Why I am opposed to Netflix streaming

Reed Hastings, the Netflix CEO who co-founded the company long before “streaming” entered the popular lexicon, was born during a fairly remarkable year for film. 1960 was the year Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho astounded and terrified audiences, influencing a half-century of horror to come. It was a year of outstanding comedies (Billy Wilder’s The Apartment), outstanding epics (Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus) and outstandingly creepy thrillers (Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom—a close cousin of Psycho).

But in the vast world of Netflix streaming, 1960 doesn’t exist. There’s one movie from 1961 available to watch (the original Parent Trap) and one selection from 1959 (Compulsion), but not a single film from 1960. It’s like it never happened. There aren’t any movies from 1963 either. Or 1968, 1955 or 1948. There are no Hitchcock films on Netflix. No classics from Sergio Leone or François Truffaut. When Debbie Reynolds died last Christmas week, grieving fans had to turn to Amazon Video for Singin’ in the Rain and Susan Slept Here. You could fill a large film studies textbook with what’s not available on Netflix.

Netflix’s selection of classic cinema is abominable—and it seems to shrink more every year or so. As of this month, the streaming platform offers just 43 movies made before 1970, and fewer than 25 from the pre-1950 era (several of which are World War II documentaries). It’s the sort of classics selection you’d expect to find in a decrepit video store in 1993, not on a leading entertainment platform that serves some 100 million global subscribers.

The bottom line is that streaming rights are expensive, whereas for shipping around DVDs the company can simply buy a disc.  Alternatively, you could say that the law for tangible media — such as discs — is less infested with special interests than the law for digital rights?  What does that say about our future?

Here is the article, via Ted Gioia.


You forgot to say why you were opposed to Netflix streaming.

You need to read between the lines, though it helps to be around Prof. Cowen's age.

I'm a generation younger than Tyler, and I have negative feelings about Netflix streaming (and streaming more generally) for the same reason.

A shallow catalog (no long tail here) is one thing, but there is also the economic hurdle. To be properly streamed these classics need to be remastered from analog for HD (or now 4k).

I for one do now want to watch a classic that has been downsampled to NTSC and then reinflated for not-at-all-hd.

If you want to propose that the government do it (Library of Congress or Smithsonian?) as preservation, for the public domian, I'm on board.

Haven't most classics that people want to watch already been remastered to HD for a Blu-Ray release?

Apparently, since Netflix streaming does not allow you to stream anything at any time, it must be opposed.

It's a lot like why he opposes restaurants and strip clubs.

Seriously. You aren't smart enough to post here.


"The bottom line is that streaming rights are expensive, whereas for shipping around DVDs the company can simply buy a disc."

Expensive streamed films are expensive, which vastly reduces the inventory.

Which is irrelevant, since it's not an either/or situation. Having the option to stream some films does not reduce his option to watch others through other means.

This is why, on the whole, Amazon's streaming offer is superior. You can gets tons of "free" Prime videos, and can rent or buy almost anything else all in one place.

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Torrents.

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

This x1000.

The solution is to first study this list: http://www.theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_all1000films_table.php

Then study this: http://www.wikihow.com/Download-Torrents

Then get on pirate bay and download the best films.

Then watch and enjoy them.

Why bother with streaming sites at all?

"Why bother with streaming sites at all?"

I don't know, because theft?

Why bother with buying stuff at all when you can just grab it and run?

+1. Figures prior would be a thief in addition to being a dick.

I am a thief, but I wasn't trying to be a dick. I am saying you should torrent great film too. It's fun, easy, and educational. I view torrenting film the same way I do torrenting music. If I really like it, I may purchase the dvd/blu-ray. But let's be honest: purchasing art at all now is an act of charity.

If you wanted to be honest, you would pay artists what they ask for for their art. I might think differently about streaming 80 year old movies where the artists are all long dead. But taking free music and movies being made today? You're a dick.

But here's a Cowen-esque three-quarter utilitarian obnoxious/obfuscating style pseudo-argument:
-Artists have become too complacent because they are paid too much.
-Complacency amounts to a lack of motivating suffering.
-Great art is usually the product of great suffering.
-By torrenting film/music/novels etc. I don't pay artists, thus making them suffer a bit more.
-By making them suffer more, I contribute to the eventual creation of better art.
-Therefore I should (and so should you) torrent more.

Amen! I have long said that I would gladly pay for a streaming service that offers no films within a decade of their release, but had essentially every film older than 10 years available to stream.

Channels on Amazon Prime Video. Tribeca Shortlist, STARZ, etc. have tons of old movies despite being more weighted towards films since 1990. There are a few other channels which have more classic ones.

Something like 50% of Millenials have never seen a movie made before 1980. The core constituency of Netflix's users are young people eschewing traditional cable. 65% of 18-24 year olds are subscribed, whereas only 25% of 55-64 year olds are. Why would Netflix, or any streaming service, shell out big money for classic movies, when that's the least in demand category among their base.

Because Netflix has an extremely high P/E ratio, implying that the market expects further large growth, and the stock price plunges when customer base growth misses expectations? The very fact that they've nearly saturated the market with the young but have a lot of room to grow with older people is an argument that perhaps they should find a way to attract the latter.

Your argument is like "Why should Star Wars have a female lead, when they have such a solid lock on the male audience?"

The pacing of storytelling is different now. You have the ADD generation watch classics and they will get bored quickly; "talking movies" are hard to focus on when your brain is addicted to checking social media every few minutes.

[citation needed] Your claim in not plausible: Star Wars is from 77.

Female lead Star Wars (Rey) is from a couple of years ago

"Something like 50% of Millenials have never seen a movie made before 1980.". There's no way that's true. Besides -as someone else mentioned- Star Wars, you have all the classic Disney animated films. Unless those don't count? What about Willy Wonka?

I've never heard of Willy Wonka, gramps.

It seems increasingly difficult to rent movies through non-streaming services. Before when I had Netflix discs I could get just about anything (although I had to settle on what I wanted a few days before-although that was also good because it didn't enable ADD movie hopping like with streaming). Now, with Blockbuster going under and my local video store going under, seems like you're SOL if you don't want a popular relatively recent movie via streaming.

It also strikes me that Amazon has a competitive advantage here. If something is not "free" to stream via Prime, it is often available to Rent for a few dollars. Netflix doesn't have that option. Perhaps because the entire point of Netflix is you pay a monthly fee to access a streaming catalogue, whereas Prime has many components, of which streaming is only one, so I don't mind if I have to pay 3.99 if something isn't on Prime streaming.

The most depressing thing I've read all year. I was just about to switch over from movie theaters to streaming.

"From movie theaters" lol

Poor choice of words, don't you think? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you don't want to buy Netflix Streaming. "Opposed" has a different meaning, doesn't it? The commenter picks up on this- the reasons listed are all those telling us why you won't purchase the product, not why you oppose it.

Is this line so easy to carelessly overlook - 'less infested with special interests than the law for digital rights'?

Almost as if the author of a book praising capitalism for its bountiful ability to create art has actually belatedly discovered that capitalism has no interest in art unless it can be sold at a profit. And a man belatedly discovering that the age of physical objects carrying digital data is fading into the same past as Kodachrome - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrRRhoS3KFk

>>capitalism has no interest in art unless it can be sold at a profit

It is regrettable the common man does not desire more art, perhaps by some transgressive and louahly-spoken young artist emplacing a copy of a Bible of on top of a burning effigy of Ronald Reagan fashioned of elephant dung and entitled "Emptiness VII".

Or perhaps we do not think that philistines should be forced to subsidise snobs via public art programmes. If you want to elevate your soul, do it on your own dollar.

loathly - site seems to be eating my keyboard today.

'It is regrettable the common man does not desire more art'

And I thought we were talking about major Hollywood films like Psycho.or Spartacus. Both of which seem to fulfill the condition of appealing to common people (at least of an earlier generation) and also being considered art.

'Or perhaps we do not think that philistines should be forced to subsidise snobs via public art programmes.'

The BBC seems to do pretty well in providing the sort of art that American audiences enjoy watching, actually, even if it the British who provide the initial subsidy. Dr. Who, for a multi-generational example which has likely been profitable for the BBC.

Maybe your, apparently quite limited, definition of art is not the same as the one shared in this context by Prof. Cowen and myself? Admittedly, I (and one could reasonably assume Prof. Cowen) don't quite go so far as Warhol's definition that art is what you can get away with. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/andy_warhol.html

(Another Warhol bonus quote that applies perfectly to the current American situation, and definitely including the sort of art actually under discussion - 'What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.')

The BBC gets a free subsidy from the licence fee in the UK. If they actually had to get people to pay for their stuff it would be a different story.

It's possible there might be something going on here a little more complex than just "capitalism".
There are issues like copyright law involved, which was written for an era when you couldn't make infinite copies of something almost instantaneously.

The problem is not exclusive to older films. The Netflix streaming library has shrunk by more than 50% in the last 5 years due to streaming rights headaches. It's why they're betting on original content.

Why would original rights holders turn over their library to Netflix when they can stream it themselves on their unlimited streaming services?

Competition does not mean every store carries every product, only that substitutes can be found from multiple sources.

Netflix has probably a hundred substitutes to every Hitchcock film and to Psycho.

Of course, conservative economists led the way in locking up Psycho from the public domain as their logical outcome of ending governments role in supporting the arts. They argued that by creating endless property rights, consumers would be forced to pay privately to support the arts, cutting costs of the arts. I was born when TV networks were born, and was in my 30s as the war on government support for the arts began in earnest, in contrast to the rest of the world.

"conservative economists", I'd say "crony globalism by left-wing politicians for a left-wing industry", but your mileage may vary. If patents expire after 20 years I see little reason why copyrights shouldn't too.

I'm not sure the relentless extension of copyright over the decades can be said to have been driven by left-wing politicians for left-wing industry, any more than it can be said to have been driven by conservative economists. It's been driven by corporations which have come to control the vast majority of copyrights that can be readily monetized. Corporations that, whatever their image, are inherently conservative (as in, seeking to conserve their control and revenue streams). Corporationss like Walt Disney, which could hardly be described as left-wing. The politicians, both left and right, are just doing what it takes to get the campaign money to stay in office.

Sonny Bono was a Republican.

"This law, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or (derisively) the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, effectively "froze" the advancement date of the public domain in the United States for works covered by the older fixed term copyright rules."

I seem to remember that an economist calculated something like 35 year copyright to be optimal. I lean a little longer, 40-50, but I think the number should be one focused on the artist and his rewards, not families or corporations seeking to control for generations.

Yes, Bono was a Republican, and I believe it was Orrin Hatch who introduced the bill, but I think it passed unanimously in the senate and was signed into law by Clinton. It's not a right/left issue, it's a corporate thing.

I agree that 40-50 years is optimal for copyright held by corporations, and lifetime plus something like 10 years for individual creators. Creator's families and estates overall have a horrible record of doing right by the creator, and generally function to make sure the original creative work sinks rapidly into obscurity.

"Lifetime plus" is a giveaway to the "copyright search" industry.

It should be one number, something you can figure out from holding a "Copyright 1936" book or film in your hand. "Copyright search" for term is evidence of a broken law.

I found this article (https://rufuspollock.com/papers/optimal_copyright_term.pdf) that says the optimal is about 15 years.

Well, there's clearly going to be some benefit to be gained by aggregating content through one portal. Subscribers may have an easier time finding your content for instance. You can make more money by selling content to a distributor so it's for sale in the grocery store, than you can by expecting people to come directly to the factory outlet.

But last time I checked, the studios weren't actually offering their own unlimited streaming services, either. HBO was, but not so much the movie studios.

The length of copyright is an issue in itself, but here it is not the most relevant issue. The relevant issue is that copyright law treats streaming and downloads differently from physical media.

The relevant legal precedent regarding physical media is "the right of first sale." This is what enables a public library to buy a copy of a paper book and lend it out over and over again without paying to the publisher anything beyond the initial purchase price. And so, too, for a DVD or CD or anything else on physical media: when you pay for a copy, you can do pretty much whatever you please with it other than copy it. If you own the physical copy you can sell it, rent it, give it away (etc.) and the copyright owner is due nothing after that first sale.

The right of first sale does not extend to downloads, however, even if you bought (instead of renting or streaming) the download. Because actually you didn't "buy a copy," you bought a license to use what you downloaded according to the terms of the license. And therefore a library can't buy an ebook and then lend it out (as it could a paper book) but must negotiate terms with the publisher.
Just as you can't buy an ebook or some other digital download and then sell or rent or give it away unless you have the publisher's explicit permission to do so.

Netflix is awful the selection is pathetic and will only get worse as they focus more on original content which is sometimes good but still

Yeah, instead of paying workers to create new content, Netflix should have bought old companies to get the work of dead people. Cutting labor costs and charging high prices to reap big profit from the past is the best way to create growth.


Yes exactly. I mean that would be better.

That's actually not a bad idea. They have a ton of cash, they could just buy the rights to the content outright.

Here, here, mulp! This is a great idea.

Proper remastering is a creative art, and while the original should be in the public domain, the new digital work deserves a (40-50) year copyright of its own.

If you want your own digital version, you should do that work, from the original.

Seriously? A 50 year copyright just for remastering the audio?
Is it ok if someone else also does the remastering from the public domain original and offers it for sale as a competing product? I mean if the original is really public domain then anyone should be allowed to base a new creative work on it right?

If any audio engineers happen by, I welcome their input, but I believe that any transition from analog to digital has a "noise vs signal" trade-off. That results in a creative decision (or many). Perhaps more as non-linearity in the original archaic recording is compensated for.

And of course movies amplify these decisions in all directions. Can (or should) a 16:9 version be panned and scanned? Infinite variations there.

Ah, I forgot monaural to stereo choices and decisions. A quality remastering will try to make those footsteps move across the screen.

What's the problem, Hazel? You're not forced to buy it, and the original is still in public domain, so you don't even need to pay anything to get it.

It's not a problem IF anyone else is permitted to do their own remastering from the original and then market it. I don't believe that is the case. Do you see ANY independently remastered films that have been remastered by someone other than the copyright holder on the market?

Again, we're talking about things that are out of copyright, so that's irrelevant. Remastering might give you a copyright over the remastered version, but not the original

We are all partial to movies we saw as teenagers and adolescents. Hastings may have been born in 1960 but when did he come of age?
If I tried to interest my children in "Citizen Kane" , they would laugh me out of the house.

My young children have found plenty of old movies quite enjoyable. Last week the 10-year-old and the 15-year-old watched "The Lady Vanishes" together, a Hitchcock movie from 1938, and both liked it.

Incompetent analysis by Goia/TC. In fact, mechanical royalties are the same for streaming vs DVD. See here: "A mechanical royalty is a royalty paid to a songwriter whenever a copy of his or her song is streamed via an interactive service". - http://www.tunecore.com/blog/2012/11/how-were-getting-your-mechanicals-from-streams.html

I'm not an expert in this area but the giveaway was this flawed sentence: "The bottom line is that streaming rights are expensive, whereas for shipping around DVDs the company can simply buy a disc". - No, it's the same. Now there is a thing as 'performance royalty' that memory tells me is higher than a mechanical royalty, but that's where the user does not pick and choice what movie or song to play, but it's done by somebody else.

The real reason there's few movies from the 1960s is that the audience does not want them. It's kind of like this blog: every story is current, ripped from today's headlines, and anything more than a few weeks old is ignored. Market demand.

But the Netflix choices from ALL decades are horrible and extremely limited. You think there's also major demand for the garbage they DO put on there?

Ray, you are misunderstanding U.S. copyright law here. Under the first-sale doctrine in U.S. law, once you purchase a copy of a DVD you can use it as you see fit, including renting it out or re-selling it, without paying any additional royalties. So a DVD rental outfit can purchase a copy (at the same price a consumer pays) and rent it out indefinitely with no additional costs incurred. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine

This is not true in many other jurisdictions (e.g. Europe), but what Tyler states is certainly true in the U.S.

'once you purchase a copy of a DVD you can use it as you see fit'

Not precisely. The DVD itself, as a physical object, can be resold or rented. However, if you attempt to show that DVD's content to an audience, you will discover that public performance rights are a real thing - http://www.library.georgetown.edu/copyright/public-performance-rights

And unsurprisingly, here is how Netflix handles this, according to the Georgetown link - 'Netflix has recently made selected films available for educational screenings. As of January 2017, there were only seven, but this number might increase over time. Click here to learn more about educational screenings of Netflix documentaries. The library does not have a subscription to Netflix, so you need to use a personal account. All other Netflix films are subject to their standard terms of use: The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only.... You agree not to use the service for public performances.'

Yes, public performance is treated differently. There are other exceptions, too. I'm aware of this but didn't mention it because it's not relevant.

For what we are discussing here--DVD rentals for private viewing--there are definitely no per-view royalties paid under U.S. law.

Actually, it is - the content of a DVD has additional rights above and beyond the physical object. And it is only the physical object subject to the doctrine of first sale, not its content. The same applies to breaking CSS/regional encoding for that matter, at least in the U.S. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_v._Reimerdes in connection with DeCSS and playing a legally purchased DVD on a Linux system.

Which is why the point about Netflix not actually explicitly licensing most of its own content for public performance in an educational setting is interesting, as broadly speaking, and as noted at the beginning of the Georgetwon link, non-profit educational institutions actually have a certain degree of public performance rights granted under copyright law, even if Netflix seems to disagree. Thus illustrating Prof. Cowen's observation in terms of opposing streaming that 'the law for tangible media — such as discs — is less infested with special interests than the law for digital rights.' And of course, whereas a physical DVD cannot be removed from Georgetown's library merely because the copyright owner demands it, a streaming service can always stop streaming any content at any time for any reason.

Kindle's memory hole example is quite relevant in this regard. Of course, it is a bit complex. First, you cannot record from a streaming service - 'So it’s unsurprising that pretty universally, the terms of use or terms of service for the streaming content companies say saving their stuff is a big no-no. A sample of TOS agreements shows how universally banned copying is ....'

Or maybe you can - 'Breaking or circumventing any kind of copy-protection mechanism on media is illegal. That’s what the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is all about. Aside from a few very specific, enumerated set of exemptions, you may not create copies of anything if doing so would require an end-run around locks it has built in.

But when you don’t have to break any locks, well, that’s a different story.' https://consumerist.com/2015/11/06/you-can-record-movies-off-netflix-or-music-off-spotify-but-youre-not-allowed-to/

Admittedly, the very idea of 'streaming' is the sort of technobabble that convinced Congress and Hollywood there was a difference between illegal data downloaded to your PC (an mp3 file from a web server) and legal data that was streamed to your PC (an mp3 file from a SHOUTcast server).

Anyone paying attention to the world around us since the passing of the DMCA has undoubtedly invested in a few terabytes of storage to make sure that Prof. Cowen's concerns regarding an ever growing restriction of rights in the streaming age is not actually relevant. However, those sort of people have likely not spent a penny on any Apple product since that time, as it was Jobs and co. that were instrumental in using that technobabble in concert with his own company's success in its ongoing efforts to build a true walled garden where entertainment industry executives could feel comfortable making money.

Prior: "Actually it is [relevant]. [Followed by seven paragraphs of stuff that isn't relevant to my point]"

But which was relevant to Prof. Cowen's point regarding the difference between the rights associated with tangible objects and the purely digital. And related to the point that there are a number of rights an owner of a DVD does not actually have when looking at the actual content license - at least in the U.S., it appears to be extremely legally problematic (at least in the eyes of American law) to play a legally purchased Region 2 DVD in a legally licensed American market Region 1 DVD player.

And the reality that a movie may be available on DVD in Europe does not legally entitle an American to access that content in the U.S. in their Region 1 DVD player.

DVDs were intentionally designed to restrict the rights of the DVD disc owners from the very start, it is simply that people have forgotten that these days. If Netflix had attempted to import Region 2 DVDs for its Region 1 customers, not one of those Region 2 discs could be legally played, even if no laws related to the selling the tangible DVD disc would have been violated.

It's still pretty irrelevant when Tyler only said that DVDs were "less infested" with these problems than streaming, not that there were no issues. You have only demonstrated that streaming services have all the problems of DVDs, but add yet more.

Anyway, prior_test3, thanks for once again agreeing with Tyler, even if you have to dress it up with pretending to disagree.

'thanks for once again agreeing with Tyler, even if you have to dress it up with pretending to disagree.'

And here I was, thinking I was clearly in agreement with Prof. Cowen in terms of physical objects being 'less infested.' Where did I disagree with that? Unless it was in the reality that a physical object and a license are not the same thing. To give an even older example, one predating the digital age entirely, you can buy a play, but you are in no sense allowed to put on a play using the purchased book, as you did not actually buy the right to put on a play. This is even true if every single performer is holding their own legally purchased copy on a stage in front of an audience, and simply reading from that legally owned copy.

Where I have disagreed, fundamentally, is with streaming as a concept - a stream is merely another name for data, with everyone involved pretending that the streamed digital data downloaded to a device is somehow different than digital data downloaded to a device. That can be seen in the actual first post of the morning, with a slightly reworked quote from 'The Graduate.'

OK I will be the final arbiter in this tread. First, thanks for dan1111 to remind us of the basics: first sale vs streaming. But ultimately 'prior_test3' is right about the law: Netflix and other such companies are NOT using first sale doctrine when they 'rent' out DVDs, they are de facto streaming, it's just that studios are not cracking down. I knew I was right about this event though, as I say, I don't follow copyright as I do follow patent law.

First sale under US copyright allows for the sale of DVDs without the owner paying copyright for any subsequent resale. But what Netflix, Redbox, others do is NOT sale. They are renting DVDs. It is the SAME as streaming. It is NOT the same if Netflix buys a DVD and sends it to a customer, expecting the customer to send it back to Netflix, and if say Walmart buys a DVD and sells it to a customer, who will never send it back to Walmart for resale. Studios are pissed at this, and have tried, and successfully managed, to block sales to companies similar to Netflix, such as Redbox. See the references below. The only reason these companies like Redbox, Netflix still exist is because the copyright holders like the studios are picking their legal battles carefully. Clearly Netflix is 'streaming', de facto, DVDs when they send them by the mail to customers and expect customers to send them back to Netflix for re-sending to other customers.




Both of these articles are based on the exact point I am making. Direct quote from your first link: "If Netflix wants, it can buy DVDs from any particular source and then use them in its business. It need not get any licenses with the movie industry."

The basic story is:

1) Netflix, Blockbuster, etc. could always legally buy any old DVD copy of movies and rent them out due to the first sale doctrine.

2) The movie industry has tried to prevent that by banning wholesalers from selling DVDs to rental companies unless they agree to share revenue.

3) This is arguably illegal under anti-trust laws, so it has led to legal disputes. The disputes are NOT about the right of Redbox et. al. to rent out a DVD they own (everyone agrees they have that right), but rather about their right to purchase the DVD in the first place--or rather the right of movie companies to manipulate the market to prevent them from buying DVDs.

Nowhere is anything like "DVD rental is the same as streaming" stated, because it's not. The fact that there is a physical copy makes a huge difference in how the law applies.

100% false Ray

@dan1111 - no, you missed the story. Redbox got sued by MPAA et al because of the legal theory that rending DVDs (as opposed to selling them, which neither Redbox nor Netflix does) is NOT a protected 'first sale' but rather akin to streaming. It's in the Lexus link (paywall). But the Sup Ct has not opined on this legal theory since it seems the parties settled out of court. Don't worry, it's an easy mistake to make (and Goia himself made the same mistake). Don't confuse what the law is now, un-litigated, with what the law really means, on appeal.

@dan1111 - thanks, I did not misunderstand US Copyright law, and I am aware of it. Rather, I misunderstood Netflix's business model. I was under the impression Netflix rents out movie DVDs rather than sells them? If Netflix sell DVDs, then yes "first sale" applies, but not if they rent them. I thought Netflix mails out DVDs for a very small price, with the understanding when the customer is done with the movie they mail back the DVD and it is re-rented to somebody else? That is, the Netflix customer does not keep the DVD.

@dan1111 - see my response above on how this riddle is solved. Netflix is indeed streaming when they mail out DVDs but for now studios are not complaining (as they did for Redbox).

You are impressively impervious to learning from your own sources you claim to have read.

"The real reason there’s few movies from the 1960s is that the audience does not want them."

I think this is probably largely true.

It's not that there is no audience for old movies--there is. But that audience tends to skew older, and probably uses streaming services at a much lower rate.

Netflix selection sucks for both new and classic movies. It. Just. Sucks.

There must be a market for ElderlyFlix that MR is highlighting. It would not only come with all those slow-paced, boring movies from the 70s and prior, but with 24-7 in-home tech support to help you each time you want to go from watching NCIS or Golden Girls on TV to HDMI for streaming "Psycho" or "The Party." Closed captions will be on large text by default. And volume will be amped up to 11. ElderlyFlix will just need a handful of old movies, since their customers tend to forget what they just watched.

Heh. I would implement the service as a box that does absolutely nothing, and a special remote that just turns on your regular TV, but only allows you to select the History Channel, the classic movie channel, and the weather.

I note that on my smart TVs the volume on Netflix is much lower than on other inputs, to the point where I sometimes have to go from 20 on others to 90 on Netflix

I agree. T.C. is off here.

For most of us who prefer old movies, I'd argue that with rare exceptions the appeal is largely nostalgia, even if it's nostalgia for something we mostly missed (the two most recent movies I watched were "Strangers When We meet," solely for the clothes and interiors and glimpses of mid-century LA, where I've never been; and a forgettable Steve McQueen/Lee Remick movie for the fun of time-traveling to towns with which I am quite familiar, getting the Robert Mulligan treatment). For others, it will be the sight of the actors themselves, even or especially the character actors, like old friends. My neighbor often has the old movie channel on in the background, no sound, no effort to follow the plot.

In either case, there is going to be little motivation to search out and pay for a particular title, Netflix-style. The best mode of delivery for us is the "late movie," where you don't even know what you're going to get. Similar to how, for some of us, we still like radio, as we find tedious the thought of going to the trouble of curating our surroundings all that closely.

The problem with streaming is that the license to the content must be paid perpetually, whereas with a DVD it can be paid once. The problem with DVDs is that everyone wants the newest content at the same time, but the quantity is physically limited.

Yeah, the studios can charge more for new releases on DVD, because the quantity is limited by the physical nature of the object. If they made content available online, the artificial limitation on supply would become apparent, and then they would not be able to charge as much per view.
Basically, they are artificially restricting the supply of premium content, in order to jack up the price.

The real reason there’s few movies from the 1960s is that the audience does not want them. I

NO. That is not the reason.
The reason is that selling the premium content at the same flat rate subscription price as the crappy archives is not profitable. The studios want more for it than what Netflix can charge at it's flat rate monthly subscription price.

Netflix has some premium content, though. They decide on a limited amount of premium content that they are going to purchase, and presumably it's based on their assessment of what the audience (either current or potential) will want.

Also, a lot of the older movies are not premium content. I'm surprised that there aren't more second tier old movies available, because I would have expected them to come really cheap.

They're basically using the premium content as a loss leader at this point.

NO. That is not the reason. The reason is that selling the premium content at the same flat rate subscription price as the crappy archives is not profitable.

If that were the answer, there would be lots of mediocre movies from earlier decades on the service, which there are not.

Here are the top grossing films of 2016:


Netflix has all five of the top grossing films and nine of the top fifteen. A lot of kids stuff. So they do shell out for popular movies, but they seem to have made the strategic decision not to license a huge back catalog of movies. To the point where they have very little from before the 80s. And it seems like what they do have, they try to get exclusive rights to (i.e., not also on Hulu, etc.)

The by-mail Netflix service was more for film buffs, but the current streaming service really isn't. Netflix could have continued just licensing tons of second-run content, but they made a strategic decision to shift to having exclusive, first-run original shows, comedy specials, etc, and they've stated their goal is to be about 50/50 original/licensed. This is quite a drift for some original customers who still think of Netflix as primarily a movie service.

I'm quite sure a public library does not pay a fee when someone borrows a DVD or CD from its collection. A broadcaster must pay for the right to broadcast the content of a DVD or CD, but see no reason why Netflix would pay anything to the publisher each time it lent a DVD from its collection to a subscriber.

Netflix (or a library) doesn't own the content of a book, DVD, or CD but it does surely own the copy it bought. And therefore it has the right to sell, rent, or give away that copy without any additional payment to the publisher or copyright owner.

Talk about your first world problems. We're spoiled for stuff to watch and listen to compared to what it was like even ten years ago, and for a fraction of the price.

If people want someone to be angry with, it ought to be the big studio special interests and their bought congress critters who gave us the abomination that is the current Copyright Act.

To the author of the Newsweek article I'd say "What have done to make classic movies available to the masses? Far less than Netflix I bet."

Netflix isn't very good for movies these days.

Blockbuster is worse. In fact, it was worse than mom and pop video stores from the start.

Disruption always delivers inferior product.

I'd say that the typical Blockbuster in 2000 had a better selection than Netflix in 2017 although I could be wrong.

Almost any half decent video store from the 90s had a better selection than Netflix.

Yes, but you're comparing apples to oranges. Blockbuster was pay-per-rental, and you could watch about 3 movies per month for the cost of a standard Netflix plan.

IIRC, that was per week, not per month.

Or 3 out at one time, or something like that.
I had Hollywood video, so maybe it was a little different.

@Hazel, I recall Blockbuster rentals being about $3-$4 each, so that's about three total rentals for the $10 that Netflix charges per month.

I do think they introduced unlimited plans late in the game (competing with services like Netflix), but I'm not aware of the price of those.

Yeah, there were per-month subscriptions that allowed X-at-a-time, for various rates. Like $17 for 3 at a time.
You could watch a lot of movies that way for a relatively low price. Pay-per-view streaming services don't give you the same deal, and none of the online monthly subscription services have the same kind of content. As someone else mentioned Netflix streaming is worse than a crappy corner video store from the 90s. I could rent The Godfather, Casablanca, and Spartacus at Hollywood video in 2004, under a $17 monthly subscription, and have them back in a week, then rent another 12 movies that month. It's just impossible to get that at the same price online.

it hasn't been good for movies for like 8 years. Catch up.

On the Italian Netflix we have Sergio Leone's movies, which I still enjoy a lot. Maybe at Netflix they believe Italians are not as much tired of classic movies as Americans are.

You must not have read the post. There are almost no classic films on American Netflix, including no Hitchcock films.

Huh? Where does Paolo say anything contradicting that?

Dan1111 I wonder the same

I went to a local SF book club session on Brave New World. The entire discussion was dominated by a few young people obsessing about the sexism and racism of the book. If I hadn't been there nothing else about it would have been talked about. I was, frankly, shocked. Are movie classics seen the same way as classic books by younger generational cohorts? It might make an interesting survey poll - 'Do you find old movies generally offensive in terms of the amount of sexism and racism implicit in them?' I've been noticing for awhile that in the cases of the old movie classics that have been remade I've preferred the earlier version. Typing this now it suddenly makes a kind of sense. A kind of weird uncomfortable alienated sense.

While that is a growing issue, but in FSF that is a far more extreme problem. So much so that conflict over this has become the chief focus of much of the field.

That's a very good point indeed. Yes, old movies are seen the same way as old books by younger cohorts I know. Moreover Hollywood movies were very conservative on these subjects even for their time. It makes them awkward for young people who are used to watch very progressive TV shows.

Good questions.

Do today's youth find, say, "The Maltese Falcon" homophobic? Is "Casablanca" Islamophobic? Is the steenking badges bandito in "The Treasury of the Sierra Madre" Latinophobic?

The "we don't need no steenking badges" guy is also undocumented-worker-phobic.

WAMU's host of the old time radio show, The Big Broadcast, offers trigger warnings to the youngsters and their parents - like violence in Gunsmoke or Dragnet, or characters with Jewish or Chinese accents. This way, they can hide until the next show.

Casablanca is more Naziphobic, I would say.

I showed Airplane! on the last day of school once (I teach a class that is 85% seniors, who finish school a week before the other students, so we had had the exam the previous class). 16 and 17 year old kids were offended by Airplane!

We read Twain at my elementary school in the mid 60s. We also had sex education beginning in 4th grade. In Illinois, but no snowflakes.

Oh! I get it now! I always wondered what he had against badgers.

"Casablanca" could be construed as Islamophobic only in the sense that it shows a Casablanca where Islam doesn't seem to exist. None of the speaking characters are even Moroccan. I suppose North Africans might complain the movie is Eurocentric and imperialist.

It's interesting that Hollywood enthusiastically remakes well-done, successful movies like "The Producers" and "The Heartbreak Kid" while not making another try at shows that were failures in one way or another.

I don't know, "Westworld" was sort of a failure in the 70s, and HBO gave that another go.

There are rental video stores which tend to specialize in classics and foreign indie movies. Alternatively I believe netflix's DVD service may still exist. Essentially if you want the classics, just do it the old fashioned way. There are more options today than your local video store had 20 years ago.

Netflix's DVD service absolutely still exists. But its selection is limited and getting worse. I have over 90 older titles sitting in the "unavailable" part of my queue, and many in the "available" part are classified "very long wait" which often means never. I tried to get the 1965 "Spy Who Came In from the Cold," a pretty mainstream movie, some weeks back and was stymied. For stuff before the 1960s the pickings get very slim. Take any major director active before the 60s and see how much of their work Netflix will provide. My impression is that in an effort to push customers toward streaming, they are letting the DVD service die on the vine.

Or it could be that the studios are waging war on Netflix by pulling content - refusing to license Netflix to purchase a rentable copy.
They hate Netflix and are doing everything they can to resist the transition to online streaming.

Does that apply to DVD rentals? IANAL! But a quick glance suggests that yes studios can withhold streaming rights, but no they cannot stop businesses renting out legitimately purchased physical media.

Are the rights the same whether the purchaser is a rental store or a individual purchasing for home use? I'm not sure.

That's the impression I got as well, they were trying to push me into streaming by letting their DVD stock decline and reducing the number of shipping hubs so the turn-around time was longer. I don't like being pushed, so I dropped Netflix and signed up for Amazon Prime - it's cheaper and includes free 2-day shipping so the DVDs I now have to purchase rather than rent get to me quicker than Netflix's did.

Filmstruck exists for this very reason.

And yet Filmstruck still has the basic limitation that its streamed content is not always consistently available - 'FilmStruck will be launching this fall on desktop and mobile devices, and internet-connected television platforms. A service built from the start with nothing but movies in mind, it will feature films from many major studios and independent distributors alongside a broad and constantly rotating selection of Criterion films, complete with the commentaries and rich supplemental content that Criterion viewers have come to expect. Carefully curated and always changing, it should be a cinema lover’s dream.' https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/4032-introducing-filmstruck

The curated part is the problem, especially with the criterion stuff. Hulu used to have the entire lot always available.

It's in the nature of the beast - the cosmic jukebox does not offer any profit to those in a position write American laws concerning copyright or DRM.

Right. In this case "curated" is just a euphemism for "limited time only". It's a mechanism to restrict content availability so that people will pay more for it.
There is no technical reason why it has to be curated. They could make the whole library available for download all the time at miniscule additional cost.

The real problem here is current copyright law.

I mean, for most of American history, one of the biggest projects of enlightened or later progressive thinkers was to try to bring art, culture, music, and literature to the masses. Rich people donated huge amounts of money to build libraries, music halls, museums, ect. So did governments. It was considered an incredibly important mission.

Now we have the internet, which is the greatest library that mankind has ever invented, and we spend so much time and energy trying to stop the masses from getting access to art, culture, music, and literature.

Now we have the internet, which is the greatest library that mankind has ever invented, and we spend so much time and energy trying to stop the masses from getting access to art, culture, music, and literature.

Also science. We can't let the masses access peer reviewed journal articles.

Journal articles are actually trending strongly toward open access.

I was just looking into getting a hi-if system with a CD player for the same reason

This article should be maintained as a definite example of First World Problems. If you want to watch a classic movie it is not all that difficult to find a DVD copy and keep it forever.

It's definitely a first world problem. But it's still a real question why classic movies aren't available online when it clearly is the easiest and most efficient delivery mechanism.

It's like if email didn't exist and everyone still had to mail physical copies of letters to everyone else, even though we all watched any movie we wanted over netflix. At some point people would start wondering why they couldn't just send a text message to someone else over this intertubes thingy.

Doesn't a mass market in anything have to appeal to the lowest common denominator? Everything from television to restaurant chains to clothing to music. The complaint about Netflix is really a complaint about culture. I won't go all George Will on the subject, but our culture has slipped. Why? Because trends aren't set by elites anymore. Remember when almost all movies were about elites, with their perfect diction and stylish dress; American actors even used an English accent. Movies were theater recorded on film. Old films and today's films are very different. On the Waterfront and Marlon Brando did more to change the nature of films than did Netflix. Cowen blames "regulation", which is what one would expect, but the combination of mass marketing and the decline in culture are the more likely culprits.

Fundamentally, that is what is going on. Tyler, like me, like everybody, is seeing an effect of life on the downward slope. Our children will have the same complaints when they're our age. Classical opera and ballet have the same problem.

Copyright is artificial scarcity but if the money's there, that cost will be paid. 50+ is just not a lucrative demographic for entertainment, not to downplay the serious issue of IP laws.

" Remember when almost all movies were about elites, with their perfect diction and stylish dress; American actors even used an English accent. Movies were theater recorded on film."

Christ, that's idiotic. Buster Keaton, Marx brothers, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney, John Wayne ... None of these people made careers playing "elites" or affecting English accents. Movies have been a vulgar, popular, commercial medium from the beginning and are the better for it. You admit this in your choice of "On the Waterfront," not known for its upper-crust enunciation or country club setting.

No, it's not. Even popular new releases are unavailable on Netflix. ANY popular movie EVER is not available on Netflix.
It doesn't matter if it's Casablanca or Indepenence Day. In some ways you might actually find unpopular older films more easily than popular recent junk. I recall a couple of cases of some old film that the studios forget becoming popular on Netflix ... and then getting yanked.

Such are the contradictionsmof life in Trump's America. Big business has all the power.

Yeah, I was really annoyed when Netflix removed 90% of their content on the day of his inauguration.

The point is, his rule is the logical conclusion of the historical processes that gave all power in America to the moneyed interests.

That is a good rebuttal to my snarky comment.

While I don't necessarily agree across the board, copyright law is an area where corporate interests seem to be getting their way a lot, to the detriment of the rest of us.

You're arguing that his election is a reaction to moneyed interests, since it involved both in the primary and the general election (deluded) people voting for the candidate the moneyed interests disliked? While he has appointed many fewer RIAA and MPAA lobbyists to high positions than the previous Administrations, I don't think he's a good President. I think rather that he demonstrates the weakness of viewing politics as being about what "the moneyed interests" want (and viewing "the moneyed interests" as a monolith), since following the logic of campaign finance reform and voting for the person who got fewer campaign contributions is exactly what got Trump.

We would be better off if the people with more campaign contributions had won the Republican primary or the general election, no?

Till today, Trump has appointed fewer people period - https://ourpublicservice.org/issues/presidential-transition/political-appointee-tracker.php

Moneyed interests will do as well as Mr. Trump as they did under Democrats or Mr. Bush. But a desperate populace who feels left behind and betrayed voted for him because they want to share his victories - we are talking about a person who brags about "using the law" to stiff people (it is as if Clinton bragged about how she was able to multiply her savings with her adroit investment stratefies). Such vicarious pleasures only disguise the total control moneyed interests have over America.

Such vicarious pleasures only disguise the total control moneyed interests have over America.

No, it demonstrates that the American people have total control over the moneyed interests when it comes to nominating and choosing a President. They just make terrible choices.

The 2016 election, if nothing else, demonstrated that ordinary American people, if even a plurality of them strongly agreed with one another, could easily politically overcome the moneyed interests. What it also revealed is that the "ordinary American people," (like the moneyed interests) mostly disagree with each other, and there is no uniform view of ordinary people any more than there is one of moneyed interests. So many people correctly realize that neither party coalition perfectly reflects their views or the views of a majority; what they fail to realize is that all of them disagree with each other. Most of the disaffected are just as extremist on each of the issues, but pick some extreme views from the Party A platform and other extreme views from Party B's platform.

I don't see how people after 2016 can maintain a belief that campaign finance reform and moneyed interests are the biggest challenges in politics, unless they are at least a partial Trump fan (or anti-anti-Trump).

"No, it demonstrates that the American people have total control over the moneyed interests when it comes to nominating and choosing a President. They just make terrible choices."

They have been fooled by the moneyed interests. Racial and gender politics made Americans decide to support Mr. Trump. It could have made them support Mrs. Clinton instead (apparenrly, the head count was almost half-half with a slight advantage to Mrs. Clinton). One way or other, the elected one would not act against the moneyed interests, only against gays or Catholic Bishops who do not want to pay for their employees' birth control.

Yet, he spent less money on the election than his opponent. He won because of the vote of the underemployed that want a message of jobs instead of welfare. Most moneyed interests would have preferred any Republican to Trump.

I've found Netflix streaming a disappointment as well. Some of the British detective serials are engaging, the better documentary series, Forensic Files, and old episodes of The Twilight Zone. There is a great deal of convenience in having an archive of episodes assembled for you, but all of this is available in other venues. Netflix does impress upon you that scads and scads of mass entertainment is produced in this country, almost none of it with an audience of someone like you in mind. (It also impresses upon you that people who produce what are meant to be 'quality' films think you should sit through tedium).

Physical books cross national borders more easily than e-books do.

If I am willing to pay international shipment, I can buy a physical book online and have it delivered to my house; but it is much harder to get ebooks for my kindle across national borders.

Not to mention keep it on your Kindle. An Australian can easily, and legally, have a public domain copy of 1984 on their Kindle. In contrast, an American may have their purchased edition of1984 remotely deleted by Amazon.

The author bemoans the lack of content on Netflix that he prefers, but then lists some of the places where you can find it instead. Problem solved, right? But he has to pay $2.99 to rent it on Amazon! The horror.

The argument is that the subscription pricing model isn't worth it for the limited catalog.

Exactly how many hours of good viewing are you (and your entire family) expecting for your $10/month? I think even three hours would be quite a good deal, wouldn't it?

If your entire family can't find two things to watch on Netflix every month, the problem is with you, not them.

Ty's problem is his short attention span. If he can't find something to watch every single time he feels like watching -- say, every 2 or 3 nights -- then it must be opposed.

Maybe he squeeze a book about cost/benefit analysis onto his reading list.

Some of us might be willing to pay MORE than $10 a month, if the premium content was available.

But at $2.99 per view, how much does that add up to? 3 movies a week (which used to be a thing at places liek Hollywood video and Blockbuster), is like $36 a month. ANy more than that and it starts being equal to a cable TV subscription - which isn't going to come with great content either.

It's like they want to force us to pay for the shit shows as a condition of being allowed to watch the premium content.

Not much of Hitchock is available for rent on Amazon. Including, for instance, Rebecca.

Yes it is a first world problem. Yes, that's where I live so I too view it as a problem. The economic problem I think is related to transactional costs and quasi geographical barriers. The global market for old films is probably massive but the licenses have to be purchased country by country. The studios who own the rights don't want to bother with negotiations without enough zeroes on the bottom line. The negotiations can only be conducted by six and seven figure salaried suits who demand multiple meetings in rooms with views. There's unmet demand and money left in pockets, but it's going to cost money to untangle all those contractual knots. I hate copyright territories and broken business models. And I don't want to subscribe to multiple all-you-can-eat streaming services.

On the bright side, I did manage to 'rent' Singing in the Rain on YouTube movies the other day. It seems streaming rental might be a better solution for culture than streaming-unlimited.

For what it's worth, the streaming landscape is changing very rapidly and could look very different in just a few years. Everybody is trying to position themselves to compete in the coming stream future (e.g. you probably saw that Disney is pulling their content from Netflix to start a stand-alone service) and it remains to be seen what kind of fruit this will knock from the tree.

The economics of this are not 100% clear to be, but if old tv shows like the Star Treks are available to stream (which would otherwise cost hundreds if bought on DVD), I'm not sure why classic movies couldn't be similarly available in content packages.

Having content owners all offer their own independent services would be absolute rubbish. No one's going to pay X different subscriptions. The stuff most people want to watch cuts across a whole bunch of different studios, etc. and the legal ownership generally doesn't coincide with consumer preference.

"Star Treks are available to stream (which would otherwise cost hundreds if bought on DVD)"
Not if you buy them used, and especially not if you wait for sales at a reputable used disc site. Most DVDs and BluRays are quite affordable that way and as an added bonus the greedy movie studios get none of your cash.

This is the the most obvious difference between streaming music and streaming movies. Music services generally offer every bit of streamable music in existence while film services might have a couple of hundred. And of those only a few dozen are worth watching; the rest are unwatchable filler just to make it appear there is a decent sized "catalogue".

I wonder what it would take to create a "golden ticket" where basically every movie ever made was available?

It probably wouldn't have all-you-can-eat pricing.

Actually, it already pretty much exists, though not in any way that can be outlined in detail here.

And it helps to own a few multi terabyte external hard drives.

I wonder what it would take to create a “golden ticket” where basically every movie ever made was available?

Technically, it can be easily done - at least for any movie that has been transferred to digital form. If you know how to bootleg movies, it is possible to find just about anything that has been released on DVD if you know where to look. It just isn't available in one central, legal, archive. You have to sneak around back alleys to get it.

That is, America's moneyed interests criminal out of normal people for money!!

"I wonder what it would take to create a “golden ticket” where basically every movie ever made was available?"
I did just that. It took 20 years and thousands of dollars, but I cut cable back in 2001 and that was the bulk of the money I used to build my DVD/Bluray collection so it was relatively painless. I now own everything I've ever had the inclination to watch (or to rewatch) and my collection has no filler. I've got thousands of hours of TV and movies I have yet to watch and I'm not dependent on my internet service, streaming service(s), and content owners all agreeing to allow me to watch the stuff I paid for.

As others have noted, the selection on Netflix streaming is horrible for all movies, new and old. Which makes the argument that streaming is somehow bad because it doesn't include certain older classics a bit silly when doesn't include many great new movies too. Unlimited streaming is generally just a mediocre product all around.

Netflix has great Turkish Soap Operas according to my wife who is hooked on them. These are not available elsewhere in the US. If folks don't like the Netflix menu, they don't need to subscribe; pretty simple economic choice.

As others have noted, there are lots of classic movies available on traditional cable TV and I can set up up my HTPC to be on the lookout for when they are scheduled and record them without any issues at all. This is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot.

Yes, and I can rent physical DVDs and burn copies of them for my private consumption.
If you're willing to work around the artificial restrictions that the film industry has placed on supply, you can pretty much still access anything you want.

So pay $3 to rent it from Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, etc. What's the issue?

Exactly. Netflix is a new content provider now, for the most part, along with some kid's stuff. That's just what it is. And it's cheaper than HBO, which also has a pitiful (rotating) collection of movies, which was once all they were. Filmstruck is one all-you-can eat rotating service with older classics, but the basic idea for older movies is rent for $4-6 bucks or buy for 9-12, at which point you can stream as long as the streaming service stays alive.

It is an interesting economics question why, even though the copyright laws are identical, music has overwhelmingly gone to a all-you-can-eat format while video has bifurcated between all-you-can-eat (by producing company) for new stuff and pay-by-the-view for movies.

'music has overwhelmingly gone to a all-you-can-eat format'

Home taping is still killing the music industry. No, really, the point being that for at least a generation, nobody has considered recorded music some sort of special thing. And Napster (anyone remember Napster?) along with the putatively 'illegal' MP3 format put a stake right through the heart of the recording industry. Which just happens, even today, to essentially charge the same amount of money for an audio CD as they did in 1999 - nobody defends such a clearly greedy group of morons who offer absolutely nothing of value (not to mention that Sony rootkit fiasco a dozen years ago - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootkit_scandal )

I think you are right about this one--the ease of copying and sharing music is one thing that has kept the cost of pay music services down. Copying videos hasn't gained the same traction because of the DMCA and DRM (there is no real "legal" use case of copying DVDs, so tools aren't easy to find) as well as bandwidth/storage limitations.

Another aspect of it is that people tend to listen to music over and over, while they usually want to watch new video content they haven't seen before. This raises the value of new video content relative to music.

I don't think the music industry are "morons" to still charge the same amount for a CD, though. I would expect that most of the (shrinking) market of physical CD buyers is still willing to pay $15 for a CD. Consumers of download music (legal or otherwise) are unlikely to be interested in a CD even if the price is lowered drastically.

'there is no real “legal” use case of copying DVDs, so tools aren’t easy to find'

sudo apt-get install k3b - make sure you use packman as the repository

If you are the kind of person who is familiar with using Linux package managers from the command line, then of course it is no big deal.

(there is no real “legal” use case of copying DVDs, so tools aren’t easy to find)

Last I checked (I haven't done it for at least 6 years), there was one built into Windows.

@Careless there is a DVD burning utility in Windows, but it can't be used to copy a commercial movie DVD, due to copy protection measures.

Netflix streaming has been around for 10 years. It's not really "new". Unless you consider Twitter and Facebook to be crazy new technologies, too.
And there's no technical reason why we need to be renting physical plastic disks these days. You can download 2 hours worth of high definition video in under 20 minutes.

I think the difference between the film industry and the music industry is that the music industry died before it could cartelize itself sufficiently to put a lock on content. They killed Napster, but it was too late. So there are no music industry titans out there pulling strings to keep competitors out of the market.

Netflix's main target audience is young, and has little interest in the media that isn't up to date on the artistic expression. It's not seen as quaint either, but full of the problematic "isms". In addition to the psychological and emotional nuance, the visual aspects of the population's intelligence have grown a lot since the sixties. Simply put, old movies don't look smart enough to young people - neither visually nor emotionally.

I couldn't agree more, this is all part of the trend of the complacent class winning share of voice. I frequent this niche dvd film rental joint in Greenpoint Brooklyn, run by a Bergman and Kurosawa loving Polish film aficionado. Rented a Dutch film last night; A Soldier of Orange that won best foreign film in 1977 because I was not able to find the film on any of the streaming services or Itunes (I was prepared to pay for it). Whenever I frequent this quaint store I feel like Winston in 1984 illegally visiting Mr Charrington's antique store. Same is true on the Kindle although less extreme. Reading Primo Levi one notices that very few of the passages have been highlighted. In 50 years time, the atrocities of WW2 will seem as abstract as Super Mario when it first came out.

I live in Germany and this weekend I tried to stream Visconti's The Leopard (1963). It is not available for streaming on Amazon.de and to stream it from Amazon.com I would need a credit card issued by an American bank, which I don´t have. It is also not available on Netflix. I could buy the DVD or get it from the local library which has it in stock, but my laptop does not have a dvd drive. More challenging than I had predicted.

I watched this using the Netflix blu-ray mail service. It was very long and boring, don't bother.

This is purely a result of the avarice of the studios that own the content. They see NFLX's market capitalization and they are out for blood. To those that may be interested, John Malone's Starz unit gave unlimited streaming rights to NFLX when NFLX's streaming product just got started in 2008. The Starz division thought they were getting a deal at the time by giving Netflix this right at $25 million per year. Many of the executives at that time looked at the deal as "found money". Lo and behold, the popularity of NFLX streaming grew exponentially and people stopped subscribing to Starz at $6 per month through their cable companies. By 2011, when the deal came up for renewal, Starz wanted $300 million per year -- a figure that made such an arrangement quite unprofitable. NFLX made the right decision to just create their own content instead of being beholden to the copyright owners.

That, in a nutshell, is why you can't watch a lot of golden oldies on NFLX.

You can't get good movies on Netflix because the studios won't make them available at a price that Netflix subscribers are willing to pay. At least not at flat rate subscription prices.
And they want to charge the same price for online streaming pay-per-view that Blockbuster would charge for a rental. And people just aren't willing to pay the same price for content when they know it is in infinite supply as when there are a limited number of physical disks at the video store. And the studios haven't accepted that yet.

I'm surprised it took you this long to notice what was going on with Netflix streaming.
I was one of the early online streaming subscribers, back when they had the Criterion Collection available online.
I think it was 2007 or so, before the financial crisis.
Over time, the studios one by one, slowly began pulling their best and most popular classic cinema away from Netflix. It's been years since one could find anything on there. If by chance a group of Netflix viewers discovers a "lost gem" in the archives and popularizes it, you can be sure it won't be available on streaming for long. ANYTHING people actually might want to watch, the studios are going to yank. Except maybe the TV shows, but I haven't been on Netflix for a while, so they might have started pulling those too. Obviously, this is why Netflix got into the television business. It couldn't get the content from the studios anymore, so it decided to start producing it's own content.

Now, I don't quite blame Netflix for this. The movie studios are effectively resisting the transition of delivering video over the internet, despite the fact that this is the obvious future. Why the hell are we still using these obsolete and easily damaged plastic disks when you can easily download any film you want, error free, in less time than it takes to go find a RedBox ? The funny thing is, it's not just cheaper to bootleg movies these days, you actually get a better quality and more convenient product - if you can get a DVD RIP. You just download it and store it to hard disk and can watch it at your leisure. It's faster, you don't have to go to a video store or wait for a disk to ship, and the selection is broad. New releases are harder to get because of the studio's anti-piracy efforts, but once they come out on DVD, just about everything can be found, if you know where to look. So why isn't there a legal, online, downloadable video library that has everything?

The real problem is that Netflix's flat-rate subscription pricing model works against making the best films available via the service. The studios want people to pay more for the most valuable content, but Netflix is charging it's subscribers the same fee, regardless of which films they are watching or how many times. They might want to keep a few classics around to draw in subscribers, but they don't make money off of the classics, because the studios charge so much more per view.

One question here is why older films don't enter the public domain so that anyone can offer them for download. Casablanca is more than 75 years old, and everyone who acted in it is dead, so how come it is still under copyright?

A second question is why doesn't anyone offer some sort of tiered subscription model. Something with a $9 fee for the crap archives, and then a $20 add-on for "premium" content. Or something to that effect. Are the studios just not willing to make content available online, at any price? And if so why?

"One question here is why older films don’t enter the public domain"

Law in the U.S. has been repeatedly modified to allow extension of copyright. Basically (though this is somewhat of a simplification), stuff published before 1922 is public domain, while anything after that has continued to remain under copyright, due to repeated changes in the law.

Yeah, great, so you can watch silent films produced before 1922.
Copyright law needs some serious reform.

You'll have to talk to Mickey Mouse about that one

Mickey Mouse content will start becoming public domain in 2024. So expect "some serious reform" in 2022 or 2023.

Sure, netflix streaming has an awful film selection, but the problem is copyright and slow upload speeds: The software pirates just aren't anywhere near good enough.

While this is not true for classical music, today streaming services are quite good for almost all other kinds of music. I can pick one service and listen to 99% of what I'd want to hear. The reason this is true is because the competition was piracy, and piracy got you 70-80% there, so the product had to be better. Copyright enforcement for music piracy was also weak, as there weren't all that resources thrown at it, and it's hard to do much when a song is a tiny file. Therefore, there were pretty good arguments to be made by Apple to build a system whose job was to try to have everything. Once the environment is that easy to navigate when it comes to streaming rights, subscription services come in, and you get what we have now.

This is not the case for video. Even without going HD, a movie is close to a gig, and upload speeds in most of the world do not match download speeds. This means we need a whole lot more random consumers being part of pirate networks to build a shady video library of everything. Given that situation, studios don't have big reasons to give us really good services with everything. Netflix doesn't have the muscle here, so their shrinking of the film section is entirely understandable: Even on their TV section, their licensing costs are going up, so why try?

In a world where everyone had symmetrical gigabit, and it's not necessarily easy to figure out who is sharing all their DVDs with the rest of the planet, the economics get better for the pirates, bypassing the industry becomes attractive, and the quality of the services improve. We'd get to a similar boat with shorter copyright: While modern TV is far better than 1960s and 1970s TV, film is far more stagnant, and everything would get cheaper.

We'd never have spotify without itunes, and we'd have never have itunes without napster and its predecessors. The Pirate Bay is not napster for video.

There kind of is a shady video library of everything, but you really have to know where to look. Recent releases on DVD are easy to find, but older classics take more digging. And it's not all in one place, and you have to look out for viruses malware and so forth. You have to be in touch with the underground network of video piracy to find out where to look for stuff.

Oh, and you have to be willing to put up with stuff like hardcoded foreign language subtitles on the bottom of the screen.

libertarians sure do love eschewing the law if it doesn't fit their morality

I consider it almost a civic duty to break laws you believe to be unjust or stupid.

If a law doesn't fit your morality you're morally obliged to ignore and confound it.

Netflix is fantastic for binge-watching a bunch of popular mainstream shows. I've been going through Mad Men this year.

I'm confused on the libertarian point of view here. The reason the law is less infested on physical objects is because the legal profession carved out common law public interest interpretations to statute that limited the ability of IP owners to force licenses out of rental services.

The private property maximalist libertarians that are associated with the Mercatus Center like prof Cowen are often skeptical of these types of freedom of contract.

The problem is you have to either restrict the rights owners ability to leverage their government granted monopoly or you have to limit that monopoly. The length of copyright and patent monopolies make this outcome a certainty as they hold all the leverage.

If Netflix was worthwhile because it served other people's content only then they lose all their bargaining power and the monopoly rights holders would extract all the profit. The only solution is to own the content yourself and crowd out most of the other bundles such that the rights holders are required to come to Netflix if they want to make money.

What does that say about our future? That tech companies will eventually lobby for change in legislation and construct of intellectual property laws and win.

I think the real question here is why Netflix needs rights at all.

Why aren't movies made more than 50 years ago not now part of the public domain?

As others have noted, an extensive film library just isn't what Netflix does any more. But so what? What Netflix does have is worth the $10/month to us, and virtually any old film is readily watchable on some service (though there may be a rental charge). And to be honest, at this point, we've pretty much already gone through all the classic movies we're interested in and have our own copies of those worth multiple viewings, so the classic movie library isn't the most important thing in a streaming service for us.

As the America regime collapses, services decay.

Netflix's mail DVD service still exists, and despite some of the comments above, it's very good. (Not perfect, but very good.) The movie I've got right now is an excellent noir from 1953, and in the past year I've gotten plenty of old films like A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956 -- excellent), Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972 -- overrated), and more. Plus, it has a decent selection of foreign films -- it's through this that I saw Kahaani, which was very fun, well before it was mentioned here. It's true that the number of unavailable movies seems to be increasing, but not enough to be too annoying. About 4 million people are Netflix DVD subscribers, by the way -- fewer than streaming, but it remains quite profitable.

This is a classic coordination problem that actually we need Government to sort out. There are tons of great films not being watched because of piracy concerns by copyright owners, which benefits no-one and leads to a non-pareto optimisation problem. My idea is that the Government sets up a central online library of all films older 10 years than anyone can download at will. The registered owners of the copyright are paid directly for each download as part of a general tax on computers, say 25c per download. People can chose to upload releases earlier than this. Torrenting would die a death, who wants to torrent when the stuff is available free legally, and originators of material would actually get paid. Don't say this can't happen, actually it is similar to the way that the BBC operates now in the UK with the i-player.

In a few years (maybe 10 at max) home computers will be good enough to render real time as detailed CGI as current films shot "in reality". We will see an explosion of creativity then, like we do with music, as people start to create films as easily as recording a music track.

This is like the worst comment in the entire thread. Bravo.

Meant as a reply to ChrisA above.

This coming from a woman who brandishes her thievery as a badge of honor

You'll note I didn't actually SAY I bootleg stuff. I do know that it is possible and often more convenient and a better product than renting DVDs.

Being a fan of old movies, Netflix is not my thing and I don't buy it. There are plenty of alternatives of TCM on cable, various renting options in Youtube etc. and In terms of classic movies on amazon, you can buy for less than $10/movie. Alfred Hitchcock Universal movies are sold ~$60 for 18 movies, that include Pyscho, Rear Window, and Vertigo. (The rest are good movies for the most part.) There are other classics one can purchase not as good but still I own 40 non-PD Hitchcock that did not cost more than $200. (Most Hitch's English movies are youtube for free!)

Or you go to Filmstruck for a bunch of Critereon Collection movies for $11.00/month.

In reality there has been no finer time to be a film fan.

And not that long ago pretty much all home video was crappy, pan-and-scan, VHS. Now you can see uncut, commercial free, widescreen, HD movies quite easily and very affordably. People seem surprised they can't stream every movie and TV show ever made for $10 a month.

Netflix is for TV shows not movies.

I recommend Bojack Horseman.

Young people don't watch classics. In fact, how many young people now are that interested in cinema as an art form? Or jazz...etc.

The don't because they can't. Many young people use Netflix as their only source of movies. If it's not available on Netflix, then it might as well not even exist.

Another thing is advertising. Hollywood pushes their newest crap on us by using huge sums of money on advertisements. And people who are not especially interested in the art of cinema just watch whatever Hollywood tells them to watch. On the other hand, no-one advertises old classics.

In my experience young people just pirate films they want to see.

There is a Coasian solution.

On the bright side, it is hard to make a living in the movies, and most old movies are, in fact, pretty bad - created by people who were not all that artistic, certainly not all that wise, and while fashionably good looking for their times, certainly no Venuses and Adonises. By boxing out old movies from their corner of the marketplace, Netflix is doing its little part to keep current movie-making alive - here is a quick thought experiment: imagine how much better the world of solo classical recitals would be if there were no recordings of Horowitz and Rubinstein out there. (For the record, John Simon, the famous film reviewer, once noted that movies were not very good at the beginning - his guess was that in the entire silent movie era, only 5 or so movies were actual works of art (he noted that it got better afterwards)). I once tried to watch as many (American) movies as I could from one random year in the 30s and had to stop after about a dozen, it was like reading old magazines with all the stiffness and modernist dull tricks played over and over again. (This was on VCR though, I might have seen it differently on BluRay or even better at an actual motion picture theater). Old movies as a viewing experience may be a fun way to do something with friends or fellow enthusiasts, but it is easy to understand why it is becoming a limited taste... while I could recommend watching Ralph Richardson give a few speeches, watching Bette Davis or Ava Gardner act in a few scenes, and flipping though a book of stills from the better cinematographers, or watching a few random movies by a given artist, in order to understand that artist - say, 10 shorts to get the Stooges, 4 or 5 Westerns to understand John Wayne or Gail Russell - I am not sure that there are many specific old movies that someone who cares about art can honestly recommend to someone else as the best way to spend that particular 2 hours of their life.

Won't the film industry choke itself with its own "back catalog" purse strings? I can easily imagine the 2030s being a time when most young *parents* have never seen the Disney classics because of Disney's quantity restrictions. I can't imagine that parents will necessarily welcome Peter Pan or Dumbo sans nostalgia, especially in the current world where the name of Washington, DC's football team is litigated.

A few years ago, I caught so-called "Man With No Name" trilogy on Netflix. I had never seen them before, and they immediately became three of my favorite films ever made. By my reckoning, Netflix streamed the films for about a month, and then rotated them out.

Supposing Lord Keynes is correct about our fates in the long run, perhaps the Hollywood film industry will meet the long run rather soon. I can't imagine a world in which the film industry, having choked out demand for its back catalog, can sustain itself only by producing supermegablockbusters that are stale the night after release. Perhaps they can, but that doesn't seem like a growth industry.

Congress will almost certainly pass a Minnie Mouse Copyright Extension Act (and perhaps the Donald Duck and Goofy versions as well), but will it actually matter? It will be like when Congress gave the oil industry a trillion dollar military-industrial subsidy, only to have petrol engines replaced by battery-powered ones within a generation or so.

My guess would be that some cooler heads prevail in some studio, which realizes it cannot choke off access to its back catalog forever, and decides to shutter its own poor attempt at streaming and hand over its back catalog to Netflix or Hulu or Amazon with reasonable terms. In the meantime, the lawyers will have their feeding frenzy and demand for television will continue to grow as demand for films somewhat stagnates.

When I heard Disney was launching its own streaming service, the only thing I cared about was getting old Disney movies and shorts. Finding ways to watch Finding Nemo is not difficult, but finding old Disney cartoons or films that no one even remembers are Disney is much harder. Give me some Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color - some surprises and old gems - and I'll pony up for the service.

Eventually anonymous p2p technologies (see IPFS and Tribbler for instance) will make policing piracy so impossible that the whole idea of making money by restricting access to movies via copyright will die out. Using some new version of Popcorn Time instead of Netflix will become the norm, because even though it is technically illegal, the law can't be enforced.

You might ask why are movies made before the moon landing still under copyright? It makes absolutely no economical sense.

At least some of it can be due to the copyright holder overestimating the value of the work. A few years ago Baen books began a project to re publish various older out of print SF works where the rights had reverted and the writers were deceased. They found that sometimes the writer's heirs believed the rights were of great value and it proved impossible to negotiate a price both agreed, resulting in the material remaining out of print.

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