For many of us living in Japan, the Academy Awards ceremony serves as a reminder of where we are in the bigger scheme of things: behind the curve. We often haven't seen many of the nominated or winning films, some won't be here for another year, and others might not come at all. This is a distribution matter, and an explanation of it (if there even is one) is beyond the scope of this column. Suffice it to say, the Japanese market is a crucial one, and Japanese distributors tend to be extremely cautious with their release schedules. (Then again, I'll never understand the logic behind Christmas films in August.)
As I discussed here ("Enemy of the Corporate State," Feb. 9), distribution concerns have also stymied the free flow of DVDs. Code embedded in most DVD discs prevents, for example, one from playing recently released DVDs from Hollywood in Japan's Zone 2. This, allegedly, is because the studios don't want to hurt relations with local distributors who want complete control over the flow of entertainment imports.
Will the Net change this? It's inevitable, but expect it to take a while. We saw a sign of this when major TV broadcasters balked at a Canadian site that streamed their content on the Web. The site's owner reasoned that content is free to anyone with a TV, so what's wrong with distributing it through other "channels"? The site, iCraveTV.com, was eventually shut down.