An open letter to the movie industry

I’m sure you’re familiar with the following quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” Well, let me ask you something, for how long now have you been trying to fight piracy by coming up with various DRM methods? How’s that going for you?

It boggles my mind that you fail to realize the basic folly of your approach - DRM doesn’t stop pirates, it only temporarily slows them down (if it did piracy would’ve been already gone, wouldn’t it). It does however permanently hurts the movie watching experience of legitimate users. This isn’t a new idea, it’s been said hundreds of times by hundreds of people, many of whom are smarter than you. So let me break it down for you yet again by the way of an example.

I’m a regular Joe user, a movie that I’d like to watch has just come out on BluRay. If I choose the legal way to get it then I have only one option - I have to go to the local store, which may very well be somewhere far, then pay $20 or more bucks for it, and then when I pop it into my player I have to wait another 2 or 3 minutes for all the warnings and logos to finish playing because I can’t skip to menu. Now, I don’t know about you but that’s not a very attractive experience. You want me to buy your product so you should be making my experience more pleasant, not less so - it’s pretty basic stuff.
So what about my digital options. Well, all the legal digital channels such as netflix won’t be getting the movie for another few weeks. On top of that if I decide to get it on say iTunes I won’t be able to play it on my Galaxy Nexus, and vice versa. And I still end up paying the same for it.

So now we come to the “illegal” option - torrent the movie. Despite all the various forms of DRM, it’s not hard to find a movie on torrents the day of its release. Moreover, if you know where to look you can find a 20-30GB 1080p rip of it, that’s almost indistinguishable from what you’d get if you bought a physical copy. Best part is, no warnings and no logos, just double-click the file and start watching the movie. Now that’s what I call a pleasant experience. You’re losing customers to piracy not because it's cheaper (though yes, that's a factor too) but mainly because it offers a more pleasant customer experience.

Right about now one of you is going to bring up the point that most users don’t in fact know what a torrent is, let alone where to find it. That’s a great point because you see, those people, the ones who don’t know what torrents are, they wouldn’t pirate the movie in any case, DRM or no DRM. On the other hand, the folks that do know about torrents, the ones you’re trying to stop - they will pirate a movie, DRM or no DRM. Basically, DRM stops the people whom there’s no need to stop, and it fails to stop the people you want to stop.

Now, let me propose a revolutionary, mind shattering idea. All that money you keep pouring into DRM - how about instead, you spend it on making it easier for us, your customers, to get your movies - more convenient, cheaper, anywhere, anytime, and watch it on whatever device we want. The day you start doing that will be the day you defeat the pirates.
It doesn’t mean piracy will not exist, there will always be some people who just don’t want to pay, but when it is more convenient to purchase the movie than to pirate it, most people will choose the former.

So let me paint you a picture. A picture of an ideal future that may seem but a pipe dream when in fact it is completely achievable, if you invest in it instead of into DRM.

I’m on my lunch break at work, browsing the web on my android smartphone. I see that the movie I want to watch has just come out. I open up android market, go to the movies section find it and rent it for (let’s say) $5, and watch it for 20 minutes. After the work day is done I’m at the dentist’s office waiting, I decide to watch the movie so I take out my iPad, go to iTunes, find this movie and the “buy” button says “watch” because I already bought the movie. Not only that but when I start watching it continues from the same spot I paused at when I was at work. In any case, I watch 30 minutes of the movie then head back home. When I get there I turn on my TV, find the movie on my provider’s PPV channel and when I go to purchase it, it tells me “you already paid for it” and proceeds to show it from the spot I stopped at when I was at the dentist. When the movie ends I get a friendly suggestion to add the difference between the rent price and full purchase price to buy the movie, I hit okay on my remote and turn off the TV, knowing that I will now be able to watch that movie anytime on any of my devices.

This is the kind of experience we want - easy, smooth, fast and as device agnostic as possible. Some of you will call this crazy, impossible, too much red tape to create this kind of cooperation between different companies. But you know what I find the most effective way to get through red tape? Money. And we all know you have plenty of that since the movie industry just keeps growing.

And in case it was too long and you didn’t read, here’s what it boils down to.
DRM doesn’t prevent piracy it prevents legitimate purchases. The only sure way to reduce piracy is to make it so easy, so convenient, so cheap and so darn pleasant to legally purchase a movie that only a crazy person would ever think of pirating it. To do that you need to take all those millions of dollars you spend on DRM and invest them into improving the user experience.

Sincerely, from somebody who loves movies and wants to support them but finds it very hard to do.