Saturday, September 17, 2005

Do I smell a DVD?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week was a four-part special on "Evolution: Schmevolution." It was some of their finest work ever, which is rather like saying it was one of Stradivari's top-notch violins, and it just begs for a compilation disc with special liner notes and a big autograph tour with not just Jon, but Steve and Ed and Rob and Samantha and all the rest signing random body parts with permanent markers. Afterwards, they can all go out to Hooters and have margaritas.

Still, there's a lot of work that goes into a project like releasing four episodes of a daily show onto a commercial DVD, and a lot of nail-biting before the project's bottom line passes the break-even point. It may be that the economic analysis just doesn't bear out the up-front risks.

I will therefore offer an alternative suggestion: if Comedy Central decides not to release a commercial DVD version of "Evolution: Schmevolution," then it should put together those four shows in their entirety — complete with whatever Daily Show promos, Comedy Central promos, or other advertisements or public service announcements Comedy Central chooses to include — in some sort of AVI file (or whatever those wacky kids on the Internet are into these days), and release them with permission to copy freely as long as they are copied in the whole, via some trustworthy massively peer-to-peer file-sharing mechanism. The software to do such a thing is out there, and is trying to demonstrate its utility for something other than ripping off copyrighted content without the copyright holder's permission. The up-front cost to Comedy Central would be a day or two of an intern's time.

It's the kind of thing that would make the RIAA and the MPAA and the broadcast TV networks as nervous as hell. (Fox now instructs my TiVo to erase The Simpsons after a week without offering me the ability to save it to VCR. If I go on vacation for two weeks, tough potatoes; I'll miss at least one episode.) On the other hand, that's just one more reason to do it.

Just think of it as a subversive media project.