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Hollywood working on movies over Net

Vague plans greeted as visionary

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All the big movie studios have announced they will work together on a system to deliver movies over the Internet. MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros said they think the number of people in the US with broadband connections has made it feasible to offer an on-demand service over the Net.

In usual sycophantic style, the announcement has been greeted as yet another example of how forward-thinking, clever and wonderful the film studios are - even though we have no name, date, price, team, product, specs or plans for the idea.

What there is of the idea says that new films and film libraries will be opened to film producers and distributors. And of course it will have digital rights management built into it. Non-crackable. Be really good. It'll go to PCs first, but they are looking at extending it to other devices. So that's alright.

Vain pundits have leapt on the announcement and gobbled out all the stuff they can remember about Napster, trying desperately to draw parallels.

What everyone has forgotten though is the practicality, or rather impracticality, of viewing movies over the Internet. It's not actually very cheap to store and send so much data down fat pipes. Plus even if Internet connections get faster and faster (which will take years and billions of pounds), we are unlikely to see anything but three inch by three inch movies. Why pay over the odds for a tiny picture?

Much easier just to go get a video tape (bigger screen, better sound) or pop along to the cinema (much, much bigger screen). We're not saying it won't happen. Just that it won't happen for a long time yet.

From this perspective, the studios' non-announcement makes a lot of sense. ®

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