The Waiting Game

photo: cafe-resto le numide

A long restaurant with a café at one, or both, ends.

Keeps Metropole Coming

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 23. August 1999:- I have been in the Internet publishing business a long time now and I have learned over and over again that it is a 'hurry-up-and-wait' affair.

Being in a hurry to be first is hardly worth it when after you've knocked yourself out doing this, you find you have to sit around and cool your heels for weeks, months - years? - before the right combination tumblers click into place.

I mentioned 'coming changes to Metropole' last week because I thought these would be happeningphoto: neon, 17 rue des gobelins soon. 'Soon' meaning, within a couple or weeks, or a few months at most.

Metropole wasn't online for more than fifteen minutes last Monday before Tim Cissell wrote from Dallas to ask about the best way to get French films on DVDs - an item I hoped Metropole would be able to offer to readers.

Digital Video Disks have many good features, but the entertainment companies have decided that they should not be sold as an universal standard - like audio cassettes.

For DVDs the United States is 'Zone 1' and its TV standard is NTSC. France is 'Zone 2' and its TV standardphoto: mosiac, sq rene le gall is the SECAM system, but the DVDs in France play on the PAL standard for TVs. Many TV sets in France are bi-standard SECAM-PAL, and some will even 'display' NTSC videos if the videorecorder can read them too.

Japan is also supposed to be a 'Zone 2' country, but its TV standard is NTSC. A friendly fellow at fnac explained this to me, while standing in front of racks and racks of 'Zone1' and 'Zone 2' DVD titles. He also showed me two brands of DVD players that are bi-standard too.

In a way, the fellow hinted that these DVD exclusive 'zones' are not etched in steel and clever people with screwdrivers will be 'fixing up' their DVD machines to play the little plastic disks regardless of the coded 'zone.'

The fact is 'universal standards' makes certain people uneasy. Rights to distribute films and music are owned, leased, rented, acquired, on a country-by-country basis and anything produced on a 'universal' support has a good chance of finding 'unauthorized' distribution systems, which may not be paying the dues for the 'rights.'

It's like we are living with a 19th or 20th century system, just as the Internet comes along to permit the 'universal' distribution system of the 21st century. The nail of this gets its final hammer with the introduction of the DVD.

Meanwhile we have our 'universal' Internet that allows all of us to be connected to each other via a standardized bundle of wires and machines. This is great, but hasn't it given all of our national and even local authorities some terrible frights?

According to many of the newsletters I get, authorities everywhere are working overtime - it's an industryphoto: rue des gobelins in itself - to get the Internet 'under control.' They are talking about regulations from 'A' to 'Z,' and dreaming of collecting huge amounts of taxes. It is a bit like the 'tax wall' that used to surround Paris - collecting its penny for everything that moved in or out.

That wall fell because it was decided that it was bad for business - which produced more tax revenue when it was freer to operate. This is the theory of 'free-trade' and all the talk we have of 'globalization' today.

It's a good thing it is only theory even if the newspapers have been able to scare a lot of ordinary people into being very worried about their personal prosperity.

Our 'leaders' give it good lip-service, and then let certain industries create their little cartels, which, if they don't stifle 'free-trade' they do a darn good job of making it more expensive for the guy who pays all the bills in the end - the consumer.

Your are reading Metropole because you are interested In Paris and I am making Metropole because if I were in your shoes, I'd read it too. We have a common interest.

I figure that if Metropole can offer bits of 'Paris' for sale to you, some of you will buy them because of the common interest and because it can be a less expensive way of having bits of 'Paris' tha flying over here every other weekend.

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