Hollywood’s Loss of the Public’s Trust

Hollywood has been forced into a prisoner’s dilemma by new technology, where the industry seems convinced that its self interest and that of the audience are at odds. In fact, if they could trust each other (see below), they might both get what they want.

Two recent pieces illustrate this schizophrenic split between Hollywood’s public statements and their private fears. On the one hand, consumers are king, and Hollywood just wants to give them what they want. On the other, consumers are thieving bastards who can’t be trusted.

The goal of DRM should be “to make things simpler for the consumer,” Dan Glickman proclaimed in a LexisNexis conference speech at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons covered by Ars Technica today. He further suggested that he saw no problem with users copying content to portable devices and home servers. He even invited stakeholders to convene a “technology summit.”

One way to make the consumer experience easier would be wireless transmission of HD signals directly to a big-screen display, such as a new system developed by Samsung for its 50″ and larger wide-screen plasma displays. But content companies are paranoid that the signal isn’t secure enough, holding up the release of the displays, according to reports confirmed by Ars Technica yesterday.

Ignoring the facts that DRM has never been about enabling consumers but instead disabling features, and that a wifi signal, encrypted or otherwise, is no more or less secure than any current DRM schemes, it’s this kind of “we love you, we love you not” vacillation on the part of content providers that can’t help build sympathy for the entertainment industry’s position.

How do consumers feel? Thirty-five percent of UK residents and 46 percent of French residents in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demo “did not think entertainment companies respected the rights of people who pay for digital entertainment,” according to Variety’s summary of a study by Edelman. The logic of this position seems simple enough: Hollywood doesn’t trust me but still wants my money, so why the hell should I trust Hollywood and give them any?