Thursday, October 01, 2009

This is a perfect example of "stupid"

A bunch of college students has been told they can't gather together as a Disney fan group to watch Disney films- of which (as noted) they are big fans. Why? Because allegedly any showing of a DVD (bought at a store with money that went back to Disney, mind you) to a "large" group of people is copyright infringement. To show to a "large" group of people you need to secure a "display license", which is not what you get when you "buy" a DVD. What number of people in a gathering is the tipping point? 10? 20? 50? If you have 49 it's OK, but that 50th person gets you nasty letters from the legal department of a giant multinational conglomerate receiving tax dollars as subsidies? What if that 50th person sits in the hallway? The sheer stupidity of this is mind boggling. It's intellectually bankrupt and it's business suicide.

This is why the old models of the entertainment business are dying and will die. Like a slow lingering illness that eats away from the inside it may take a while, but it's a done deal. The death rattle can be heard down the hall. The only way to keep the old business model alive in a world where people can get content pretty much for free is to punish your fans. And those fans are your customers. I wonder how many thousands of dollars in Disney merchandise those college kids have bought collectively? How many trips to a Disney theme park have they taken- or planned to take? No, they may not be paying the proper license fee to watch a DVD as a group, but they're Disney fans. Logically who else would gather as a group to watch? So this action by Disney has no intended target other than the very people they should be catering to. Instead they're bullying them. There's no doubt Disney has made tons of cash from these kids over the years. This, my friends, is terrible customer service. As a businessman there's one thing I learned and it's this: the very air of life for your business is your customer service. You can even have an inferior product or product at a lower price point and still thrive if you have amazing customer service. Old media systems must rely on lawsuits, coercion, threats and cease & desist orders in order to survive. Not a one of those methods gives the fan (who in one way or another is a paying customer) the warm fuzzies about your company or its products.

There's an old, old law in the Bible. It's not followed in today's society at all, but there's a principle of fairness behind it. It's the law of gleanings. Basically God said to the people : Don't go back over your fields a second or third time to gather every last bit of grain that you may have missed or dropped. Leave it for the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden. Don't be a greedy jerk and squeeze people for pennies. Be gracious and generous and things will go well for you.

Disney's squeezing people for pennies after they've already milked them for countless hundreds or thousands. My prediction: things will not go well for them.

10 comments:

Jamie said...

Seriously, doesn't Disney have bigger fish to fry?

The problem with these desist orders, as you said, is that it attacks the fans. While at the same time people who don't care are pirating their videos and getting away with it.

Whoever figures out the system to get customers to pay for downloadable content will end up very rich indeed.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Keith!

LampshadeMan said...

I really hate to be the devil's advocate on this because I usually agree with you, Keith (and have really been enjoying reading what you and Mayerson have been talking about lately, alot of new websites to read.) but aren't home media intended for home viewing or educational use. This was well within the law. The fact that they formed a fan group at a university for non-educational purposes probably put them on the radar. I don't see this as some calculated move by the entire Disney corporation to start squeezing its customers for more money. Probably someone in the company, maybe not even that far up, saw this group existed, and did the simplist thing within their power, which was shut them down. Doesn't matter if they were huge fans, up to that point had spent thousands of dollars on previous Disney merchandise, or if it gets murky on what constitutes a public gathering between 20 and 50 people. And needing to take a break from studies, doesn't entitle you to watch movies. The movie was for private home viewing and their decision to form a large club at a public institution(I think the fact that it was shown at a university was more a legal bases that the number of people) and show a movie in which the DVD label or case clearly states in non-lawyer contract words that it is for home viewing only, violates this. And I am not saying I haven't done similar things in college. I just wouldn't be all that suprised by the potential outcome. Again, I am not trying to be the guy who goes against the grain and causes controversy, just how I percieve the incident.

JHN said...

I think there's a tension between what is the law and what is "right" here. If the lawyers contacted the group explaining the deal and ask to pay a fee for future displays, that would be a human thing to do, threatening with a lawsuit not so much, but I can't find details on that. On the other hand I do agree with Keith that maybe the law is not right and to protective. The only people really benefiting from this are big companies that can afford lawyers... is that a fair thing I wonder?

I'm a bit stuck in the middle, we have to have laws and people should obey to the law, I'm sure you Keith agree to that too. But the law should be righteous and not exclude people or exist as a vehicle for big companies, which to me this is what it looks like.

-Johan

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you Disney breaks the law itself but they are too big for anyone to go after.

And it is not just big issues, they are just as guilty of breaking lesser laws, down to internal corporate handbook rules without punishment as well. The Guilty use the power of the system to get away, no different from our current state of government where the lawmakers are above the laws that govern the "little people"

Thallian said...

following rules to the letter for rules' sake == Dumbo

Floyd Norman said...

The recording industry got greedy -- and look where they are today.

There's a special place in hell reserved for corporate lawyers.

Petersens3d said...

I would just say that capitalism is a necessary evil ... just take a look at us all ... what has changed in humanity after 2000 yrs ... ??? people can change, but the system would never (it was very well tied) ... just for the worst ... just because of the power capitalism brings in the box ... God bless us all !!! . I hope my comments brings light into the scene ... :D!!! and well said Keith ... may the light be with you. :D!!!

FleaCircusDirector said...

Perhaps the college Disney appreciation clubs could register with Disney to get discounted display licenses and other special offers and news from Disney. They could be given special versions of the films with extras not available to people not in a club.

FleaCircusDirector said...

If a room of 50 people each have their own copy of the film are they all allowed to watch one screen or would they need to have individual screens and players?