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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Give Us Films on Demand

September 13, 2003

Regarding Jack Valenti's Sept. 8 commentary, "Audiences Shouldn't Steal the Scenes": There aren't many movies coming out these days that I feel the need to own my own copy of, especially from among the recent onslaught of $90-million romantic comedies with a $40-million cast of two. Around our house we rank new releases as (1) worth spending nine bucks plus popcorn on; (2) possible future rentals; (3) HBO material; or (4) why bother? Our satellite-TV PVR (disk-based "personal video recorder") makes "time-shifting" easy, but an even better solution is "movies on demand," allowing us to call up new releases or old and watch them at our convenience. Valenti says the technology is available to let us download movies in under a minute, and I'd happily pay a fair monthly subscription charge, plus a premium for new releases, to have that ability.

I really don't think most adults are interested in "stealing" movies. But when the pablum that those in Hollywood serve up is aimed primarily at the youth market and then priced beyond the audience's means, they've set themselves up. Yet the major studios are not going to stop making movies, and neither are the clever independents who've realized there's a big adult audience out here that's craving intellectual stimulation. So just imagine if all of those independents were able to deliver their reasonably budgeted, truly worthwhile entertainment in the manner set forth above. They'd be bypassing the major studios, along with their representative body, the Motion Picture Assn. of America. To keep production costs lower, they might even consider making "the little people," from screenwriters on down, profit participants. All it would require is an honest and open accounting system plus a pricing structure that makes stealing a movie unattractive.

Jon K. Williams

Santa Barbara

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Valenti has a point. Creative artists in the music and film industry are finding their income threatened by the growth of file-sharing technology. And there is no cure for this state of affairs. Valenti and others simply have to face up to the very real possibility that traditional copyright law has no practical application in this day and age. The only way to stop file-sharing is to stop technology. And no Congress or trade association can do that. Calling rippers and file-sharers thieves or common criminals doesn't help much either.

Carl W. Goss

Los Angeles

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