Free for all


If there were ever a cue for a digital age, it would be the date 01-01-01. But not everybody is ready to take the stage. Take broadcasters. Standing in their way is the unsettled question of a transmission standard, equipment compatibility issues, protection of content and securing space on cable and satellite systems. Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

While all those issues must be addressed, we think arguably the most important, and perhaps the hardest to resolve, is program exclusivity/copy protection. It's why Hollywood has been so hard-line about controlling rights to its products, and why local TV stations continue to fight for program exclusivity.

In a world where digital copies are only a click away from millions, how do you preserve the exclusivity that is the underpinning of the competitive broadcast model? Or, more frighteningly, can
you? Why pay for the exclusive rights to a big-ticket sitcom in your market if pirates can distribute it virtually day-and-date anywhere on the Internet for free. Adding to the problem is that the Web culture has grown up seeing security measures as an Everest to be scaled. It is a cowboy (and cowgirl) culture that is paradoxically both outside the establishment and a major force in the corporate culture. As such, it is not one to protect traditional models.

We hate to spoil the party, but we won't be ready to break out the millennium champagne until there is a system in place to protect the product.