am visiting your blog for the first time today (we met at the SES conf. back in Chicago in mid-december). Liked what I found. Added your blog to My Yahoo!

What do I find you blogging about? Precisely what I was reading about last night. Great article in Wired, indeed... Couldn't stop reading it. I thought it was kinda funny this guy from the media mentioned in the article something along the lines of 10 years being the time it'd take for widespread adoption of something like BitTorrent... don't people learn? I remember back in 2000 not enough people knew about Napster... then lawsuits came and went, and before you knew it, other players were around and Kazaa became a household name. In how long? 2 years perhaps? So, I think networks may not be realizing that a full-speed train is heading their way much faster than they assume.

on January 3, 2005 07:30 PM
# Gregg said:

In response to Greg K.: The MPAA is esentially the legal firm for the movie industry. They're doing exactly what they're paid to do. You wouldn't want a lawyer to take a retainer from you and then sit around and do nothing would you? When I say they have no clue, it's more about their reluctance (or ignorance) in embracing new distribution methods, technologies, etc.

on January 3, 2005 09:33 PM
# Dimitar Vesselinov said:
on January 4, 2005 12:52 PM
# ivar vasara said:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is making a decent stab at TV2.0 - checkout http://zed.cbc.ca
The online presence is impressive (several webby nominations) with gobs of free content.

on January 5, 2005 06:57 AM
# Brett G. said:

DRM, MPAA, and RIAA are a waste of time. The only real way for the movie / music industry to remain is to invest in DVD like technology or thumb drive that can store vast amounts of data. I don't care how good the content is no ones going to download a 400GB file. Even if some one developed a way to cut that size in half it would still be to big. When broadband makes this file size feasible to download just double the size again. File size is the only way to stop people from distributing your content on a mass scale.
It also will not aggravate the chocolate out of the paying customer.

on January 5, 2005 12:44 PM
# goosmurf said:

Brett G, that doesn't make any sense at all.

Experience shows that when DVD was too big to transport across the intarweb they were shrunk using DivX, Xvid, WMV, RealVideo and other codecs. There are good enough codecs available and there isn't enough content or quality that you can add to produce a 400 GB file.

IMO the way to fight piracy is to make it not worth the effort. i.e. make the legal alternative so convenient and/or cheap.

on January 6, 2005 09:01 PM
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