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9/23/2002
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Hollywood, IT Have Common Goals

The two industries may have differing views on matters such as copy-control technologies, but MPAA head Jack Valenti says both sides need to work together to overcome the barriers keeping films from being distributed over the Internet.

Hollywood and the IT industry have differing philosophies about how to go about securely delivering films over the Internet, but they need each other. So said Jack Valenti, CEO at the Motion Picture Association of America, Monday during a session on Hollywood's digital transition at InformationWeek's Fall Conference in Tucson, Ariz.

Although the movie industry has lobbied federal legislators to pass the so-called Hollings Bill--which would require technology manufacturers to embed copy-control technologies in future products, an effort that many technology leaders oppose--Valenti insisted that there's no war between the two camps. Taking opposing sides, he said, would prevent both industries from taking advantage of what he described as a multibillion-dollar market opportunity to deliver films and other forms of rich media over the Web. "Going to war is not only a waste, but it never concludes the way you want," Valenti said.

The way Valenti sees it, both industries should focus on readying the Internet to deliver what consumers want: easy access to film libraries for a fair price. At the moment, Valenti argued, consumers are resisting the adoption of broadband connectivity because there's not enough content that requires broadband to justify the cost. And a solution isn't being sought quick enough, said Scott Dinsdale, executive VP of digital strategy for the MPAA, who joined Valenti during the session. While new technologies such as Microsoft's Palladium are intended to make PC-based Web transactions more secure, Dinsdale said the benefits would be realized too far down the line.

But IT leaders aren't going to be eager to move quickly until they're sure they'll get their fair share of whatever business model emerges, says M.S. Krishnan, associate professor of computer information systems at the University of Michigan Business School and a conference attendee. Krishnan says that when the now-defunct Napster shut down its file-sharing service last year, the university's Internet traffic plummeted 48%. His interpretation: There's no business model there yet, and it probably will take government intervention to make sure an equitable one is forged. Until that happens, Krishnan says, IT leaders aren't going to invest in copy-control technologies that don't offer them payback. "What they're saying is, 'I do the investment, and you make the money,'" he says. "Where is the business value?"

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