Tech vs. Hollywood

Change does not come easily in Hollywood. Once a standard is established, changing it requires literally an act of Congress. I understand it’s about the money. It’s always about the money. The old models of doing business has been incredibly lucrative for Hollywood, so it is in their interest to keep the status quo. Yet, technology has always threatened to disrupt this model. Still that tug-of-war has favored Hollywood more than Silicon Valley so far (Napster anyone?). As long as Hollywood gets to control the money, it’s all good. The current states of Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, iTunes, for example, are all results of a tenuous truce between Hollywood and technology.

However, if public sentiment makes any difference, Hollywood’s time as the marquee industry may be coming to an end. An LA Times poll yesterday indicates that 65% of people surveyed thinks that the tech sector is more crucial to California than Hollywood. Recent bills like SOPA and PIPA were referendums against over-regulation of the Internet. This is quickly becoming a technological world and our society is increasingly becoming digital. There is no better proof than the astonishing adoption rates of smartphones. The cloud is the next paradigm shift. Physical media will be obsolete within the next five years.

Hollywood needs to embrace technological change for what it is, a democratic process by way of capitalistic and Darwinian principles–i.e. consumers vote with their wallets on what’s best. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting technology, why not invest in and support better standards and more efficient distribution? Work with Silicon Valley for a change. I can’t believe that the pie isn’t big enough for sharing.

I am not the only one with that thought (see Vivek Wadhwa). There is already plenty of literature and op-eds on this topic: Aaron Levie at Techcrunch, Laura Sydell at NPR, and even Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America has chimed in (NY Times), asking both sides to find common ground.

As someone who loves both movies and technology, I hope Silicon Valley does not give an inch to Hollywood. Innovation must not be stifled. I believe copyright should be respected, but greed disguise as righteous indignation is slimy. As far as I’m concern, we need the tech world to keep Hollywood honest. And not just tinseltown–Washington (and all politics) could use as much transparency as technology can provide.