Screenwriter John August writes that federal authorities should limit Comcast's ability to provide DVR services based at Comcast's facilities because that will effectively remove the desire for repeats and the residuals that come with them, as well as DVDs and the like. After all, if a consumer can get any TV show or movie they want at any time -- via, say, a function that tells Comcast to "record all," and then deciding later whether and what to watch, why would anyone every need to watch (or TiVO) a rerun, buy a show's DVD, etc. And, therefore, how would writers make money off the residuals and DVD sales, etc, August asks.
But the solution is probably not in limiting Comcast's use of the technology -- which introduces efficiencies by obviating the need for home storage and potentially letting Comcast record once but play many times -- but rather in the business model. If Comcast gets permission to do what it's proposing but there's also a way for everyone to get paid fairly, shouldn't that work?
The technology will ultimately make everything available on-demand, all the time, to multiple devices. Residuals will eventually dry up, at least in the form they're practiced today. So, shouldn't the issue be compensation rather than limiting the use of the technology? (And wouldn't some say the market would solve this, because folks won't make the content Comcast needs unless they get compensated?)
I found August's site via a link from Ze Frank, the Web-based artist and thinker and gatherer and whatever else you want to call him behind a jillion viral hits and community experiments on the Web. I'm writing about him today in an essay for the We Media Game Changer awards.