With Blu-Ray getting significant traction in the content consumers’ market, it is not “too soon” to consider the successor format that will provide next-generation media experiences. The new format may not take shape along the lines I propose (though it should ), but whatever it is, it will require an unprecedented partnership among hardware vendors, studios, and government.
Movie producers and technologists have been at odds for too long, and it is a shame because the two industries are really in the same business: delivering intellectual property to consumers in circumstances that respect content owners’ rights.
Piracy continues to plague the industry’s bottom line, and I believe it’s because the problem has not been identified correctly. So I propose what might seem a radical idea at first:
The problem is not unauthorized copying; the problem is unauthorized viewing
Think about it: if a copy cannot be viewed, who honestly cares how many copies are made?
For this reason, the new format is designed to manage viewing rights. This only makes sense, as tangible “copies” are already giving way to digital streaming, entertainment-as-a-service platforms.
The devices that play the new format, then, would incorporate computer vision (CV) technology that is able to identify all persons within the viewing range of whatever content is being played. CV technology is already widely in use, such as in the Microsoft Kinect.
You may wonder: what about viewers hiding being other viewers? This problem can be addressed with a simple triangulation strategy:
If one or more of the sensors is obstructed or otherwise tampered with, the content simply will not play.
Besides ensuring that unauthorized viewers are not present, such a setup can ensure that required viewers are present. The new format will include advertising, and stealing content by ad-skipping has become nearly as damaging to the content industry as outright piracy. With CV technology, participants can be prevented from leaving the viewing area during the exhibition of commercial spots. Again: the content will simply pause, until all required viewers are detected, and not (for example) looking off to the side, etc.
To ensure that the viewing area remains secure, the new format should enforce a regular inspection routine: an trained professional would visit the premises after, say, every 10 hours of playing time, and enter a code into the device enabling additional time if the “home theater” remains authorized. This could also help to prevent errors: e.g., cases where a photograph on a wall might be mis-identified as an unauthorized viewer by the CV cameras.
Transition to the new format could be incentivized by the inclusion of extras, such as making-of or behind-the-scenes content, or 3D. Alternatively, it could simply be made illegal to manufacture or sell players of the old formats.
In a world of rapidly-changing technology, you can see that the notion of a simple medium (such as a disc) that “contains” the content (hence the name) is archaic. The new format is a system for the construction of legal entertainment-experiencing environments.