The Sony Catalog

I am an avid film collector. I see film as high art, and I truly enjoy a good film. Netflix has been something of a revelation.

Until Netflix, I had a standing collection of over 1,500 films - mostly DVD but alot of VHS as well. The primary point of selection for all films is the answer to the question - could I see it twice? If the answer is yes, I collect it. An example of a film that I really enjoyed, but did not collect - were "Inside Man" by Spike Lee. This film was and is a puzzle film, and I highly recommend it - but if you know the ending, there's very little point in seeing the film.

Paradoxically, I enjoy hitting wikipedia to read through the plots of new films and I do not, often find it a bad thing to read through 'spoilers'. Although, in some cases I will black tape my computer monitor. In most cases I find an in-depth write-up of a film's plotline enticing and useful.

When it comes to watching films - I am very patient. There may be a film that I would like to see in the theater. But I will wait , sometimes as long as two or three years if necessary - until I can either collect it - or, recently - watch it on Netflix.

Sony Pictures has now pulled their catalog from Netflix. They have done so on the basis that their contract with Netflix stipulated that their contract is valid only insofar as a certain number of viewers is not exceeded. Contract negotiations continue, but films such as "Salt" have disappeared from Queue. Sony's actions bother me for two reasons.

First, and foremost - I feel that an artist who creates a work of art should have some means by which he or she profit by it. Netflix has become a reward engine to these artists - some of whom are in sony's fold. The films that were harder to find are now easily located, and my subscription fee debits my account each month. I can understand why Sony would be threatened by the fact that I make my own choices - they seem to pin the hopes of their catalog on the basis of mass market appeal - however, I do not buy into the now dated concept that stamping, packaging and delivering DVD's into stores like Blockbuster - are a means by which the artist will be compensated. It is far more likely that Blockbuster will go bankrupt, the DVD store have its shelves swept clean and the media register as a loss to the distribution company. Sony seems to want to try to maneuver me back into the store to buy a DVD. It's not happening. The young guns on netflix are far more interesting than the mass market films that have disappeared, and it comforts me to know that they're getting a cut and helping to dissolve infrastructure that is no longer needed.

Another point I would like to make about the Sony Catalog is that they are licensing to big cable companies - and it bothers me that the cable internet service providers have been recently caught in the act of trying to lock down and close off the content streams on the net. They have been trying to get Netflix, for example, to have to pay the cable company in order to allow end user access of their site. This amounts to, in essence, someone deciding what you can or can't browse on the net. You have paid for your last mile connection - you should have access to the entire net. Sony, who has ties to Time Warner - seems to have made their contractual move right after these cable companies were stung badly by network neutrality regulation that precluded their ability to try to shut Netflix down. I suspect collusion.

Sony has benefitted, over the years - from a soft, passive culture in which whatever is broadcast to the American people is , in general, what they watched. They have sold great big TV's, and cool music players - and they've gotten involved in music and video catalog and distribution. But Netflix represents a means by which distribution becomes simple, and seamless - and the expensive infrastructures that they are likely invested in - may not pay return. This should not mean that we, as subscribers , who are ultimately paying the artist - would have to put up with intermediaries attempting to block access to the content that we registered to see. Our act of seeing these films may have changed - we no longer sit there and wait for something to be broadcast to us - we select and manage our queues. However, the fact that something is in our queue should not mean that we've watched it or are going to watch it - and so be counted as a viewer. I construct my queues out of convenience - so that I can browse them on my TV without having to go to the net. And when I do watch something, I often leave it in queue. Sony's technique by which they are counting up 'viewers' is based on the premise that someone hitting the stream of that work - is taking all of the work - it is far more likely the case that the viewer is playing around - jumping to a scene and possibly leaving it all in the queue so they can discuss it later with a friend.

Sony, in my view, should back down from their position that they are going to lock up Netflix queues... else face the consequence that we might not miss sony films - and not seek them out again in the future.