Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Broadband is the most important issue in digital distribution today

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The NY Times recently published an editorial pressing the great need to regulate broadband, under the auspices of the FCC. It’s true that broadband in the US is an embarrassment. But will regulation seek to fix the symptoms (i.e. regulate “Net Neutrality”) or is there political will to address the underlying problem- primarily, lack of competition? In Europe, the government enforced strong competition, leading to cheap, fast, competitive internet access for consumers. In the US, such enforcement has died along the way and as a result, there are monopolized, expensive, slow, and consumer-unfriendly options.

Artists, particularly media and film artists, are at the mercy of this system since control of bandwidth is one of the few legal, effective approaches corporate media owners have left to enforce monetization of their products. This is how people access our work. We should be doing more than just demanding regulation or change, we should be actively seeking alternatives to the current broadband bottleneck. (And if my experience is anything to go on, 3G/4G wireless is not the solution).

Free Culture, Free

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

You can watch the Free Culture X conference here live. The Twitter tag for the event is #fcx.

Is Neutral Free? The FCC recommends Net Neutrality

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Yesterday the FCC endorsed the Network Neutrality concept, which seems to be inspiring warm fuzzies all around the net-freedom-lovin’ community. I’m no expert on the legalities, but it seems intuitive that protecting the freedom of the internet would be a good thing. On the other hand, is regulation the right way to protect freedom?

If the web is allowed to go on unfettered, the argument goes, corporate interests will run rampant and take it over, just like my formerly gritty SoHo neighborhood. Get some cool stuff going on in that there internet and before you know it, the whole thing is a mall- a mall with mean security guards.

Such a scenario is not so implausible, and in the case of media, there does seem to be a strong possibility in my mind that service providers such as Comcast will partner with copyright holders like Disney and Warner Bros. to clamp down on the available means to access media except in proscribed and monetized ways.

In that regard, artists might be more interested in creating their own satellite network than trying to make semi-enforceable rules- for real. One of the main points of contention is that the network was publicly built, after all; perhaps that could be an interesting NEA project.

Bandwidth caps are one of the best ways for Comcast, Time Warner, etc. to keep a handle on what’s available on their network, and aren’t addressed by NN. A company is within their rights to expect people to pay more for greater usage. Net Neutrality will likely end the flat rate per-month broadband pricing for consumers. That may not a good thing for filmmakers marketing their films- people may become a lot more selective with what they are going to spend their bandwidth on.

The freedoms espoused in the Net Neutrality platform- and the ones added by the FCC- are awesome, theoretically. It’s a bit like a digital bill of rights. For my money (currently being flung around in Washington like rice at a wedding) I might take net neutrality, without regulation. It could be used for legal action but not be a reason for a bunch of regulators on retainer. Let the market control things in general, but individuals have recourse against egregious offenders. But his is probably not really feasible.

What are your thoughts on Net Neutrality? Do you think it’s good for content creators? Will it solve the problems you have with viewing/sharing media online?

The Politics of Broadband pt. 2: Net Neutrality

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

The main issue affecting the online video markets that has been addressed by both campaigns for President is Net Neutrality.  The question is whether regulation in necessary to protect consumers from providers who want to limit access based on usage, spending, and other factors at their discretion.

It’s clear that at least some freedom must exist for online film markets to thrive- as Dave Zatz points out, even a non-P2P user easily surpasses the basic plans Time Warner offers in his market (40GB/month).  The question is, won’t other providers emerge that offer more reasonable plans and thus be more successful in the marketplace (i.e. simple free market economics?)

One problem with this approach may be that the challenge of entering the marketplace may be very high, so it would not be a simple matter of offering broadband itself at a better price- when Time Warner offers also cable services which are not available to other companies, or when the infrastructure of offering broadband is still limited to pipes owned by TW (or to DSL).

Obama has pledged to support Net Neutrality legislation.  McCain opposes regulations.  As far as I can tell, neither candidate has really addressed the pitfalls of their positions- nor is this enough of a hot-button issue to get Campbell Brown to take on their lackeys and find out.

Some links of interest:

Obama on MTV talking Net Neutrality

Discussion of Net Neutrality from Radio 4

Article from Wired about Net Neutrality and internet TV

The Politics of Broadband

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Over at The Progress and Freedom Foundation, Adam Thierer has a few posts up related to the politics of the current regulations around new media dissemination- specifically with cable and DSL which remain the primary means of most people’s access.  The most relevant is a summary of a list made by Ted Hearn of Multichannel News of the travesties of FCC Chair Kevin Martin’s regime and his “war on cable.”  The list is pretty long, but some of the main problems with/for cable are less political (at least of a red-blue variety) than they are typical unwilling corporate adoption of technologies that are not obviously in short-term best interests.

One of the main issues on the list is Martin’s crusade to make cable a la carte. But he is just a little ahead of the market curve- with the increase in internet and VOD viewing, a la carte is going to be a consumer demand no matter what (why do you want to keep paying for those 50 channels you never watch if someone will provide you the option- on any platform- to just buy the channels you want)? That said, that such a thing would suggest a need for regulation speaks to the odd backwards-leaning mentality of cable.

In another example, non-proprietary technology such as true2way or the CableCARD might in the long run improve service in general (the premise being that open source technology has the potential to move more quickly and be more responsive than the mysterious voodoo stuff cable companies traditionally put in their boxes).  But it is understandable that cable companies like to maintain control- so people can’t “steal” cable and so they can charge fees for things and monitor what you watch, etc.  When revenue models are becoming increasingly polarized, cable/DSL/salelite companies want more control, not less.

‘What candidate would be better’ for the new world of online video seems like an almost fruitless question in its complexity- though I’d be curious about people’s responses. (It seems only Obama went to the Googleplex).  It somewhat depends on your perspective- as a rights holder, as a viewer, as a company trying to disseminate video online.  It isn’t straightforward.  Ideally things will get faster and cheaper and yet not filled with so much spam and poor-quality piracy that it’s not really worth wading through.  Ideally it will get cheaper and yet be a great place to make money.  Is that a red or a blue idea?

The politcs of reproduction

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Digital distribution isn’t just a quandary for filmmakers or “the industry”- politicians are worried about it too. Just how copyright law can be maintained, transformed, or judged gratuitous is something that the Congress is grappling with (though unsurprisingly, not in a very productive way).

Over at think tank Cato’s Unbound, which operates in a kind of debate format, Rasmus Fleischer has posted his argument as to why the entire Copyright law is superfluous, essentially because in the digital age, all media is so easy to copy that it is not possible to protect works from being duplicated without payment.

Though this leaves out the issue of protection of the original work entirely, even at a basic digital level it seems to me it is possible to imbue works with some kind of authorship, though it is clear that the ease of copying files makes it difficult to prevent duplication.

Technology-wise, there seems to be a plan afoot to imbue source files with a digital watermark- so that the files could still be copied but where they came from would be reflected in their DNA. While serious pirates might work to get around such marking, the average person would not probably object- especially if the cost involved was either not direct to the consumer or came as part of some kind of subscription-based plan (the days of individual-download pricing do seem numbered).

Filmmakers may not see the value in copyright anymore. As Fleischer suggests, many forward-thinking indie filmmakers are moving to a community model for distribution and making money, an “added value” experience for viewers who can participate in more than just watching a film. One problem is that without protections, other people can make money off your film too, and if their distribution network is already established, they may shut you out of your own release.

Tim Lee will be rebutting the article tomorrow at Cato Unbound. Stay tuned.