Hollywood is dying — good!

The guys who are used to $100, three-hour lunches and $10 million homes are horrified that new technology may require them to change the way they do business. That's the case with those companies involved in producing television programs and especially movies.
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Hollywood still doesn't get it, and the movie moguls are panicked! The guys who are used to $100, three-hour lunches and $10 million homes are horrified that new technology may require them to change the way they do business. That's the case with those companies involved in producing television programs and especially movies.

Under Hollywood's copyright plan, you would not be able to record a movie or television program at home and then take it with you. You couldn't record a TV program and then take it to Grandma's house or watch it in the car. Same thing applies to a CD. If you want to have a copy of Shania Twain's latest hit CD at home and in the car, Hollywood wants you to buy two CDs.

We consumers like (and expect) to be able to record, store and move content with us once we buy it. And “buy” means getting it over free TV, via paid cable or satellite, or from a DVD or CD. So yes, FOX, that means if I record “The Simpsons” for my kids, I expect to be able to play it in my car DVD player and at Grandma's house later without having to pay you again.

The latest copyright salvo was fired from Viacom (CBS) last month when the network threatened to withhold all HD programming unless the electronics industry agreed to its demand for a broadcast flag. The flag would allow the network to control home digital TV sets and recorders to prevent any recording or viewing on non-protected receivers. Another phrase for non-protected receivers is your digital HDTV set. In other words, you won't be able to record or view HDTV and other digital content without additional payments to these extortionists.

It's interesting that neither the CBS or Viacom Web site mentions the network's plans to withhold HDTV programs from affiliates. In fact, the Viacom Web site is replete with stories of how important and successful HDTV is for the CBS network. I suspect CBS affiliates may have a different viewpoint about HDTV programming than Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone. All of these efforts are merely window dressing on Hollywood's attempt to protect their outdated business model.

The bottom line is greed. Pure and simple. Viacom and Hollywood are playing “Chicken Little” — running around screaming that the digital sky is falling. This is the same thing we heard in the early 1980s when the movie companies said that Sony's Betamax and home recording would ruin the entire industry. It didn't happen then and it won't happen now, even with digital technology.

We're only two years away from an election. And while politicians love money more than life itself, they do pay attention to voters. When the general public finds that CBS or any other network is committing HDTV blackmail just to protect their “good old boy” system, there's going to be hell to pay. And if any other network or Hollywood mogul does the same, it will look like corporate collusion. Can you say Enron?

When Congress convenes, people like senators Tauzin and McCain may want to suggest Mr. Redstone appear before them to explain his HDTV threat. If I were him, I'd take my billions and retire first.

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