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A Look Back at Why Blockbuster Really Failed and Why It Didn't Have To (2014) (forbes.com)
81 points by anairs 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

Blockbuster used to have a really crappy selection of mostly mainstream movies, but often it was one of the closest video rental stores around, as they seemed to be everywhere. They also censored and cut their movies, which was really annoying. I don't know what their agenda was on that front, and why they couldn't just let mature adults watch the full films.

My friends and I used to much prefer going to independent video rental stores, which had a much better selection and did not cut or censor their films, but we'd often have to go pretty far to reach them.

Then Netflix DVD came around, and that had a pretty good selection.. maybe not as good as some of the best independent movie rental stores, but wider in some ways, and overall good enough so that the added convenience of getting DVDs delivered to my door and being able to return them by merely dropping them in the mailbox whenever I felt like it made me stick with Netflix and never step foot in a brick and mortar movie rental store again. I had meant to try Greencine, as it supposedly had an even better selection of obscure movies, but I never got around to it, and then it went out of business.

Then came Netflix streaming, with a crappy selection comparable to the crappy selection Blockbuster had in the bad old days.

I've stayed with Netflix DVD service because of their far better selection, but most people these days don't seem to know that Netflix even has a DVD service (not very surprising as Netflix doesn't even advertise its presence on netflix.com and you have to go to dvd.netflix.com to reach it).

Many of them rarely realize how crappy the selection of Netflix streaming is, as they've been brought up on a diet of crap, and are only vaguely aware that there's a whole world of fantastic movies out there beyond Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.

Blockbuster used to have a really crappy selection of mostly mainstream movies,

And that’s what most people buy and rent and that’s where the money is. That made perfect sense for Blockbuster.

I strongly suspect that the new AMC Stubs subscription program will be a long term success even though it costs more and you really only get access to mainstream movies.

Many of them rarely realize how crappy the selection of Netflix streaming is, as they've been brought up on a diet of crap, and are only vaguely aware that there's a whole world of fantastic movies out there beyond Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.

Everyone knows that Netflix doesn’t have a good selection of movies - they look for mainstream recently released movies and they can’t find them. By definition, If your definition of a good movie and the mainstream’s definition of a good movie is different, your taste in movies is not mainstream - not theirs (no judgement intended).

A movie being popular is half quality and half marketing. Unless we abolish huge advertising budgets, there's no reason to assume that the mainstream viewer would actually give the best ratings to mainstream movies.

Yet people care sometimes more about popularity than quality. You want to watch the same movie everyone else did so that you can chat about it.

Before I had the AMC subscription movie pass, we wouldn’t bother about spending money going to a movie that wasn’t one of the big blockbuster movies. A movie that is all about a great concept or great plot, is just as enjoyable on a TV at home.

We went to movies to see action, special effects, etc. on the big screen. We also never went to a movie that we couldn’t reserve our seats in advance.

What you consider “quality” and what most people consider quality - ie what enough people are willing to pay money for to make it a $1 billion grossing movie is different.

When we had to spend money on individual movies, the movies that had the “quality” we were willing to go out and pay for are the ones that delivered something that we couldn’t easily replicate at home. Anything else we could just pay $5.00 to rent it on iTunes or wait for it to fall off the back of a truck onto my Plex Server.

Check out Kanopy, which you can use for free with library card. Has a lot of Criterion movies and a bunch of other interesting things.


Unfortunately, Netflix' DVD strategy seems to be to let the back catalog more or less literally rot away. More and more films aren't available at all or have very long waits.

In all fairness, a lot of movies are available to rent digitally on Amazon. I suspect a lot of people supplement Netflix' crappy movie streaming offerings with purchases/rentals on Amazon or Apple. (Or Redbox for recent films.)

But, yeah, I've definitely had people look at me funny when I admit to still having a Netflix DVD subscription and even buying a DVD once in a while.

>Many of them rarely realize how crappy the selection of Netflix streaming is, as they've been brought up on a diet of crap

It's worse than that. Netflix have used UI sleight-of-hand to disguise the fact that their selection is just crappy full stop, Hollywood or indie. Of the top 250 movies on IMDB, less than 50 are available on Netflix in any region. In some regions, it's less than 20. The UI leans heavily on recommendations and subtly guides you away from search, because if you think of a movie, they probably don't have it.

If you're a young person trying to discover cinema and you've believed Netflix's bullshit, you'll miss out on nearly all of the classics. Trying to work your way through the IMDB top 250 or the list of Best Picture winners is fruitless - you'd be better off with a library card than a Netflix subscription.

I'm still on the disc-by-mail plan because I get the full quality the disc has. No dropouts, no (additional) compression artifacts, no reduced resolution because of network congestion.[1]

I will say that their long-tail catalog isn't as long as it used to be. About a third of my queue is titles that they recognize, but do not have in stock -- presumably they used to have them but don't anymore. Still better than the streaming catalog, though.

[1] Most people likely don't get any of those artifacts. But it only has to happen once during a showing and I get pissed off. Not worth the chance of it happening.

I feel about DVDs the way you feel about streaming. Every time I've been somewhere where someone's shown one in recent memory, the disc has been scratched or dirty and the player starts going berzerk. And half the time there are difficult-to-skip previews and copyright notices.

I'd rather go back to renting VHS tapes than deal with DVDs.

Rural areas often have local thift stores with massive VHS collections. You can buy a tape for, usually, a $1, keep it as long as you want and donate it back if you decide you don't want it taking up space any more.

I was lucky enough to live across the street from a great independent video store[1] and part of the fun was spending 30 mins or so browsing the shelves for 3 DVDs for the week.

When checking out I’d often get some good advice from whoever was at the counter on what to rent next time if I liked what I was getting that day.

As much as I love the convenience of streaming I’ve still yet to find any algorithm that seems to be able to make a decent selection so I’m gonna have to say I’m nostalgic for those times :(


Just recently I've had the inclination to have an occasional "obscure movie night" to see how popular such a thing could become. Start with just inviting a few friends, see if they know anyone else who'd be interested in such things, see how much it could expand.

It's very nature would mean it wouldn't be a profitable undertaking. It'd be a labour of love, just pushing at the edges of people's known worlds to expand them a bit, show them that the boundaries of possibility are wider then they imagined; help other people to find enjoyment in the unfamiliar. A gateway drug.

And take the opposite-to-AT&T approach in order to retain peoples interest: occasional and quality.

I never had a problem with the selection of blockbuster but I was a kid, so maybe I didn't know any better. One summer as a teenager my mom got me a pass to have any five movies checked out and I loved going back to the store to pick out something else.

Blockbuster had its own competitor to Netflix DVDs and the cool thing was that you could exchange them at the store for another movie when you were finished. Personally I wouldn't mind having a video store near me again combined with the ability to order pretty much anything on disc. It's a shame it didn't last. There is or used to be a local video store within 30 minutes of me but I've never made the drive. It would be great if streaming wasn't so expensive either. Sometimes I look at movies for rent on my AppleTV and find the most intriguing titles, but I can't bear to pay $4 for them. They would make so much money from me if every movie was $1 or $2.

> I had meant to try Greencine, as it supposedly had an even better selection of obscure movies

They did have a selection of obscure movies, but sometimes their selection/availability of popular movies left something to be desired. When they moved their operations to the LA area, it really hurt their delivery times to the bay area, and that happened around the time that Netflix added streaming as a free feature, so it made sense for me to switch. I keep thinking of going back to the DVD subscription because a lot of things I want to watch just aren't available, but streaming is nice for immediacy when it actually has something, and I don't really want to pay for both.

How is the DVD selection these days?

> Most people these days don't seem to know that Netflix even has a DVD service

A few years ago, Netflix was going to spin off the DVD Service as a separate company. I can't remember the name of it but it was kind of goofy I thought. For some reason they decided to pull back on that and they are still running it as a division within Netflix. However I have to imagine it doesn't make a lot of money compared to streaming. Buying and handling physical media, dealing with damaged media, losses on non-returns, etc. has got to be something that doesn't scale well.

I believe its called dvd.com (A netflix company) now, even though the domain name is dvd.netflix.com

> Many of them rarely realize how crappy the selection of Netflix streaming is, as they've been brought up on a diet of crap, and are only vaguely aware that there's a whole world of fantastic movies out there beyond Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.

I like science fiction and well done period dramas (i.e. historical fiction or alternative history). I am not really into high-brow art movies, as I don't really have the education to get them. Is there really a wide world beyond Hollywood for the type of movies I enjoy? If yes, how does one go about exploring this world?

I don't know about period dramas, as I'm not really in to that genre, but I am very much in to scifi and there are plenty of great scifi films that aren't on Netflix streaming.

As to how one find them, I have a number of strategies:

First and best is to find people who share your taste and ask them for recommendations.

Second, find other films by the directors and writers who's films you like.

Third, read reviewers, forums, blogs, and magazines that talk about your favorite genre of films.

Fourth, try doing web searches for more than one of your favorite films at a time. If you get lucky, you might find them all on a list of great movies and go from there.

Fifth, there used to be a website called YMDB (if I'm remembering right), which used to let you put in your top 20 films and match you up with others who had similar tastes, and then you could see what other movies they liked. Unfortunately, it's no longer around, and I'm not sure if there are any other services like it these days.

Sixth, find lists of great movies and watch as many of them as possible.

Seventh, go to movie clubs and art house cinema houses and watch what they show or maybe talk to some of the people there and see what they can recommend given your taste in films.

Eighth, read some books on film.

Ninth, listen to directors' commentaries on the movies you like, and read interviews with them. They'll often mention films and directors that influenced them. Watch those.

Tenth, rate all the movies you've seen on dvd.netflix.com and then look at what they recommend based on your ratings.

Not really. Good middle-brow, relatively low budget films do come out of the festival circuit (Cannes, Sundance, etc.) but to my mostly mid-brow eyes, there aren't a huge number of super obscure undiscovered gems hiding in corners and deserving films, even if they're fairly low budget, tend to percolate up.

I've long been a pretty avid film watcher, including of classic films, but my tastes are pretty mainstream. If you're looking for new views, I'd just suggest Googling using terms like "Most underappreciated science fiction films" and things like that. Some good channels on YouTube as well.

If you're a science fiction fan you need to watch The Expanse on SciFi/Amazon.

> They also censored and cut their movies, which was really annoying

This is a bizarre urban legend that I don't believe has ever been substantiated. Can you do so?

All I can say is that I've watched movies that I got from Blockbuster which were missing scenes (often graphic or explicit scenes) that I'd seen in other versions of the film.

Now, this was decades ago, so I don't remember which films they were, much less which scenes were cut. But I have talked to other people who've echoed my experience. I've also read articles in the past which admit this censorship happened.

A cursory web search just now came up with some mentions of said censorship:

"As mentioned before the movie opened with an NC-17 rating but Verhoeven himself edited an R-Rated version for rental chains like Blockbuster Video."[1]

"As is often the case in the USA that besides the usual Unrated releases of DTV productions there are also Restricted versions especially for rental purposes (Blockbuster Video) or being used in supermarket chains (Walmart)."[2]

"Portuguese rental video version seems to be the one made for Blockbuster video. For retail the alleged mistake was corrected, though some censored tapes were still seen on sale. The cut scenes are as follows:..."[3]

[1] - https://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=1932233

[2] - https://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=5899077

[3] - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115964/alternateversions

Blockbuster never "censored" or "cut" videos as you said. Blockbuster chose not to carry NC-17 or x-rated movies. There are alternate cuts of just about all movies and TV shows for different venues. I see people complain about Netflix having a different version than the one they remember. Some SNL episodes on Netflix run only about 30 minutes. It's not Netflix or Blockbuster doing any editing, they just buy what's available, probably the cheapest version or they take what they're given by default.

Outside of their choice not to carry "adult" programming the casual censorship you're accusing Blockbuster of doesn't exist.

Even with films that were originally R-rated, the Blockbuster versions had scenes that were missing. I don't know if Blockbuster did the editing themselves or just bought alternate versions, but the fact is that they had cuts, while the versions in other, independent video stores did not.

I watched almost no X-rated or NC-17 movies at all, so the movies that I saw that had cuts were R-rated.

Indeed. The one example I recall was in Tank Girl, R rated - the copy I rented from Blockbuster had one line blanked out, just as she discovers where exactly the Rippers are hiding out. The normal release has a voiceover line "See hell, go to hell." - in the Blockbuster copy, this line was missing.

There may have been other edits, but that's the one which tripped my memory when watching the laserdisc copy I bought soon afterward.

Your fuzzy memories from decades ago don't amount to evidence. A cursory search tells you this wouldn't even be legal for Blockbuster to do.

The studios have alternate versions of movies and some of the TV edits may have gotten into the Blockbuster stock but your portrayal of Blockbuster as being the originator for reasons of censorship are wrong.

Many companies do illegal things all the time. Often they get away with it, or just eat the bad PR and fines when they're caught. So just because it might have been illegal doesn't mean Blockbuster didn't do it.

Also, media companies censor all the time. Take a look at youtube, which will not allow porn, ostensibly because it'll affect their brand and image. Blockbuster was probably trying to do the same thing to keep its "family" video store image. They certainly did not allow hardcore XXX porn in the store because of that, and may very well have stocked censored videos for the same reason.

Finally, you don't have to rely on just my memories. There are others discussing Blockbuster's practices of at least stocking censored films. Whether they cut the scenes out of those movies themselves or just bought censored films is immaterial. The fact is that their customers had to watch censored films. That is a fact supported not just by my memories but the other people who talk about this happening, some of which I linked to in my previous post.

If you are really interested in getting to the bottom of whether they censored or not, you could probably find and contact some former Blockbuster employees and others in the industry who can give you a more authoritative account of what happened.

It is not immaterial who is producing the different editions; at the very least, it tells you to whom you should be directing your anger.

Blockbuster was almost certainly not doing any editing itself, simply for the cost of running a VHS/DVD production workshop at that scale. Doing its own editing without permission of the video owner would have been outright copyright infringement, and they would have had the pockets and visibility to be sued for doing so.

Another thing worth pointing out: rental editions are generally produced and released before retail editions. It's very possible that mistakes identified in a rental edition could have been rectified for the retail edition, and Blockbuster in particular is unlikely to have replaced its rental edition stock with retail edition stock if such changes were made. Just because a change exists doesn't mean that one copy was intentionally censored.

I used to work at Blockbuster and this doesn't strike me as correct.

I used to wander the isles at blockbuster and wonder why with all that space ... there were so few movies.

And like you said hit and independent place and you could do some discovery.

Netflix with DVDs in the early days with user reviews (that were seriously well written) was so great for discovery. Now.... nope, discovery gone.

About half the space at Blockbuster was taken up by multiple copies of the same top five current hit movies. There really wasn't a lot of room for more obscure stuff. Especially since they shelved everything so you could see the face of the package. So you have a lot less space for stock on a shelf that way

Blockbuster had a DVD by mail subscription service similar to Netflix also, probably to compete with Netflix. I used it on my first deployment in the Middle East because at that time Netflix wouldn't ship to an APO AE address.

In the same year that Reed Hastings was laughed out of the conference room, Blockbuster announced a partnership with Enron for Videos on Demand. https://www.forbes.com/2000/07/20/mu4.html#545092873541

The partnership lasted a single year. I wonder which event happened first? If they met with Enron first, it seems the morale is to move fast and never underestimate what the future holds. If they met with Netflix first, I'd say it's don't be as skeptical to the big guys as you are to the startup.

It seems so bizarre - a rental company would stream video, through an energy company's fiber optic cables. Didn't this seem incongruous to anyone at the time?


Old Enron commercial on selling unused broadband capacity like a commodity:


The idea of “Enron Broadband” seemed ridiculous to me at the time.

Enron didn't have any last mile broadband capability. How did this deal get done?

The same way all of Enron's deals got done. Lies about capabilities/offerings and then shady accounting to cover up reality.

Another video talks about Enron using mark-to-market bookkeeping to record $100 million in revenue from the 20-year deal.


Yup, which was their MO. Skilling insisted the company move to mark-to-market accounting, something not common with non-financial companies (and for good reason), which meant marking down the perceived value of the contract and then later, not bothering to update for the loss.

Enron provided backhaul, last mile was handled by various DSL providers depending on region. Of course ultimately the deal didn't get done, the service was available in a handful of test markets for ~3 months before the whole thing was canceled.

Is it because telco was a lot different back then with all the clecs and the bells sharing co space?

The author harps on "networks" too much. In general, brick and mortar retail sectors which can be done better on line have tanked. From Sears to Radio Shack to Toys-R-Us, that's happened. Malls in general are hurting badly.

> From Sears to Radio Shack

The idiotic thing is that Sears was the original Amazon, with their mail-order catalog business. It worked out well for them for a long time. But they became your grandparents' favorite place to shop (and their product offerings reflected this) within a few generations, and in their desperate bid to stay relevant they've decided to mimic the business model of Service Merchandise, which paid the price for its own irrelevance 20 years ago.

Everybody overhypes Amazon but it's not (entirely) online shopping that Sears is competing with-- it's Walmart, the neighboring, booming B&M business.

Radio Shack is not much better. "You have questions, we have blank stares" gave way to "you need solder, we have cell phones." Somewhere along the way they were forced to sell nothing but phones and lost any cachet they had as the only electronics vendor in most towns, as they were now competing with the 5 or 6 phone stores even the smallest of towns already had. I don't know where they went wrong in the first place but in this overteched age the market for consumer electronics is clearly there.

It's like watching a horror film where all you can do is scream silently "don't do that!" as the debutante goes into the basement to investigate the strange noise. Some of these pivots are just painfully short-sighted.

I suspect malls may yet make a modest recovery. More and more of them are starting to attract "lifestyle" businesses to prop them up and drive foot traffic, such as movie theaters, events, bars and (actual) restaurants.

Toy-R-Us had a business that was doing quite well. Their downfall was a result of a leveraged buyout of which they couldn't afford the debt payments. If there were no LBO, they would still be in business today.

Something similar could be said for most of the failed-business stories noted. They were picked clean by vulture investors, bloated with debt, and sent floating down the river. Sears for sure.

>Malls in general are hurting badly.

I guess I'm getting old, because I've been hearing that malls are dying for at least the last 20 years. The suit is back?

I thought Toys-R-Us went under because private equity firms that bought it stood to make more money that way. Probably if it had remained an independent company it would still be around.



Toys R Us going under was essentially guaranteed when it was sold to private equity firms, it was simply a question of when and how. Everyone involved in the transaction knew that at the time of the sale. The question for the sellers was, given that I know this ship is going to end up on the beach, should I run it there myself and try to give it a soft landing, or should I sell it and let someone else take it into the shore full steam ahead.

Oddly one of the big San Jose malls (Valley Fair) is currently undergoing a huge renovation and expansion.

It's very uneven. Upscale malls are generally doing pretty well. Then there's the nearest mall near me which sports such luminaries as Sears and JC Penneys as anchor stores (plus the Toys R US which recently closed). It's not... great. There are a few stores in the same general complex that seem to be doing fine but the mall itself is moribund.

I have to go to the mall here in Melbourne, FL for work clothes. The standalone clothing stores mostly sell stuff targeted at tourists and snowbirds (beachwear, Hawaiian shirts, etc.).

Bah, maybe I should get a job that lets me wear Hawaiian shirts to work everyday.

For sure you can do that in Hawaii. It’s actually quite awesome.

Only the malls around rich people are doing okay. You can spot these by searching for Apple and Nordstrom’s, also where you will find the wealthier side of any urban area.

Even those traditional closed in malls are being upended by pedestrian friendly upscale mixed uses communities with stores and townhomes.

The local Apple Store just moved from the local mall to one of those communities. It also has the standard cliched collection of yuppie stores - a Tesla showroom, Whole Foods, Gap, Bonobos, Container Store, Pottery Barn, a Pilates Studio, etc....

Yes, it's also about separating upper class from middle/lower. Indoor malls became the norm, so a shiny new outdoor one can signal itself as something more upscale and different. The outdoor lighting also probably helps instagram pics when having mimosas and/or dinner at sunset.

But what confuses me, is that when my wife and I go there on the weekend, the retail stores don’t have much foot traffic. The restaurants, Whole Foods, and the movie theatre do though. Its the same when I go during the week for lunch occasionally.

I've seen that too. Maybe the brands recognize them as cost centers they have to maintain to keep up the successful brand image and as customer service location for returns and whatnot?

What you described is literally the same thing SouthPark makes fun of in the Sodosopa episodes. https://imgur.com/gallery/Xgea4Ot

It's amazing how on the nose they are.

That's frighteningly close to the place I was referring to...



I just watched the video of "sodasopa". If they didn't have the South Park characters in it, I would have thought it was a real ad for either Avalon or one of the other areas in Atlanta.


I think that's an article about that space too.

These days going to the mall has to be “an experience”. People don’t just buy things anymore, they want to have an “experience”

I’m in the mall right now for lunch. There is absolutely no store that I would come here for except for the food court for lunch and the movie theatre. We do walk around the Avalon regularly.

And in Cupertino Vallco is rotting.

Vallco was doomed as soon as Valley Fair opened for business 4.5 miles away and cornered the market for upscale anchor tenants.

I don't think that social influence critical masses were really a factor here.

Blockbuster was brick and mortar, and 'on demand from home at $10 a month' is going to kill that business on the basic fundamentals.

There's no special science here.

Blockbuster executives were fools - not so much to 'not see it coming' (few did) - but to not react when the writing was on the wall.

Video streaming might be hard but it's not rocket Science, and a lot of people still wanted to rent videos.

Using the massive installed base, stores, and gazillions of customers to launch an 'on demand' service that was 'pretty good' might have snuffed Netflix.

After all - Netflix had to make the switch from DVDs.

I worked at BlackBerry and saw kind of the same thing - sitting on the Titanic watching the iceberg get closer ... not at all alone in my concern, however the large ship was unable to change course.

Especially as Netflix was just getting into streaming, and however we can point fingers, the fact remains that Blockbuster had all the opportunity and advantage, it was squandered.

> Blockbuster was brick and mortar, and 'on demand from home at $10 a month' is going to kill that business on the basic fundamentals.

That doesn't explain why Redbox managed to thrive though.

Sure it does. While Redbox is a physical presence, its overhead is negligible. And for those whom $10/mo isn't an option because, no $150/mo internet to base it on (not everybody can afford expensive internet connections) Redbox is an option.

I've never seen a brick and mortar redbox

Article is a bit vague and oversimplified. So Netflix won because of network effects? and Blockbuster didn't have network effects? Blockbuster is bigger than Netflix when Netflix was a startup and simple ripples in Blockbuster could have generated a much bigger effect than Netflix in terms of Facebook posts or Twitter messages.

Network effects don't happen because people want them to happen, network effects benefit in marketing is really just really good service that turns into lots of word-of-mouth that is spread super-fast throughout the internet whereas traditionally it would just spread in your traditional community. You can build for network effects but that doesn't mean you can get that effect.

There are different network effects/economies of scale that end up getting conflated.

There are often benefits to size like brand recognition, better pricing from suppliers, amortization of R&D, etc. Apple is a poster child.

There are network effects where having more users actually helps to make a better product through increased data etc. (This is increasingly true with products that rely on ML and large data sets in various ways.)

And then there are the eBay-type (or telephone system historically) network effects. If your auction site only has a handful of sellers (or a handful of buyers), it's more or less useless no matter how wonderful it is by other metrics.

My girlfriend runs an independent video rental store. I've been thinking of ways to implement a streaming service for our extensive collection of physical DVDs from the store to customers in the local area, perhaps to a proprietary TV box. I have the skills to do this.

Does anybody here know if this has ever been done, or is legal? I'm in BC, Canada.

You /really/ need to talk to a copyright lawyer in your country about this.

I am almost positive it'll run against SOME stupid copyright law even if you do an ethnically correct thing similar to having a human insert a disk in to a real video playback device and streaming the output to a merely a single very long distance connected display device.

I'm not a lawyer, but the Canadian copyright act is actually quite readable: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-42/ As a programmer, I'm someone who depends on copyright for my living, so I always thought it was a good idea to understand what it says.

While, the advice to get a lawyer is a good one, I think it's actually pretty clear that it is not legal. It falls pretty clearly under "(f) in the case of any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, to communicate the work to the public by telecommunication". You would have to get a license -- and that's the difficult-to-the-point-of-impossible bit.

It's not at all clear that it's 'to the public', when it's only being sent to the renter. But that won't stop you from getting charged anyway.

Feel free to consult a lawyer, but there are 2 parties to which the copyright act refers: the public and researchers. The definition of researchers is given in the act. The public is everybody else -- you, the renter, anyone else that isn't a researcher.

The way it works is that the act outlines all of the circumstances in which copying could be infringing. It then defines infringement in section 2. In section 2 it says that it is not infringement if you have an agreement with the copyright holder (i.e. a license).

You may be thinking that "the public" infers a large group of people. This is not correct. The copyright act doesn't distinguish between numbers of people except in very specific circumstances (private copying with respect to audio recordings of music is an example). There used to be a section dealing with "making available", but it seems to have been removed (I haven't lived in Canada for a decade, so I haven't kept up with the copyright act).

Generally speaking, copyright infringement is a civil matter, but commercial copyright infringement is a criminal matter so it is doubly important to get a good legal opinion before venturing into that territory.

But, like I said, the act is quite clear IMHO. If you disagree, then feel free to get a legal opinion (which mine is not). I would literally be shocked if any lawyer told you that it was legal, though.

Does that mean two people watching a movie together are breaking that law?

There's all kinds of exceptions and things in there, plus a copyright board that makes decisions.

Notable is 29.22 Reproduction for private purposes is allowed if

29.22 (1) (a) the individual legally obtained the copy of the work or other subject-matter from which the reproduction is made, other than by borrowing it or renting it, and owns or is authorized to use the medium or device on which it is reproduced;

So it seems that both the DVD and player must be legally owned by the person watching the movie. That means they must have the right to come in and walk away with the DVD and player at any time, just as if they had them in a data center. Seems reasonable. Just buy them back when they're done.

Note that Zediva didn't do this. Their DVDs and DVD players weren't actually owned by the customers, just rented, nor were customers allowed into the data center to repossess them. The US also didn't have the same private reproduction provision as in the Canadian Copyright Act does.

That's making a copy, not really relevant to viewing, so I'm not really sure why you're quoting it.

If it was relevant to viewing then it would imply that two people watching a rental aren't covered...

Read the act. There is a section for presentation of audio visual works.

I understand that you want to be upset at the copyright act. I actually don't like it very much either. But you do yourself and others a disservice by maintaining an intentionally ignorant stance. If you want to help, learn about it and do something useful. Sniping at people who are trying to help you is completely unhelpful.

I'm curious why you think I'm 'sniping', because I'm not trying to be hostile at all. And I don't trust myself to read the law very well, because copyright-related law is often contradictory and impossible to understand without extensive case law understanding.

And even if the Canadian version is easy to understand, it doesn't help the US version being excessively twisted in my eyes to make very reasonable things illegal. I'm frankly amazed that 'cloud DVR' wasn't shut down immediately.

https://www.wired.com/2011/08/zediva-shuts-down/ - Zediva tried that previously and it didn't end too well for them. Was and OK service but tech wise it was a bit clunky and not as good as netflix.

Except Netflix has a couple hundred movies available where we have about 10,000.

Technical execution is the easy part, but legally speaking, you might fare much better by just offering to physically deliver movies on demand.

Yeah, you're probably right. I'm thinking of making Canada's only mail-order DVD/BR website.

Netflix bought Zip.ca but then they shut down mail orders. We don't even have Redbox anymore. It's sad that there are a lot of great movies you can't legally stream online in Canada - can't even torrent them - but we have them on DVD in high quality.

Reminds me of a promotion I saw a few years ago where some pizza chain had paired up with a video rental place. You ordered a DVD with your pizza and they were delivered together.

Our store did that a few years ago, too. Skip the Dishes is widely available in our town now, and we're surrounded by restaurants, but I haven't asked them if they'll deliver DVDs yet.

If you ever come to Portland, visit movie madness and grab a video: Save Movie Madness, via @Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hollywoodtheatre/save-m...

They have not totally failed. There is one store left in Bend Oregon http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/ny-news-bl...

Video rental stores and physical media was destined to go the way of the dodo as soon as uncapped broadband hit in the early 2000s. And now there's unlimited data over 4G networks. I am 30+ too but lets not overindulge in nostalgia. I have access to a vast library of entertainment 24/7.

Business Wars did a series on Netflix and Blockbuster at its launch: https://wondery.com/shows/business-wars/

Both entertaining and enlightening.

Blockbuster was also servicing US$1 billion in debt after being spun off from Viacom.

Netflix currently has $4.8 billion in debt and another $15 billion of streaming content obligations. (https://www.polygon.com/2017/8/15/16151944/netflix-disney-de...)

"Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive—many considered him a retail genius"...yet he made incredibly obvious mistakes to prop up a business with a flawed business model. I fail to see any of the genius, he seems like another corporate idiot in a suit, to me.

Antioco tried launching a dvd by mail and streaming service around the same time Netflix did. They were behind, but not that far. The problem seems to be this

> While he convinced the board to back his plan, one of his lieutenants, Jim Keyes, led a rear guard action.

Had they actually listened to Antioco, they may have survived.

I subscribed to Blockbuster Online because I could return things to the store and get movies faster than Netflix. Everything about it was equal or better (except maybe the name.)

Then it all sorta fell apart on Blockbuster and I've been a happy Netflix subscriber for more than a decade.

Has there ever been a successful large scale pivot by an American technology company that wasn’t founder led? All of the successful FAANG companies successfully managed transistions led by thier founders. Even though Microsoft’s recent turn around wasn’t founder led, I don’t think the current CEO could have done it without Bill Gates’ support.


The company has massive problems now, but many of the larger scale pivots in its history were not the work of Moore or Noyce. Now, we can debate whether Andy Grove counts (and I tend to say no, because though not technically a founder, he was employee number 3 and there from the day the company was incorporated), but looking at someone like Paul Otellini, who most definitely helped turn the company around, I think that's a good example.

Otellini missed mobile, a massive, massive problem -- but I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that Grove would've necessarily done better. It's hard to say.

And if we want to go further back, I would argue that IBM was never led by its founders. Watson wasn't a founder; he came into what became IBM as a hired manager. One could argue his son was "more" of a founder because he grew up seeped into the culture of what IBM became and he definitely helped lead the company to greatness.

But subsequent CEOs like Frank Cary and Louis Gerstner really did the big turnarounds and pivots.

It's unlikely because the existing staff incentives are from the previous business line, not the new one.

Just try and get your sales staff to sell a new product line when all their commission comes from the old one.

>> While he convinced the board to back his plan, one of his lieutenants, Jim Keyes, led a rear guard action.

> Had they actually listened to Antioco, they may have survived.

The article seemed to ignore that and put the blame on Antioco. His only failing was not getting rid of Jim Keyes.

Worth considering this in light of the recent purges and executive departures at companies such as Tesla.

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