Digital Distribution - A Legal Battle Over E-Book Rights Suggests Where Film Distribution is Headed
On December 12, 2009 the NY Times reported on a dispute over the electronic rights to William Styron's novels.
Filmmakers should pay close attention to these e-publishing disputes. Just like the music business (where digital distribution is already generating huge revenue and is expected to top $5 billion by 2012), the e-publishing business is growing and decisions made about e-books may well point the way for the online motion picture business.
The revenue from digital distribution of films is growing and digital distribution will inevitably become the dominant mode for delivering films, books and music. But there are many questions that must be answered before a viable business model for digital distribution of indie films can emerge. For example: Will indie filmmakers even use third-party distributors in the future? Can filmmakers self-distribute? If filmmakers self-distribute, how will the audience learn about the film? Who will pay the marketing costs? If a filmmaker uses a distributor, just how much should the author earn in digital royalties (the costs of delivering a film digitally may be small, but marketing - to break through the clutter - will still be expensive)? Will distribution in the old formats (e.g., DVD, theatrical) still exist for indie filmmakers - and, if so, who will pay for those costs?