Supreme Court, Grockster and my dreams

Posted: June 27, 2005 in Computing, General, Movies/TV/Music

Maybe you’ve read about the Supreme Court handing down the unanimous ruling against Grockster. If you haven’t heard about this the short and the sweet version is that the Supreme Court believes that since Grockster came up with an “open” version of Napster, and that Napster was shown as being created specifically for trading copyrighted material, that Grockster also was illegal. More importantly, the creator of the software was libel for what the users did with their software.

To be honest this whole thing really won’t make a lick of difference. This ruling (from what I understand) doesn’t rule that any P2P technology is libel, just those that are used primarily for trading copyrighted data. The suggestion is that as long as there is a disclaimer from the software creators that their system is not to be used for trading illegal file, that they are safe.

In the almost five years since Napster, things have changed. Almost 1/2 of home users now have broadband access, for these users even trading gigabytes of data isn’t unheard of. This means that now it’s not just the recording industry that has to worry, but TV/Movie production companies have to worry. The question is what have they done about it? Have they seen the writing on the wall? Are they going to do something to make it easier to download a movie than to steal it? Have they looked at the success (?*) of Apple’s iTunes music store and decided to open that door?

Okay, so maybe I’m a dreamer, but the other interesting news is that Apple will make some kind of an announcement on July 7th. Now this could be anything as unexciting as introducing iTunes 4.9 with Pod-casting, to something a bit bigger such as new generations of iPods. As a dreamer I’m hoping for something more.

Apple has proven that selling music online can work. Maybe, perchance, Jobs has had a meeting of the minds with some of the major production companies and on July 7th Apple is doing for movies what they’ve done for music. Not only that, but this could be a bigger success than the music store. Why? because they can offer users something that even the iTunes music store doesn’t offer. Super high resolution media. I’m talking about movies at 2x or 3x the resolution of DVD, with the whole HD DVD format war about to begin, Apple is poised for a windfall. If they act now.

I complained earlier about questionable usability and feature creep into iTunes (i.e. movies and PDF documents appearing in playlists). iTunes is not a media player, neither is the QuickTime movie player. So apple needs a reasonable media player, not to replace iTunes, but to work in conjunction with it. Apple designers are smart, they can come up with something to meld these technologies into something cool, and free iTunes from any further creep.

In addition, Apple needs to have hardware to support their new movie store. This means, an update for any iPod photos to playback versions of the movies, but more importantly an updated Airport Express (Pro?) that allows streaming (and control) of movies to your TV set.

Of course the last important parts of the equation are price and selection. What is a reasonable price? And as with iTunes, we need a good sized library to choose from, with a multitude of older titles released weekly.

I’m probably being unrealistic here, but who knows, but if the movie companies have taken a good long look at the file-sharing community, they know that they have to act quickly before they too have to fight that uphill battle against (major) illegal P2P file-sharing.

*I question the success because the number of illegal trades still outnumber the number of legal purchases something like 8:1.


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