Douglas Crockford

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July 2007

Lost Pixels

One of the ironies of the death of broadcasting is that as broadcasting fails, some of the shows are finally getting better. Maybe in desperation, the Networks decided to try Quality. Back when it was just The Big Three, their interest was in casting the net as widely as possible, so they would dumb down the shows: Chairman Minow's Vast Wasteland. You could feel confident that at the end of an episode of any series, everything would be reset back to the beginning premise. That way, if someone missed an episode, they would not get confused when they watched the next one. It also was useful in the summer because you could rerun some episodes without disrupting the arc, because there wasn't an arc. Later, it paid off again when there was syndication, because the episodes could be played in any order. The rare occasions when there was a noticeable change, like Rhoda's wedding or the death of Henry Blake, became big events.

On some modern shows, situations change, sometimes radically, from episode to episode. Somewhere along the line, the networks, perhaps with reluctance, decided to trust the intelligence of the viewers to keep up with changing casts and relationships. I've been watching Lost on DVD. I am almost at the end of the second season. The show flips radically from episode to episode. It never resets. The network still doesn't have the nerve to kill off the main characters, but the second tier is definitely in danger. It isn't just the red shirts who are in peril.

But I have a problem with their program title sequence: The word LOST floating in a black void, briefly coming into focus. Very nice, very elegant. It was made by one of the producers on his laptop during some downtime during mixing. I think it is great that amateur tools can now make stuff that is good enough to put on the air. Except this one isn't quite good enough. The edges don't quite join in places, so black pixels pop through. It is something that could easily be fixed in a couple minutes in Photoshop.

Seriously Misaligned

They used to say that the most creative people in Hollywood are the accountants because of the clever systems the Studios came up with to avoid having to share their revenues with the artists and other partners. But that was their business, like no business I know. But it becomes my business, and your business, when it has an impact on public safety. Because now it appears that the most creative people in Hollywood are the lawyers.

At a press conference in Our Nation's Capital last month, the MPAA and the RIAA and the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy demanded that a significant portion of our crime fighting budget be diverted toward anti-piracy. As we have seen, the studios have vivid imaginations about the money they lose to piracy, and equally vivid fantasies about what they would do with all that money if only they could get it. So now they want to use our tax dollars to try to recover some of that loot for them. How much funny money are they talking about? Last year, they were tossing around $20.5B. That's a lot of funny money for sure. But it is possible to dream higher, according to NBC/Universal general counsel Rick Cotton.

Our law enforcement resources are seriously misaligned. If you add up all the various kinds of property crimes in this country, everything from theft, to fraud, to burglary, bank-robbing, all of it, it costs the country $16 billion a year. But intellectual property crime runs to hundreds of billions a year.

How many hundreds of billions? Say, $600B. A year. How can they claim the moral high ground when they lie like that? If their cause was just and good, couldn't they just, you know, tell the truth?

Worse Than Piracy

You may recall that in The Hollywood Protection Act that carpetbagging DRM technology companies would defraud gullible media companies. A couple months later, Sony/BMG (a gullible media company) was found to be shipping CDs that when played on a PC would deviously install a dangerous rootkit. That technology, not surprisingly, was licensed from a carpetbagging DRM company. The incident was deeply embarrassing and expensive to Sony/BMG.

Sony/BMG is now suing the carpetbagger because its software did not perform as it was meant to. The lawsuit accuses it of negligence and unfair business practices.

The interesting precedent here is that a media company will take legal action against a DRM technology that fails. Since all DRM technology will fail, this could be a good time to dump carpetbagger stocks.