Friday, February 20, 2009

Thinking Outside the Boxee

I know that the average reader of this blog might not be on the cutting edge of internet and media technology, rendering most of this post indecipherable. But I thought I'd post my latest rant--which started as an email to a friend--for your amusement anyway. I've tried to define and describe terms here as much as possible, but I'd be happy to offer further clarification. -Richie

From the fine folks who brought us hundred-thousand-dollar copyright infringement lawsuits involving sweet-old-grannies-on-fixed-incomes and adorable-little-nine-year-olds-who-really-like-Miley-Cyrus, comes the latest in a string of dumb moves:

Media 'content providers' (i.e. the major television networks and studios) just made HULU (the amazing website--memorably endorsed by an other-worldly Alec Baldwin during the Super Bowl--that delivers hundreds of television shows and movies to your computer, instantly and free of charge) pull the plug on BOXEE (that neat little application that delivers Hulu's shows and movies to set-top boxes like XBox and AppleTV, and consequently right to your television screen).

Bear in mind that Boxee was streaming ad-supported, legally-viewed content, the exact same content viewed in the exact same format with the exact same ad breaks as someone who viewed them on hulu.com on a computer screen. You know, the kind that the struggling media companies--who always seem about 5 years behind the zeitgeist and double that behind the technology delivering it--actually condone. The kind that, theoretically, helps said companies remain profitable and, even more theoretically, enables them to justly compensate performers and technicians for their work*. Yeah, that kind.

[*As an aside, fair compensation for online viewing is a whole 'nother can of worms, but the fact remains that the networks have made a decision to make more of their media available online as viewers' habits have changed, and being dickish and territorial about distribution still does nothing to help the people who actually create this content]

But, instead, they've decided to tell the Boxee users--who watched more than 100,000 ad-supported, legally-distributed, revenue-generating television and movie clips on Hulu last week alone--to take a hike. They've literally blocked, by their own volition, a steady source of viewership and income.

Boxee, obviously, thinks this is a stupid move. And, to Hulu's great credit, they, too, are working to convince the media mega-conglomerates that it is in their best interest to encourage the legal distribution of their content. But the folks back at corporate headquarters are still busily typing cease and desist letters and snail-mailing them off to BetaMax users.

So, until the media executives remove their oversized crania from their regions most nether, I'll have to go back to watching Hulu on my laptop (or, in all likelihood, simply watch much less of it, which is probably a good thing for my overall well-being), while other more desperate and less wholesome Boxee users will surely retreat into the shadowier realms of the internet where content flows freely and completely devoid of commercial interruption.

Of course, with the state of the world right now, I suppose this falls somewhere in between luke-warm pizza delivery and miscounted change at the coffee shop on the Injustice and Inhumanity Scale--but I do think it provides yet another example of big business in America acting stupid, and then seeking to blame the masses (i.e. their 'customers') for the consequences of their own stupid decisions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a good commentary. Although I don't know enough about the subject or possible solutions, I have to ask: where is the FCC in all of this? Government should be taking not just a regulatory role, but mediating role in all of this.
I hope they are.

Rob E.