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After watching the first presidential debate, one person on that stage clearly showcased the leadership, focus and bipartisan attitude the U.S. needs to turn itself around. Unfortunately, Jim Lehrer isn't actually running, so it didn't help my own decision process much, and I remain decisively undecided at the moment. In watching the bailout last week, it became clear that tech is clearly at risk, and I was struck by the reality that were the U.S. a company, the CEO, CFO and chairman of the board (Speaker of the House) would likely have all been, and should have been, fired.
Rob, once again the government is collaborating with industry to craft a band-aid (DRM) rather than letting the industry find a viable long-term solution, to address piracy.
One must ask oneself why piracy exists. It exists because many people don't want to pay [as much] for digital content. But why? Because the recording industry and Hollywood have slowly made their digital content too expensive in the eyes of consumers. Seriously, new movies for $23.99 and new CDs for $16.99? Even when discounted to as little as $13.99 and $9.99, consumers simply do not want to pay that much for the content. There are those who will pirate content regardless the price, and those who might otherwise buy the content if the price were "more reasonable".
I look to Half.com, eBay, and iTunes as just three examples of the willingness of consumers in the primary and secondary markets to pay for digital content at more reasonable prices. I buy much of my digital content "used" on the secondary market. Frankly, why should we pay retail? You can be sure that the drop in CD/DVD sales isn't entirely due to piracy. A large chunk of it is due to people like me who buy digital content from those who have already purchased it retail.
Hollywood and the RIAA have been reluctant to reset their expectations. The industries know they have priced themselves out of their own markets and they seem to believe bullying/forcing consumers to pay for the content is the answer. Studios and artists continue to demand incomes and profits out of line with what the market will now bear. And advertising budgets have gone berserk.
And I would argue that the very same problem affects [or will soon affect] other forms of entertainment as well - specifically sports. Exorbitant salaries and profits have translated into virtually unaffordable gate fees. Certainly many fans continued to pay the fees when times were good. Let's see what happens now when the fans have less disposable income and must choose between necessities and tickets and concessions. There was a time when baseball was more accessible to its fans.
I offer a solution that these industries are, today, unwilling to accept. Reset expectations: smaller margins, less paid-for advertising, lower salaries, lower movie budgets (and yes that means putting pressure on the suppliers to lower their costs as well). Offer $5-10 DVDs and CDs and $0.99 songs. Half and eBay and iTunes continue to demonstrate the viability of these pricing models.
And ask yourself why you should pay so much more for entertainment. A U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who is responsible for making decisions that affect the 300+ million citizens of this country, currently earns approximately $208,000 per year. Judge Judy, an ex-Manhatten judge turned television celebrity who decides if your ex-girlfriend should return your coffeemaker and pay her portion of the $600 cellular bill, by comparison makes more than $30 million per year with a contract through 2012. Do we not see something wrong with the entertainment industry? Is it not out-of-whack with reality? How did we allow ourselves to get here?
Vote with your eyes, ears and wallet. Force the entertainment machine to take a long hard look at itself. I believe DRM technologies would become less relevant, piracy less prevalent, and attendance much higher if only the industries would make entertainment affordable once again.