Steve Jobs To Hollywood: Just Say "No" To High-Definition DVD

by , 12:15 PM EDT, June 15th, 2004

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has gone on record as a technology maven who thinks that Hollywood should not work with a new technology because of the threat of piracy. Mr. Jobs was speaking more as CEO of Pixar when he made the comments at a supposedly private meeting with Hollywood and tech execs, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

The technology in question is "high-definition DVD," and Mr. Jobs wants his fellow Hollywood execs to not license movies for the new format until the tech world can assure that it is pirate-proof. According to the report, he says that as a last-resort, computer companies should not include high-definition DVD burners in new PCs. From the Wall Street Journal:

Steve Jobs stirred controversy a few years ago with his "Rip, Mix, Burn" advertising campaign, which encouraged consumers to use their computers to copy music. But when it comes to the consumer's ability to copy future generations of the DVD movie format, Mr. Jobs is sending a very different message.

At a recent private meeting with Hollywood studio heads and tech czars like Microsoft Corp.'s Steve Ballmer and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Carly Fiorina, Mr. Jobs argued that studios shouldn't license their movies for use in the planned "high-definition DVD" format until Hollywood is assured by the tech industry that the discs can't be copied by new DVD burners that will come along. High-definition DVDs are being developed as a successor to the current digital-video-disc format and are expected to be on the market by next year, along with high-definition DVD burners.

Mr. Jobs even suggested that high-definition DVD burners not be bundled with computers at all -- a scenario he said in an interview was "extreme" and one that "I hope we don't have to get to, but it helps to put the issue in perspective." He said it is up to the tech industry to prove to Hollywood that high-definition content can be adequately protected.

There is more information on the subject in the full article at the Wall Street Journal's Web site (paid subscription required). The article includes information about commercial piracy, and other related issues concerning movie sales.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Pui-Wing Tam, co-reporter on the piece, is a tech journalist we respect. In this piece, however, there is one thing we felt we should correct: "Rip. Mix. Burn." never had any pirate-related inferences, but was instead aimed at people wanting to make their own mix CDs. The intro to this article makes it sound as if Steve Jobs has flip-flopped on his message, having gone from advocating piracy to not. That's disingenuous presentation.

Mind you, Steve Jobs has changed his stance on a tangential issue. When the iTunes Music Store was launched, Mr. Jobs told the press in attendance at the event that he wanted iTMS downloads to be un-encrypted MP3 files, but that the major recording labels would have none of it. By the same argument, the movie studios should sell un-encrypted movies online, too, and the same should be true of the DVDs we buy.

Then again, since it is encryption that is tying iTMS downloads to the iPod, perhaps it was Mr. Jobs who was being disingenuous from the beginning, but that doesn't excuse the Journal's mistake.

As for Mr. Jobs' comments, it's not too much of a surprise that he might fall closer to The Man's viewpoint, at least now that we're talking about something near and dear to his heart, Pixar movies. We just hope that copyright doesn't get in the way of bringing any new technology to market.

Lastly, at the end of the article are some comments from a Microsoft exec -- one of the companies supporting high-definition DVD -- dismissing Steve Jobs' concerns:

Microsoft's CEO, Mr. Ballmer, declined to comment on the meeting. But Jason Reindorp, a Microsoft group manager who is involved in high-definition DVD formats, says Mr. Jobs's stand displayed a "lack of understanding" about the format and showed how he was "trying to muddy the waters." Mr. Reindorp says protection of Hollywood content is a high priority.

Meow...Seems like there's going to be a cat fight.