Apple & Video Tape Trading

I know what you guys are thinking right now: “Wait a sec, this is a SECOND post in just the first day!  He didn’t say he’d be doing TWO posts per day!”  I’m still not going to do two posts per day all the time, but when I do, the 2nd post will most definitely be an Out Of Sequence post, usually about an area in which Apple might have a shot at revolutionizing.  As I was saying, there’s usually a number of areas that Apple has, for whatever reason, not gotten around to revolutionizing yet.

iTunes Ping is a great social network if you like music, but it isn’t doing anybody any favors with regards to trading tapes of TV shows, which is the oldest, most analog form of piracy in its purest, most basic form.  Tape trading still hasn’t been properly digitized in the age of YouTube, et al.  Why is that?  First, let’s look at the competition that Apple is dealing with here, and exactly why things aren’t going so well with each.

BitTorrent is doing an okay job of digitizing the analog trading of videotapes, but the process is slow, arcane, and rather technical and geeky for the common user.  I know, even though I have the same condition as Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, I’m always thinking of how someone who isn’t me would use whatever geeky thing that I’m looking at.

Then, there’s the video sharing sites: Vimeo, YouTube, Veoh, et al.  Videotape trading works rather well on these sites (meaning you get to see old TV shows nobody’s seen since they aired, basically).  However, the onus is being put on YT users to start creating their own content, whether it’s Let’s Plays of popular and lesser-known video games or the latest YouTube craze that has given us Greyson Chance and Justin Bieber instead of giving away free marketing to the companies that made their favorite TV shows.  Even worse, the copyright powers-that-be don’t have the power of subtlety and do not understand that having tens of thousands of views on YouTube of their old copyrighted material is free marketing for them.

Major case in point: Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.  The property was picked up by Disney in 2004 along with the adult Muppets, but Disney has (thus far) done barely anything with the property, save for licensing them for those gargantuan stuffed toys that you can win at the amusement park, the carnival, the state fair, or the boardwalk on the beach, depending upon your location in the United States (or abroad, although you may call them different things than we do).

On YouTube ALONE, Muppet Babies gets page views on any given video in the thousands, some getting up into the tens or even hundreds of thousands, with most comments on any Muppet Babies videos being overwhelmingly positive.  There’s even a bootleg DVD with (supposedly) all of the episodes of the show floating around, which (to my recollection) hasn’t been prosecuted whatsoever by Disney!  Disney is usually on top of those things like white on rice, which is why it surprises me greatly that this bootleg set hasn’t been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law yet.

So, after getting off on a slight MB rant (I’m a huge fan of that show, so I think I am justified in being a bit peeved that Disney hasn’t done much of anything with that show), we’re currently at a place where a new innovation in digital videotape trading is required.  Which is where my Apple fandom kicks into high gear, and the practical businessman I keep locked away inside till it’s needed comes out to play.

iTunes is a great place to find TV shows, sure, but there is such a dearth of older TV shows coming into iTunes, it isn’t even funny.  But what if Apple revolutionized finding and viewing old TV shows, like they’ve revolutionized the computer, the phone, and the awesome tablet gadget in between the iPhone and the computer?  Then, things get real interesting.

What follows is total blue sky.  Apple can either take it or leave it, but someone must take the ball and run with it.  I only put it out there to give somebody, anybody, the impetus to make all of our digital lives that much better.

So, if this revolution is to happen, Apple could call it iTunes TapeTrade (which I will call this idea from here on out, Apple can probably come up with a better name), or something to that extent.  One thing that iTunes TapeTrade will have on their side vis a vis, say, a YouTube or similar, is that the copyright holders will upload all of the old tapes of their copyrighted material themselves.

My guess is that there may be *some* remastering required on many of these old TV shows, especially those from the 70s, 80s and 90s before the advent of digital, and I know that for me, I’d love to have the tapes of each episode, commercials and all, from a local station I know about that aired the show, especially for Muppet Babies, which I mentioned above, or Garfield and Friends, so maybe with the permission of all the local TV stations, they could upload a digital composite of what would have aired on that television station, after the required remastering of all the elements (including the commercials), of course.  I know that I’d love to have all of the bumpers and commercials for Muppet Babies, et al. from the CBS Saturday Morning lineup as well, just to be on the safe side.

Now, hopefully this suggestion of remastering means no more VHS artifacts on videos that one would like to view that maybe one would never have gotten to see back in the day, such as maybe an appearance by Mary Chapin Carpenter on David Letterman back in 1994, or what have you.

Then, the beauty of iTunes TapeTrade comes into play: Because you don’t have to upload your umpteen millionth episode of Press Your Luck, or Match Game, or Family Feud (also known as Family Fortunes in the UK), or even Muppet Babies, because it’s already been done for you by the copyright holders, what you can do is create a special custom channel or two of your favorite TV shows WITH those old commercials if you decided to take that option.

Then, users of TapeTrade could have a whole other channel populated with their own video content, whether it’s their Let’s Plays of popular and/or lesser-known video games, or the kinds of videos that made Justin Bieber and Greyson Chance famous, or even a wonderful party or what have you that they went to, or even an anime music video (or AMV) set to their favorite songs.  That part is left to the boundless creativity that made YouTube as famous as it is today.

Plus, this could mean that the MobileMe Web Gallery could only be for photos, and this iTunes TapeTrade concept would be for all the videos that would ordinarily clutter up your extraordinarily small storage space of 20GB that MobileMe mandates for all paid MobileMe customers right now.

Plus, if the owners of the copyright or of the video content allow it, you can download it for offline viewing on your iDevice of choice, or even your PC or Mac right out of the box, one-upping YouTube’s utterly silly mandate for ONLY being able to view YouTube videos online, even if your Internet connection is a steaming pile of bat dung, like is inevitably the case all over the United States of America in any place not named San Francisco, CA or Cupertino, CA or any place in Silicon Valley.

Slight tangent: I am one of those folks who has an Internet connection that is a total steaming pile of bat dung no matter where I go, and I’ve had to resort to using open source software on my Mac in order to watch YouTube videos offline whenever I want, because of YouTube’s bizarre ever-changing API restrictions as well as their absolutely stupid requirement of viewing any and all YouTube videos online, on the YouTube site, and if you have a slow connection, you’re going to have to deal with connection issues out the yin-yang, as well as video buffering issues.  That last bit got on my nerves so bad, I downloaded Miro from a couple of months back, and haven’t looked back since.

Apple has the unbelievably unique opportunity of giving Google’s YouTube a run for their money, and possibly even becoming the predominant Web service for videos in the cloud, which is a powerful opportunity for anyone who can seize it.  But, remember Apple, with great power comes great responsibility.


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