I was having an argument with the sales guy at the high-end TV store. Based on a discussion I had with Pat, I asked him if the TV he was trying to sell me supported HDCP. I told him I was warned against it, that I shouldn't support technology that restricts a user's rights. And that's how the argument began that led to an intersting idea about licensing.  HDCP is a technology layer on top of HDMI that institutes copy-protection on top of the high-definition digital signal that travels from the TV tuning device to the monitor. In high-definition TVs (especially good ones) the tuner is a separate device from the actual display. The cable that connects the tuner to the display is called a HDMI cable. To keep people from plugging that cable into something that could directly record the digital signal (and prevent you from, say, recording pay-per-view movies in perfect digital quality) they have invented HDCP.  The basic idea of not buying a set equipped with HDCP is to send a message to manufacturers that consumers want the flexibility afforded them by fair use. We like to record shows for later. HDCP could help prevent that. Being an early adopter, it's part of your job as an aware consumer not to buy products that encourage technologies prohibiting fair use. Otherwise, the unaware public could buy products that are more restrictive in their fair use capabilities than those we have now.  In any case, he started off with the argument that it's only fair that if a studio spends money to make a movie and pay its workers, then it should get a return on that investment. And I agree with that. But I don't think it's fair that the studio should get to prompt me for a fee every time I watch their movie, nor that I should have my ability to watch the movie at my pleasure restricted. It was all about poor licensing. And that's when I had my idea.

What if you could go to the theater and pay $30 for a movie ticket? $5 would go the the theater itself as a "screening fee". $25 would go the the studio to pay for a perpetual non-media-specific license to view the film. You'd pay for your popcorn separately and then enjoy the film.  When the movie comes out on DVD, you would not pay the typical $20 fee. Instead, you would pay about $2 - the cost of the DVD production. If the movie was available for download, you could end up paying only the delivery service charge.  When you get a DVD home, you can make copies of it. You could copy it to a blank DVD. You could rip it to DivX. All for personal use.  You would have permission to do these things because you paid the original license fee, one that allows you to view the movie.  There could be other setups, too. Perhaps you would pay the usual $10 for a theather ticket and then upgrade to a full license after you've decided that you like the film. You could also wait to purchase a full license until the DVD comes out.  All of the traditional options could run along side the new license. If you only wanted to buy a DVD and never copy it or rip it, then you pay only the regular DVD price. But you don't have a license to do anything more with the movie and media combination you have bought than play it in a DVD player.  There is a sketchy area of who manages the licenses — Who knows what movies you have the license to, and how do you verify your permissions to those movies? I'm not sure exactly how to implement this. In the end, I expect to have to weigh the value of the license features against a centralized licensing system.  Still, the studios complain that they're losing money because people are stealing (not buying their one-media-only licenses) their movies. This seems like it could be an answer.  No, I'm sure this will never happen, but I'm curious why you might think it wouldn't work, or why you wouldn't do it.


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