RealNetworks' RealDVD software and Kaleidescape's home servers drew fire in part because they can make permanent copies of the rented or borrowed discs. But people who are so inclined can do that already with tools that are cheaper and less restrictive. More important to the studios, RealNetworks and Kaleidescape add value to a movie collection by making it easier to manage and watch. In so doing, they increase the incentive to own a movie rather than just rent it.
One lesson from the technology industry is that there is a trade-off between controlling products and unleashing the innovation that spurs growth. Just look at how well the iPhone has fared since Apple invited independent developers to create applications for it. Hollywood should remember the principle underlying the case against China: Centralized control stifles a market. Rather than trying to stop potentially disruptive technologies and business models, Hollywood should find a way to harness them.
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